1- Hello Samantha, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a recent college grad from Pratt Institute, I currently work full time in Finance as a Junior Art Director in Jersey and I live in Brooklyn. Design, for kids especially, has always been a huge passion of mine. I dedicated the entire last year of my college thesis to it, and designing, developing and prototyping toys is another full-time job for me but it’s so much fun. I really enjoy the whole process and seeing people’s reactions.
2- How would you describe “Playable Toys” in under few words?
Playable Toys is a business centered specifically around disabled or differently-abled children. My main goal is toys that will inspire kids to be social and inspired.
3- How did you first get the idea to start “Playable Toys”?
Playable Toys started in my college dorm about two years ago and at that time it was mostly just sketches of concepts. I was writing and illustrating children’s books mostly as assignments or freelance work and my stories usually have a centralized theme of someone who is at a disadvantage yet in the end, still prevails. I started to make toys based on the characters in my books and from there realized maybe I could do more than just have a physical
object, that it could be functional and productive. So with a lot of research I have a few toys that are starting to do just that.
4- What are your focus areas and why?
Like I mentioned Playable Toys is centered around that child with special needs. But it’s not supposed to be this be a clunky awkward toy that a child would feel uncomfortable playing with in front of other children. Anyone can use this toys, even adults! What I focused on were some of the main areas of say, for instance, Autism that would keep a child from playing with other kids and how could I solve that. When you make a toy that introduces some of the components that will benefit a child with Autism like repetition, cause, and effect, weighted toys, you’re doing two
things at once, encouraging play but engaging them and helping them at the same time. Kids are a huge passion of mine, and I grew up very aware of what it felt like to be different so I wanted to continue to make a difference.
5- How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
There isn’t a huge market right now for toys for disabled children. If you google it right now about two or three sites pop up and a lot of the toys are either geared towards hospitals or therapy centers or are large and meant to be kept at home. They’re not practical and they aren’t always all inclusive and when they are? They aren’t affordable. Everything I make, has multiple uses for a wide audience and they’ll be affordable which is great.
6- What are some things that most people don’t know about your job?
Most startups fail. About 90% of them within the first three years. And a major reason is people scale up too fast. Everything I do, I do myself. Except for when I consult with some of my Industrial and Metalworking friends for engineering help. But I researched this all myself, filed for patents, came up with the designs, made the prototypes, sewed every animal, came up with the branding, built the website. I’m a one woman show right now because this is
what I’m passionate about but If I do it myself from the start I’ll be less likely to fail because I don’t have to pay for labor or anything like that. but I think people don’t realize what goes into toys sometimes haha it’s a tricky business.
7- And what were some of the biggest challenges you encountered personally?
Patents are tough because they’re so expensive and they take so long to get, it’s a few years and a few thousand dollars when you’re talking about products for children. Ideas fail, there’s some many toy ideas I had but then once I started to prototype I realized it wasn’t going to work, it’s a process. You try and fail, try and fail until you succeed. That and my age, I think some people underestimate me.
8- What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in kids related products business?
Test. Test. Research. Test. All the time never stop testing and researching. A toy can be shiny and beautiful and impressive but you can put it in front of a child and they could hate it. Do your homework, get your products tested and in the hands of real kids.
They’ll be honest! Trust me! That and always be a kid at heart.
9- What are you most excited about at the moment?
Right now I’m working on building up my inventory and start selling them at the grassroots level. I’ve been testing new designs especially for stuffed animals and weighted vests and I’ll be selling them at a few festivals this summer and I’m really excited about those prospects.
10- A last Word or final thoughts?
Whatever you do, just keep doing it, keep being creative, keep plugging at it. Fail two million times, even if everyone tells you it’s impossible, impractical or unimportant, if it really matters to you and you’re passionate never stop and you’ll be great.