Women Entrepreneurs - Making Life Fun
This March we celebrate women and how far we have come. Our March issue highlights 4 amazing companies all owned and run by women. But it doesn't end in March every issue with feature women entrepreneurs with exclusive interviews. We hope this will inspire you to go after your dreams.
Whole Wide World Toys
Founder & President
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Ames, Iowa. We walked to school. Played outside in the neighborhood. We visited family two hours away for holidays. My first airplane trip was to Orlando when I was in middle school and my first international trip was a high school French trip. That’s where it all started.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
When we found out that we’d be transferred back to US headquarters after 9 years overseas (in Germany, Poland, Egypt and India), I was really sad that my kids wouldn’t continue to have the immersive cultural experience of living in fascinating new cultures. I could only find language and geography toys, a few multicultural dolls, and social studies books. I knew I could invent something better.
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
The development of my first product line, World Village Playsets, evolved over time from a simple play mat to an entire play set with lots of flexibility to allow for varying age as well as play and learning styles. I worked on it part time as a stay-at-home mom and when the design was ready, I started working on it full time.
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
I started by founding an entrepreneurs group in my community! That group acted as an informal board of advisors to help me hone the design. I found an artist through a friend who painted the art work. Then, I found a prototype maker after visiting a toy trade show. I struggled to find a factory for a long time, but I finally met someone at another trade show who steered me in the right direction. Then, by the next trade show, I was exhibiting with my new toys!
How did you fund this project?
I bootstrapped my company. I run a tight ship with only myself, freelancers and consultants.
What were the hardest hurdles?
I’m always juggling priorities and weighing the financial outcome for any time or money investment.
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a women?
I do. The hurdles are a bit higher.
What advise do you wish someone would have given you?
Find an expert for areas where you don’t have experience or don’t have the knack. If you haven’t found a concrete answer for a tough issue by searching online for 15 minutes, find an expert. Build up your available resources by carefully choosing the trade shows or networking options that allow you to talk to people for some length of time. Go to the social events and meet as many people as you can. If you don’t know an expert, find one online and ask to pay them for an hour phone call. It’ll save you buckets of time and money.
Did you have a mentor?
I have several mentors now that advise me on their areas of expertise.
At any point did you want to give up?
No, I’m really committed to inspiring kids to be curious about the world. If you only listen to the news, you start to feel that the world is scary. But if you travel, you know that the world is overwhelmingly good. I want kids, whether they can travel or not, to experience the joy of discovering new cultures.
What makes you keep going?
Honestly, I just can’t stop myself. I get up every day ready to start again.
How long did it take to become profitable?
Most of my profit is being reinvested back into the company.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
The best thing I’ve done is to continue to talk to parents about toys and parenting so that I can continue to design toys that they get excited about.
Do you think social media is important?
Of course! Because I’m driven by my company mission to share the wonderful world with families, I’m continuously sharing fun and useful ways for families to connect with the world. Sharing my toys with them is all part of that process.
Was there any life lessons you learned along the way?
If you find the right path, you will wake up every day motivated to do even better than you did yesterday.
What is the happiest memory from this journey?
My happiest memories are watching kids play with my toys. Hearing them tell stories with World Village Playsets and sharing what they’ve learned with their friends is a joy!
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
I have so many new product ideas, I see our product lineup expanding into fresh, new ideas for helping kids explore the world.
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