As I was standing on stage last year accepting the award for the “Rising Star Toy Inventor of the Year”, I took the opportunity to speak to the important role women founders play in the toy industry. The past four Rising Star Inventors have been independent female entrepreneurs, pushing to expand the definition of toys for girls and give them tools to realize their potential.
After the award show I was basking in my glory at a nearby Irish Pub with the other winners. A former lifetime achievement winner commented on my acceptance speech, hinting that I was naive: “Do you want to change the world?” he asked, “Or do you want to make money?!”
“Oh my,” I replied with feigned surprise. “I didn’t realize I had to choose between the two.”
What we play with matters.
I started Build & Imagine in 2013, with a kickstarter campaign. Building sets were the hottest toy category, and I just wasn’t seeing a lot of options that were especially engaging for girls. So what I did was combine several things girls have historically loved: Build & Imagine StoryWalls are like building blocks meets dollhouse meets dress-up dolls. It’s a unique mashup featuring adventurous characters and rich illustrated details that inspire girls and boys alike to build and imagine.
In the past, toy companies designed their construction toys almost exclusively for boys. Thankfully, they are now starting to invite girls to build, but many are doing so by taking their existing construction sets and turning them pink. I call it “pink think”.
At Build & Imagine we believe we can approach toy design in a more thoughtful way, and doing so is important. The simple act of combining shapes to form a three dimensional structure helps kids to develop foundation skills for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—skills like spatial reasoning, problem solving, creativity, and design.
Additionally, our open-ended sets with rich illustrations transform your child into a storyteller. They’ll explore rich language and narrative arcs as they build a different imaginative scene each time they play.
Mr. Lifetime Achievement, I do want to make a difference. I think girls deserve choices and I want to help shape how the toy industry breaks down gender barriers in play. I believe we as a culture are ready for change. Therefore, making a difference is good business. I have chosen to launch my own company, because as an independent female entrepreneur, I have the freedom, authority, and insight to make that happen.
Founder and CEO of Build & Imagine