By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0) A former investment banker, entrepreneur Alice Wang watched her extended family grow in size with the arrival of three babies. She found it inspiring to see how the families experienced parenthood, and subsequently, how quickly the children got sick of toys.
She thought there had to be a better way to test toys with the child and provide some educational value to the experience.
This was the spark that launched her startup Spark Box, a toy rental company providing an eco-friendly way for parents to access educational toys at a fraction of the cost. For children six months to four years of age, Spark Box toys add educational value to fun. The big box stores like Toys R Us and FAO Schwartz offer namely toys branded with media characters, which appeal to the parents but offer little true educational value. Alice and her team examined four thousand toys to find the best toys available for a developing child.
Alice was keen to investigate not only toys from the big retailers, but also considered the boutique stores as well. She investigated mom-and-pop stores that ship to specialty toy stores. For example, one of her vendors handcrafts toys in his basement and ships out one at a time!
Spark Box's educational toys arrive in a box to a customer's house, each with a proprietary "educational benefit matrix." The Spark Box team of experts state for each age group, what the child should be doing and what major milestones the children should be reaching.
For example, a child at 6 to 8 months of age should begin to learn the idea of "cause & effect" (ie. a rattle makes a noise) and listen carefully when spoken to. For a new parent, such useful information about a child's anticipated learning and development goals and how to track arriving with each Spark Box of toys would be welcomed!
The toys at Spark Box are cleaned and packaged with organic, EPA products in New York City so after the child tires of the toy(s), the parent sends them back for a new set and receives the next set for the developing child. Or, the parent may opt to purchase the Spark Box toys to keep them for good if the child really takes a shine to the toy. This way the Spark Box program is a boon for the parent experimenting with toys for a fickle child -- it's like trying before buying, with an educational plus.
As for competitors, there are a slew of early-stage startups like Kiwi Crate, Citrus Lane, even the Honest Company by Jessica Alba that make or deliver toys, crafts or entertainment to children. But Spark Box is the only one right now that emphasizes educational, and who wouldn't want to ensure their child is developing and gaining an edge early on?
Eighteen months ago, the subscription model for toy delivery was unheard of. Today, we have Birchbox for monthly beauty product samples and Foodzie for monthly gourmet food products delivered to your door. And now, busy parents are loving product discovery and having curated educational toy products delivered to their home. Spark Box is one of these many early-stage startups in the subscription model space now, a burgeoning business model for startups looking to make people's lives easier by curating a box of deliverables to your home.
Best of luck to Spark Box co-founder Alice Wang!
This post was originally posted at BlogHer.
About the guest blogger: Angie Chang co-founded Women 2.0 in 2006 with Shaherose Charania. She currently serves as Editor-In-Chief of Women 2.0 and is working to mainstream women in entrepreneurship. Previously, Angie held roles in product management, web UI design, and entrepreneurship. In 2008, Angie launched Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners, asking that guys come as the "+1" for once. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.