Mompreneur takes on Lego and becomes the Rising Star Toy Inventor of the Year

The founder of Build & Imagine reacts to the Lego management team.

LEGO is the world’s largest toy company – so why would a small company out of Oakland, California even try to compete with their global success? Why would one entrepreneur spend any time at all attempting to chip away at the international mammoth that is LEGO?

Because she looked at the faces on LEGO’s management page.

Build & Imagine’s founder and CEO Laurie Peterson was excited the first time she came across the LEGO Friends line back in 2012. “Finally!” she thought. After many years of targeting 90% of their sets to boys, the most important building toy company on the planet was making a solid effort to include girls. The innovation and skill-building gap between genders will begin to narrow if toy companies focus on developing products that encourage girls to build and create. Eager to see the pioneer faces behind this girls-building-toys-matter-too movement, Laurie did some Googling. Then she stumbled on LEGO’s management team page.

Twenty-two white men were leading the charge. Not a single woman or person of color (To be fair, LEGO has since added a few women to their management team page). When Laurie discovered this, she created the following image using LEGO’s photos from their own management website. She then Tweeted it, calling LEGO out on their lack of diversity and specifically, their lack of women for this particular toy. The image went viral.

Lego team

 

In response, a man from the creative agency charged with LEGO Friends advertising reached out to ask where Laurie found this photo. After explaining that she simply created it from the leadership team page on their website, she offered to go and work for them as a strategist (something Laurie had experience in – coming from both the toy world and a background in advertising).  Clearly, the LEGO Friends team needed a feminine touch. The agency shared that they already had someone leading strategy, and he was “a real hot-shot” who probably wouldn’t want to work with her.

Laurie Peterson

Laurie poses with Build & Imagine’s “Malia’s House”, a magnetic dollhouse that you design yourself.

Laurie’s response: “Oh, HE is a real hot shot? Please tell me you have some women on your team.” The agency replied that thankfully, they did.

For the next year, Laurie couldn’t shake the feeling that we can, and should, do better for girls. Laurie watched as other toy companies jumped on the new excitement for girls building toys by taking their exact same toys and turning them pink (Laurie calls it “Pink Think”). She felt a responsibility to invite girls to build in a more meaningful way.

Fast forward to 2014: Laurie was ready to take a leap of faith and start her own toy company, where inviting girls to build would be front and center. She named it Build & Imagine.

Build & Imagine aims to go beyond color coding, and instead designs toys based on the kind of play mechanics girls have historically loved. Build & Imagine’s colorfully illustrated magnetic building sets, called StoryWalls, are a mashup between a dollhouse, building blocks, and magnetic dress-up dolls. They’re all the fun of a dollhouse with the enrichment of a construction toy. And thus far, they have been a hit with both girls and boys. In fact, the play-sets have won more than 25 awards and consistently earn high ratings on Amazon. A year after launch, Laurie was named the Rising Star Toy Inventor of the Year.

10 Non-Lego Toys that make better builders:
“Build & Imagine “Marine Rescue Center” combines the magic of magnetic tiles, the flexibility of traditional paper dolls, and most importantly, the fluid scene changes that speak to the magic of a storytelling theater”– FORBES

This holiday season we’ll get our first glimpse as to whether Build & Imagine will be able to take a bite out of LEGO and carve a meaningful future for themselves. Build & Imagine’s line of magnetic building sets will be presented next to LEGO Friends in sixty Target stores.  While the Lego Friends website asks girls to take a quizzes on fashion style, Build & Imagine’s adventurous leading female characters may be just the fresh perspective parents are looking for.

11/29 Update: Build & Imagine was nominated for two TOTY awards (“Toy of the Year”), which is like the Oscars for toys!!! In the “Construction Toy of the Year” category, Build & Imagine’s Marine Rescue Center is up against the Lego Friends Amusement Park and others. Build & Imagine’s Malia’s House is also a contender for “Rookie of the Year”. Help Build & Imagine win by voting and shop for Build & Imagine on Amazon. Thank you.

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About Build & Imagine

Build & Imagine (www.buildandimagine.com) is an award-wining toy company with a line of magnetic building sets that inspire storytelling. Led by toy industry veteran and 2015 “Rising Star Toy Inventor of the Year” Laurie Peterson, Build & Imagine aims to shift the multibillion dollar construction toy category in a girl-friendly direction to help overcome the gender innovation gap. In the year and a half since launch, Build & Imagine has won more than 25 awards, has more than 200 five star reviews on Amazon, and can be purchased at Amazon, QVC, Barnes and Noble, specialty toy stores and limited Targets this fall. Shop now.

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1 Comment

  1. G November 23, 2016 Reply

    Go Laurie Peterson. congratulations you walked past an all-male cast, the good old boy network. I definitely will support your toy.

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