Green Toys; From Her Playroom to Millions of Yours
Welcome to #ideaweek at Bright Girls! In my book Your Own Business Can Be Great I teach girls about creating an idea and then figuring out if the idea is a good one. Today we’re featuring Laurie Hyman Co-Founder of Green Toys Inc. and co-creator of a very good business idea.
Green Toys® is a line of environmentally friendly and kid safe toys made from 100% recycled milk jugs manufactured in the USA.
BG: Where did the idea for Green Toys come from?
LH: I was home with my two kids. I had just done a couple of startups and I was enjoying my kids and doing the full time mom thing. I knew I wanted to do get back involved in something I was passionate about. That’s when I got a call from a colleague, Robert von Goeben. He had been a toy designer and his wife came up with the idea of developing an environmental toy, he was calling to see if I was interested in doing it with him.
I was in my kids’ playroom and as we spoke I looked around and started thinking… where were all these toys made? What are they made of? I realized my kids are putting these in their mouths and I have no idea what the answer is to either of those questions. Also they had started to outgrow many of the toys already and I had been wondering what I would do with them all.
It hit me “What are we doing here? My kids deserve better than I’m giving them.” That’s when I realized I did want to join Robert in this venture.
BG: How did you take this from your playroom to millions of playrooms around the world?
LH: We put one foot in front of the other and tried this. Being someone with an idea, one of the hardest things is making it a reality. Even in a small way. It’s that first step that’s so hard. It’s so hard it’s daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. It’s those first five to ten steps that are the hardest. The risk seems so huge. You can easily get yourself into this place with a vision that is so big, it’s unattainable.
We started with a simple vision; to develop a couple of toys and see where it goes. We planned for it to be a local product. We were very passionate about it but we didn’t have a big overwhelming vision.
- put our own money in.
- built the business bottoms up and boot strapped.
- came up with 4 products. We wanted classic items that were tried and true.
- worked part time when we started
- wanted U.S. manufacturing. To keep it local, support domestic jobs and also have excellent quality control.
BG: How did you know you were onto something? How did you know it was a market-right idea?
We spent a lot of time in toy stores and developed relationships with other toy manufacturers, there wasn’t’ anything like this out there. We are located and launched in Northern California and the consumers here were ready for a product like this.
Then in 2007, the year we founded the company, there was a huge recall of toys made in China due to lead. The story got extensive media attention. All of a sudden being made in USA with safe materials and no bad chemicals put us on the cover of the Wall Street Journal and on the map.
At the first Toy Fair we attended we walked in with zero customers and walked out with 800 new customers at that one show.
We rode the media wave. We were fielding Incoming request from all around the world, asking for our products. There was big pull, a need and a want.
By our third year of business, and our third product line, we continued to see repeat business from the same retailers even through the tough economy. And we realized..‘Maybe this is bigger than two people in a van selling product at Golden Gate Park.”
Laurie, we’re so glad you cleverly catapulted this idea out of the van and into the hands of millions of happy and healthy kids!