Yesterday I wrote an article for Babble about an awesome new building toy line directed at girls called Wonderhood. They’re currently killing it on Kickstarter; they reached their initial funding goal in a week and are about to hit their stretch goal (which is twice their original goal) just two days after that.
There’s good reason for the crowd-funding success: it’s a great toy. It’s well-designed and reflects how children actually play. The sets are sturdy, beautiful, and best of all encourage open-ended play by providing kids with design challenges.
There’s also a good reason why it’s such a great toy: the co-founders are two moms, and they’ve worked their asses off on this product. I want to share a little more of what I learned about Wonderhood co-founders Andrea Hollander and Solange Schiapani.
- They’re persistent and tenacious.
Persistence and tenacity are two qualities I value deeply and love seeing in fellow female entrepreneurs. Andrea told me it took about two years to get the first two Wonderhood playsets off the ground. The time was spent working with an industrial designer, then doing rounds and rounds (and rounds!) of prototypes to get the toys exactly where Andrea and Solange wanted them to be.
Two years is quite a long time to work towards a goal, particularly an entrepreneurial goal where there’s absolutely no guarantee of success (and in fact, the odds are likely long against you). Their determination to see their product on shelves – and their relentless work to make it happen – is impressive to say the least.
- They’re looking out for our girls.
Heather and I have spent some time in the startup world, and – with apologies for the generalization – we’ve found that most entrepreneurs fall into one of two categories. First is people who want to build a company primarily for financial gain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and we totally respect it – we’ve all got to pay our bills, after all.
Second is people who are on a mission. These people have identified a problem or challenge or absence in the world, and they become determined to fix it. They obsess. They lose sleep. They get deep in the weeds and nuances. For this second group, success means their solution is implemented (and money is an excellent side effect that often comes with the success).
Without question, Solange and Andrea fall into the second category. They have daughters and nieces, and became incredibly frustrated walking into giant toy stores to find aisles of STEM toys targeting boys, and maybe a single shelf of STEM toys for girls. That’s what inspired them to build their company.
I walked into the obvious trap of asking them how Wonderhood is different from toys like GoldieBlox and Roominate. Andrea answered me very politely and explained the myriad ways in which Wonderhood is different…and then she let her frustration show for one brief minute when she told me,
“Do you know how many choices there are for boys? Girls shouldn’t have just one choice. There shouldn’t be only one product on the shelves for them. Girls deserve a wide range of cool, interesting options, just like boys have.”
Yep. She’s 100% right. One token STEM toy for girls is not the answer, and I should have known better than to phrase my question as I did.
- They’re really, really smart and they know what they’re doing.
By way of background, Solange and Andrea met in Columbia Business School while studying for their MBAs. Solange received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown (Heather also went there, yay!), and Andrea received hers from Yale.
Each of them had incredibly successful careers prior to teaming up to found Wonderhood. Just to mention a few highlights, Andrea founded a non-profit called Out2Play dedicated to developing play spaces in New York City. Over a seven-year period her company raised over $35 million in funding and actually built one-hundred and eighty playgrounds. Then Andrea wound down the organization because it had essentially completed its mission. What.
Solange spent several years running marketing campaigns for major brands owned by the Colgate-Palmolive company (this includes tasks as diverse and challenging as developing new products, marketing plans, package designs, and sales initiatives). She developed, tested, and gained approval for one concept with an estimated $50 million price tag. Then when working for a big company wasn’t challenging enough anymore (she didn’t exactly say this, but I’m reading between the lines), she formed her own marketing consulting firm focused primarily on supporting women entrepreneurs and small businesses.
I have a total girl crush on these two.
This, my friends, this is what we need in the world. Smart, passionate, driven women who love their children and want to make the world a little bit better for them. So they find a problem, a hole, an unserved need…and they solve it, fill it, serve it. These woman are getting it done.
I backed them on Kickstarter yesterday, and there’s time for you to get in on it too. Go pledge some money to these two and then sit back and watch. Watch Andrea and Solange grow Wonderhood into a powerhouse toy company, making products that are actually good for our girls. And get a cool set for your own girl!