Tyson and Audrey Leavitt and their three children took a leap of faith when they decided to sell their landscape business of nine years to build elaborate playhouses — and will soon star in their own TV show on TLC.
“My landscape business was really draining on me because I was working from sunup to sundown, and I wasn’t able to spend time with my kids and my family,” Tyson Leavitt said. “I wasn’t able to use it as a creative outlet because I was limited to what could really be built in this neighborhood, which is a small city of 90,000. I noticed that in yards there wasn’t a place for kids to go out and have their own space.”
The Alberta, Canada couple built a play set for their local home and garden show, which got more attention than they expected. The following year at the same home and garden show, they went “all out," building a Rapunzel play set that attracted even more attention. It was then that Tyson Leavitt says he decided to “jump both feet into it” and sell his landscape company to build playhouses full time.
The playhouses, treehouses, and even doghouses that the Leavitts build are unique because they are made with hand-crafted solid wood, customized and built with luxury in mind. One of their most recent customers was NBA MVP, Steph Curry, who joined the Leavitts in looking over a few designs, according to a post from the "Charmed Playhouses" Instagram account.
After months of hard work, their new company, “Charmed Playhouses,” was born. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Leavitts have gained a greater appreciation for their church callings, their family life and their faith during their journey of building playhouses and starring in a new TLC TV show.
As the Leavitts embarked on this new endeavor, they recognized the need for balance between their business and church service. He serves on the stake high council and she is the ward Young Women president.
“There was a drive and a confidence behind us making the change — it felt right,” he said. “When I got called into the stake high council, I had a blessing from the stake president that gave me some direction and confidence to go ahead with my business. He said I would find more time in my business and more success as I served in my calling. It really came true. It was a testament to us because at the time I felt like it was such a heavy calling and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle it. It just showed us that if you just put your faith in the Lord, he will take your life in a way you wouldn’t expect."
Everything seemed to fall into place as they watched for the Lord’s hand in their lives, according to Tyson Leavitt.
“I think we’ve both been lucky to be surrounded by people who are able to assist us in our callings and take over when we can't be there, which has been really helpful,” she said. “I think we both feel that serving in our callings is so refreshing because we know that’s what the Lord wants us to do. They have become a break from all the craziness that our life has become.”
Along with the challenge of taking the risk of starting up a company that few people had succeeded in before them, the Leavitts experienced plenty of personal challenges throughout the process of creating a TV show. Their children, Emmett (7), Miles (6) and Lydia (4) have transitioned to their new norm of filming a TV show with their parents.
“As much as they try, I don’t think our kids can comprehend the magnitude of what is happening,” Audrey Leavitt said. “They are certainly having fun getting to make a TV show with mom and dad. I don’t think that they will understand what that means until the show comes out and they get to watch it.”
With three children at home, Audrey Leavitt's greatest challenge has been transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. While she was previously a stay-at-home mom, she now relies on a nanny who comes and stays with the kids when mom and dad need to travel.
“It has been a really hard transition for all of us for me to go from stay-at-home mom to working mom. The challenges of feeling like we're still making the right decisions as far as putting our kids and us on TV — that has been a big challenge for me,” she said.
Although the Leavitts can't fully comprehend what the purpose of this experience is for their family, they feel strongly that they are doing it for a greater purpose.
“From the outside, our business is really fun, and it is,” he said. “But we both feel like there’s a bigger purpose to this other than just building these big fun tree houses. I don’t know what the bigger picture is for this, but it does bring families closer together.”
To make their new company attract the attention required to get it started, the Leavitts literally dumped all of their life savings into it. Because of this drastic move, they said there were a lot of dark times when they had to use their faith by praying, reflecting and pulling each other close to “get through the fear of moving forward” with their new adventure.
“We both felt that this is a path that the Lord wanted us to walk,” she said. ”We aren’t sure exactly why that is yet, but we really do hope that we can represent both our church and ourselves in a way that God would be proud of. And if we do that, we know that there will be some good that comes out of it that’s bigger than just playhouses and TV shows.”
Details on the upcoming TLC show will be announced as it comes closer to airtime. According to Discovery.com, the working title of the show is “Project Playhouse.”
Kelsey Schwab writes for the Faith and Family sections of DeseretNews.com.