I founded Tiny Earth Toys 3.5 years ago to help families rethink how we purchase, play with and pass on toys for kids. The problem we sought to solve started in my own home.
I was a new parent with two young daughters trying to work and parent amidst shutdowns and COVID school closures. After making the decision to step away from my corporate job, I took on the role of primary caregiver and educator. As a newbie educator, I read everything I could get my hands on related to early childhood learning and development. And I learned so much about how quickly their brains were changing.
My daughters enjoying some muddy outdoor play
So as their skills progressed, I amassed a huge library of educational toys that they rapidly outgrew. Without a systematic way to get them out of my home, they filled my closets.
Beyond the clutter, I also became deeply disturbed by the hyper-consumptive behavior I was modeling for my children. With 90% of children’s toys made from single-use plastic and 80% ending up in landfills, incinerators or the ocean I knew there had to be a better way to provide the novelty and age-based learning without the overconsumption.
With these problems in mind, I fell in love with a solution; a premium toy rental subscription. It addressed so many of the pain points I experienced personally. It did the research of what was age-appropriate, it systematically rotated toys in and out and I felt so good that the toys my daughters used would find a new life with another family. We grew quickly. Soon we had thousands of families in every state renting their toys.
But the business my growing team at Tiny Earth Toys worked tirelessly to perfect had its own set of problems. It was incredibly expensive to run with free two-way shipping, reverse logistics and refurbishment. And yet there was a ceiling on what customers were willing to pay for a product they didn’t get to keep. The unit economics were just not working.
Right before the holidays in 2023, our leadership team had deeply honest conversations about our business, the problems we hoped to solve for customers and where we might have gotten the solution wrong. At first these conversations were really difficult and felt like defeat. But we KNEW from the 10,000+ rental members we’d serviced, that parents were looking for alternative solutions to tossable toys, the toy industry’s equivalent to fast fashion. We started questioning, “is there another way to address this major issue in the toy industry?” And if so, where do we want to start?
We thought back to our own childhoods and what inspired our play, we watched our children play and we gathered research from thousands of parents on what they are observing in their own homes. And one category of play keeps coming to the surface; imaginative play. We know the social/emotional benefits are well documented, but we were so surprised by the universal core experiences we’ve each had with imaginative play. And we were shocked by the unmet needs within the current landscape.
Research in our warehouse
What has evolved in our business is nothing short of a full transformation. We’ve gone back to our core beliefs about play and sustainability. And we’re reimagining the category of pretend play. We believe we can go back to the original problem we hoped to solve and create a better solution. A solution that scales with children’s development, adjusts as they grow AND remains in use for generations.
We cannot wait to introduce you to Tiny Spaces launching in fall of 2024. We’d love for you to check it out on our homepage and if you feel inspired, join the waitlist to stay tuned with a behind the scenes look at our product development process and gather your feedback along the way. To everyone who has supported us on this journey, we can’t thank you enough. We remain inspired and dedicated to reimagining the future of play.