What We Did (And Learned) In 2013

January:
We kicked the year off with a team of four, crammed into a tiny one-room office near Jack London Square in Oakland. Our staff included myself, my best friend, Lindsey, my sister, Stephanie and my husband, Beau. Not a single one of us knew how to produce or ship toys, yet we had tens of thousands of pre-orders to fill. In between moving our cars every two hours to avoid parking tickets, we reached out to as many advisors as we could to learn about supply chain and fulfillment logistics. We learned it all from scratch. We set up systems, built elaborate excel spreadsheets and searched for warehouses. We prepped our Kickstarter backer rewards, and quickly learned that the tools-on-the-pockets of the hoodie design was extremely difficult to source. So we ironed decals onto hundreds of hoodies ourselves. We were as resourceful as it gets, and learned the true meaning of DIY.

01Jan

February:
We moved into our first “real” office – 1500 square feet of creative space in Oakland. It seemed enormous! Each of us took a room to ourselves, but quickly got lonely and decided to sit together at a large conference table in the main room. We decorated the office with old school (extremely heavy) video game consoles we found outside. They quickly made the entire office reek of cat pee so we had to discard them. This month also was the debut of GoldieBlox at the NY Toy Fair. Our booth was literally the smallest booth at the entire show. We built it ourselves out of Ikea furniture and foam core. We met with toy stores and started writing our very first retail orders. We worked so hard that week; Lindsey actually fell asleep at the dinner table with her head in her plate. At Toy Fair, we learned we were a total oddball in the toy industry…in the very best of ways.

02Feb

March:
We shipped our first production run of toys. We rented a big warehouse and convinced our friends and help us pick and pack. We blasted Stevie Wonder and took turns riding around on a forklift. In just a few days, we shipped our toys to thousands of girls around the world. Then, we waited (very) anxiously to hear the reaction. Emails, photos and videos started pouring in with happy faces, funny anecdotes and amazing stories about how the toy had made an impact. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life hearing how girls were starting to call themselves “engineers” and using words like “axle” in their everyday vocabulary. We learned that this idea, this dream, was going to work. And we learned that we needed third party logistics.

03Mar

April:
We won the Shopify Build-A-Business competition, where we received a cash prize of $50,000 and a trip to New York to get mentored by Tina Roth Eisenberg, Tim Ferriss, Noah Robischon and Daymond John. This month, we also welcomed Jan Hanson, the former VP of Operations at Cranium, to our team to help us scale. This was our first hire that wasn’t someone I’d known for years or was related to. Jan instantly became indispensable to our team, and a ton of fun too. April was also the month of the “dog and pony show”, where we met with about ten different banks. Somehow, our pitch got better and better the less we prepared. In addition, this month I was honored to give talks at the Stanford Women’s Leadership conference, the She++ Conference, Google’s ‘Bring Your Child to Work Day’, the Seattle Rotary Club, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers AND Microsoft. We learned that our mission was resonating with some pretty amazing people who could open doors for us. So we let them.

04Apr

May:
We exhibited at the Bay Area Maker Faire, where we got to play GoldieBlox with hundreds of kids all weekend long. We also got to meet some of our Kickstarter backers in person, which was such a treat. It was an incredibly inspiring event and we walked out of there with mile-long lists of inspiration for future products. This month, we were thrilled to be awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold and Oppenheim Toy Platinum Awards for “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine”. We also had our first company morale event at Six Flags. We ate at Applebee’s, went on rollercoasters and drove go-karts. We learned that we are all still kids at heart.

06May

June:
We saw GoldieBlox on the shelves of Toys”R”Us for the first time. It was a pinch-yourself-to-believe-it moment that I will never, ever forget. Also this month, we headed to Nashville to attend the ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailer Association) tradeshow. Yee-haw! There, we met with mom & pop toy retailers from across the US and convinced many new stores to carry GoldieBlox. We also extended full-time job offers to Andrea and Trevor, two incredibly talented illustrators who we found to re-illustrate Goldie and help take our artwork to the next level. Despite offers from Disney, they joined our team and we couldn’t be more grateful. After launching at Toys”R”Us this month, we learned what it feels like to be one tiny box on a mile-long store shelf, and how much work we had cut out for us.

05Jun

July:
We celebrated our debut in Toys”R”Us with a viral video, where we filmed a horde of little girls “disrupting the pink aisle”. When we filmed the video, we invited our Kickstarter backers to be a part of the video shoot. We had over 50 people at the Toys”R”Us parking lot, with no permission from the store to do the filming. Luckily, the store manager was so happy to see all the kids, he had someone dress up like Jeffery the giraffe and give everyone gift bags. The fact we were able to capture the video was a miracle in and of itself. Over a million views later, people started looking for us at Toys”R”Us, and girls may have started nailing their ballet slippers to skateboards. Also this month, we took a company trip to SpaceX, where we took a tour and learned how spaceships are made. It was an engineer’s paradise. We also attended Adobe’s ‘Bring Your Kids to Work Day’, where we played for hours with kids building all kinds of amazing GoldieBlox contraptions. This month, we learned about the power of a building community.

07Jul

August:
We welcomed Marjan, our eighth employee. Her title is “Dr. Do-It-All”, and it’s been amazing to see all the challenges she takes on, learning everything on the fly. We were lucky to have Terry Langston, found of Pictionary and loyal GoldieBlox advisor pay us a visit this month. After hours and hours of playing and prototyping, we came up with the idea for our third toy, which is launching in a couple weeks. Terry captured the moment of discovery on video. We learned that every team member has many unexpected talents, and that each voice helps make our products that much better.

08Aug

September:
We welcomed three new team members this month. First was Ryan, a PR-savvy transplant from D.C. and childhood friend. Second was Kaye, a social media superstar from Upworthy and passionate feminist. Third was Clint, a very experienced industrial design engineer with a newborn daughter nicknamed Katinka! All three are total rock stars and fit right in to GoldieBlox culture. Also this month, I was lucky enough to give a talk at Google Zeitgeist, where I got to meet amazing people like Malcom Gladwell, Morgan Spurlock, MC Hammer and Fauzia Khoofi. We had our Midwest launch of GoldieBlox at the Cassandra Voss Center for Gender Research in Wisconsin. We also attended the NY Maker Faire, where we got to hang out with Geena Davis, who is a big advocate for getting more girls into STEM. This month we learned about growing our team and figuring out how to get into a groove with great new people.

010Sep

October:
We launched our new illustration style, showcasing Trevor and Andrea’s amazing artistic talent. They had spent countless hours re-illustrating Goldie and breathing emotion and humor into the characters and scenery. It was incredibly exciting to unveil it to the world, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. We also launched our new website in October, where we featured girl inventors with stop motion tutorials of their contraptions. We invited girls to submit their own inventions, and were thrilled when the submissions started rolling in! Also this month, we attended the Dallas Toy Fair, where we met with major retailers for the first time, partied with our buddies at Amazon and made new friends with other toymakers. We welcomed two new team members: Chris, a sales dynamo from New York and Priya, a Bain analyst from Atlanta. We had them line-dancing and singing karaoke on their very first day at the office. Late in the month, I spoke on a panel at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where I was lucky enough to hear Hillary Clinton give the keynote address. I also attended Fat Brain Toys’ Celebration of Minds event in Omaha. There, I was surprised and delighted to receive an honorary membership to the Society of Women Engineers. This month we learned that our new girl Goldie had what it takes to become a hit.

09Oct

 

November:
This month we shot, edited and launched a video featuring a Rube Goldberg machine made out of princess toys. In one week, the video received over 8 million views. It was featured on the TODAY show and Good Morning America and tweeted by Ellen, Barbie and Pee Wee Herman. Girls from around the globe got inspired by the video and started building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and backyards. Right after the launch of the video, I attended the Chicago Toy and Game fair where I was received the “Rising Star” inventor award. At the show, we donated one hundred GoldieBlox toys to local Girl Scout troops. Also in November, we hosted our first-ever “Junior Hackathon” event at Facebook, where employees brought their kids to participate in building activities with GoldieBlox. It was an enormous success and our whole team got to meet Sheryl Sandberg. I gave a talk at at a Women@Google event and the women at GoldieBlox joined, which was a blast. We also got the news that we were a top four finalist in Intuit’s “Small Business, Big Game” competition to win an ad in the Super Bowl. This month, we truly learned that anything is possible when you work hard and dream big.

011Nov

December:
We welcomed Jill Waller, former VP at Leapfrog, as our new CMO. Jill was an instant cultural fit – after day one, we felt like we’d all been working with her for years. In December, we finally launched our sequel, “GoldieBlox and the Parade Float” featuring a new character, Ruby Rails. We also launched our “More Than Just a Princess” t-shirts, hoodies and onesies, after receiving hundreds of requests for them since our Kickstarter campaign. We also launched an expansion pack called “Blox + Bits”. Everything sold out. This was a wonderful sign that kids wanted to build taller, bigger, more complex designs with their sets – a dream come true! I toured the US and Canada this month with media events almost every day. The highlight was getting to meet Charlie Rose. Our entire team worked around the clock and through the holidays to fulfill all of the orders. December was an absolute grind. The late nights and steadfast commitment from every single person at GoldieBlox was truly incredible. We were like a group of toy soldiers, experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. After getting through this roller coaster of a month, we learned that we aren’t just co-workers anymore, we are family.

012Dec

Reflecting upon 2013, it’s hard to believe that all of this happened in one year. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to all of the people who have made this journey possible.

I want to thank our fans for believing in us. For taking us from a Kickstarter project to the shelves of Toys”R”Us in less than one year. For being patient as we worked out the kinks and figured out the logistics. For sharing your stories, photos and videos with us – we cherish all of them. For giving us feedback – both positive and negative – we read it all and we incorporate it every day as we work to improve on everything we do. For sharing our passion. For believing in our girls and what they are capable of. For believing in us and what we are capable of. This is only the beginning and we can’t wait to keep building this dream with you in 2014.

2013

6 thoughts on “What We Did (And Learned) In 2013

  1. I read every word of your diary and it brought tears to my eyes. I am SO happy for you. Your product is an inspiration to young girls, and your story an inspiration to us all. My one thought? It just goes to show how the child in all of us should be listened to! Well done Debbie and Team Golidie Blox!!

  2. Hi Debbie,
    I am always so inspired by your blog posts. I am a startup hoping to launch this year. Can you advise the best way to look and find talent? You grew your company in a very short year with many folks that came from well known companies.Where did you find them?
    Thank you and keep inspiring!
    Sherry

  3. As the mother of a daughter who’s an electrical engineer, I am absolutely thrilled at what you’re doing! Because of this maybe we’ll see more girls getting into STEM. What a change from Barbie a few years ago saying “Math is HARD”. Thanks so much, best of luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>