Colorwheel Toys

Archive for January 2012

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We spoke to Karin Forssell about educational research in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She recommended several good books and papers to read, discussed research that had been done, and her own personal experiences and feelings about raising a daughter who is going through the “pink phase.”

Books/papers to read

  • Unlocking the Clubhouse, by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher
  • The research of Yasmin Kafai:  “As part of her policy work, she wrote Under the Microscope: A Decade of Gender Equity Interventions in the Sciences(2004)”

Key Learnings

  • Though girls go through a “pink phase” and play with toys like barbies and Lego Friends that might be worrisome to parents, what is important is the quality of the play. Do they stay on the toy company’s script or do they go off script and use their imagination?
  • Children like teaching. You can get children thinking by having them teach Kermit the Frog something. After children teach Kermit they are more willing to try a new task than before they taught Kermit. Additionally, in her personal experience, Karin said that kids love teaching other kids or their parents new concepts.
  • For children that are interested in STEM fields to be successful, it really helps to have one or both parents work in a STEM field. Would there be a way to recreate that support in our toy?
  • We should make sure our toy is an appropriate match between the abilities of the girls and the level that they expect to be challenged at.

Other toys to look at:

  • Topobo, “a construction kit with kinetic memory”
  • PicoCricket, “invention kit that integrates art and technology”

I spoke with Roger Rambeau who used to be the vice president of manufacturing for Mattel and worked at Sega. We discussed oversees manufacturing and the children’s toy market. 

Key Learnings:

  • The big toy companies have become very large and very bureaucratic. He mentioned that it used to be much easier to make a difference in the company but that has changed in the past years.
  • The toy development process in a large corporation is quite lengthy and involves several different groups of people. 
  • Oversees manufacturing can be tricky but if you make sure you are very clear with your directions and the factory is actually able to produce your product it can be a good route to take.
  • When contracting with a factory to manufacture the toy it is key that the factory is responsible for getting all the components, so you don’t have to coordinate between multiple factories.
  • Inspecting the factory should start with the back end to see how the components from other factories are received and inspected. Then the warehouse should be inspected to see how the finished goods are stored: whether they can be rained on, stolen, etc. Then the quality control group should be checked to see how they handle testing. Next, inventory management and the engineering group. Finally the factory floor should be checked. There should be a sheet of paper at every stating telling the operator what to do. Additionally, the line should be continuously flowing without any bottlenecks.
  • Different areas in Asia have different manufacturing specialties.
  • When we discussed the details of our product he liked the idea because girls are a fairly difficult group for toy companies to target with toys that are outside the realm of toys like barbies.

We had an excellent conversation with the Children’s Creativity Museum where we discussed their program that lets start ups come in on weekends and have children test their products. We’re really excited about potentially testing our product their and are currently discussing which week would be best.

We’re confirmed to test our product at the museum on the 25th of February!

GOAL:

  • Understand the nature (at least on a high level) of the intricacies involved in the back-end of our start-up (i.e. establishing our channels, sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, packaging, and distribution)
  • Investigate more parent PAINS and JOBS-TO-BE-DONE

WHO:

Eric is a 3rd year Law student (Patent Law) at the Stanford Law School, is also pursuing a Master’s degree in MS&E at the same time, while managing his business (Innovelis) remotely. Eric likes to spend his free time pitching to VCs and Board Members while balancing his responsibilities as a husband and father of 3 children, the eldest a 9-year old girl. [hint hint: more potential user testing.. :D]

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KEY LEARNINGS:

  • MAKE MISTAKES: “The way I learned about all of this: about China manufacturing, about redlines, and my graphic designer, etc was really mostly by making mistakes”
  • KEEP ‘EM CLEAN: “Keep your distribution channels clean. I made the mistake before to sell my product to others online and they would undercut my price in Amazon and messed up a lot of things asides from my pricing strategy”
  • ABSOLVE MY GUILT: Busy parents feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids and therefore try to compensate by buying them things
  • VELOCITY: Eric is another parent who always wants to make a quick but well-informed decision – “In my purchasing decision, I usually want to know how much is she [daughter] going to get out of this toy, and what are similar things to this. I like how Amazon makes it fast and convenient to do both
  • FEEL-GOOD PRODUCT: “Haha yes exactly, maybe that product was a feel-good for me as a parent since it’s an educational product that I bought for her, but maybe my kid doesn’t feel the same”
  • ENRICH: Every parent wants to enrich their kid’s life to the fullest and develop their talents
  • HORIZON PLANNING: Colorwheels needs to start thinking about all the legwork involved that we’ll be doing down the line (which might be next month or so)

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GOALS:

  1. Test our “Assemble-then-Decorate” product model
  2. Test if our product is able to convey formal topics (i.e. Circuits, Wires, Power Source) through Hands-on Learning and Instructions

BRIEF DESCRIPTION:

Last Sunday, [C] was kind enough to welcome us in her home and play with her daughters [A] who was 7 years old, and [D] who is turning 4 next week. We played in a more neutral zone this time in their living room (instead of their playroom or bedroom.) We first let them play with 2 of our minimum viable products (MVPs):  Car Kit and Puppy Purse Kit.  Then decided to show our box of Lego Friends and test her skill at following visual instructions.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • LOVED IT: Our Purse Pets have been gaining traction, but [A] liked the Car Kit way more as she was able to race it with her other toys and even build a paper chair + seatbelt for her small doll to ride on.
  • ASSEMBLE + DECORATE = WINNING: After 27 kid hours of testing this, we are confident on this approach, every kid loved figuring out assembling the toy, but more importantly being able to decorate it with stickers, write their names on it, etc.
  • PARENT INVOLVEMENT: Compared to parents with extremely busy lifestyles whose primary focus is to simply keep their kids busy to free up some “me time,” parents who are more involved with their kids focus on supervising and being there for their kid during playtime.
  • LEARNING TOPICS DID RESONATE: From playing with the toy, her father also teaching her, and us being there to explain a little, the 7-year old understood circuits at a basic level and even correctly guess that switching the motor’s polarity would make the car go the other way
  • PARENT PAIN: As we hypothesized that “Parents have a pain to raise their child in the best possible manner.” This was evident in the way [C] explained her Middle School hunt around the Bay. She was able to name several schools and the key strengths of each.

QUOTES FROM MOM:

  • CONVENIENCE: “If buying a $20 toy instead of a $10 toy saves me time from having to carefully choose which one to buy, I’d do it”
  • PRINCESS NERD: “Why can’t princesses wear glasses and have their hair up?”
  • LONGEVITY: “I want something that she can use and keep adding on to as she grows up”
  • MEDIA EFFECT: “Unfortunately, my girls want to be what they see on TV, have you guys read the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter? It’s literally about that”
  • EARLY GENDER BIAS: “As early as 2nd grade, I’ve noticed with my daughters, their peers, and their schools that there are gender differences/bias already”
  • FEED THE NEED: “My daughter got hooked on this whole Magic thing and it’s something that I’ve supported her on, but I’m just not satisfied with the content that’s out there online”

GOAL:

Fix our Landing Page!

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[Brainstorming in true whiteboard fashion…Thank you GSB room for having at least 30 markers for us to use!]

After being eaten alive by the comments and feedback about our initial Landing Page, our team decided to bump up the priority on developing our site. I met with Nicolai and Sergey who were kind enough to brainstorm with me late Friday afternoon on what exactly should be included in our Landing Page.

In the process, we were able to articulate a bunch of things about what exactly it is we’re trying to do. Namely:

INITIAL CUSTOMERS:

Parents with daughters aged 6-9

WHO NEED TO:

develop their daughter’s creativity, motor skills, and visual comprehension

AND ALSO NEED TO:

provide fun and entertaining activities for their daughter on a constant basis

WHICH IS SOLVED WITH:

our line-up of toys [Car, Helicopter, Purse, Disco Ball, Animal] delivered to their doorstep via subscription

OUR NO.1 VALUE:

Keeps their daughters busy with an activity that is value-add because they learn about different topics such as voltage, On/Off, solar power, energy sources through Hands-On Learning

COMPELLING REASON TO BUY/SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PRODUCT TODAY:

Parents need to influence and develop their daughters before it’s TOO LATE (Pre-teens, teenage phase)

Our mock-ups of the Page are in the slideshow above, stay tuned for our live website…