Startup Q&A - Green Pinata Gives Children A Collection of New Toys Every Month
Ask anyone who has ever worked retail in any store that sells toys, and they will tell you they’ve heard the phrase “I want a new toy!” (or some variation of it) heard by a screaming child. Although, despite having something new and shiny to play with, some kids will stop playing with them after a short period of time. And for parents who buy a lot of toys for their children, sometimes they can see that as money wasted
Green Pinata utilizes the popular monthly subscription box model for parents that are looking to give their children something new to play with every month.
Green Pinata Founder and CEO Shiva Kashalkar shares how her company came to be by telling a personal story as a parent repeatedly buying toys for her daughter. She also discusses how Green Pinata’s platform chooses which toys go into each box per month.
CB: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins of Green Pinata?
SK: When my daughter was eight months old, I realized I was paying several hundred dollars every month for toys that she would only play with for a few days. As a first time parent, I didn’t exactly know what toys would make her happy or age-appropriate. The clutter from unused toys drove me crazy and we were always running out of storage space. I started looking for an option such as stitch fix or rent the runway for toys. However, no such curated options existed for toys and I became inspired to build Green Piñata - a toy curation service that gave parents the option to rent toys so that they don’t have to be stuck with toys their kids have outgrown.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of Green Pinata?
SK: In 2017, parents of kids under age five in the US spent $5 billion in toys, but their kids didn't play with more than half of the toys wasting billions of dollars, creating clutter and increasing their family's addition to landfill. There are two primary reasons why this happens - 85% of our brain develops within the first 5 years of our lives, so kids are growing up fast and their outgrowing toys fast. Secondly, parents simply cannot guess what such small kids would like or not like because of the child’s changing interests. Green Piñata solves this problem in two ways - Our rental subscription helps parents not to be stuck with toys their kids have outgrown and we apply data science and human expertise to learn a child's preferences and recommend developmentally appropriate toys.
Green Pinata encompasses the factors of green living and convenience the millennial parents want while helping them save money and end clutter. In addition, we have built our service on a strong foundation of insights from early education and child development specialists to deliver age-appropriate toys geared towards learning at every stage.
CB: Explain what your company does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work? Any use case that stands out to you?
SK: We are a toy subscription service and we ship curated toys for ages under 5. For a monthly fee, families receive 4 premium quality toys. Their kids play with for as long as they want, buy the ones the kids can’t part with and return the rest. We apply data science to individually tailor the toys so that kids get more of what they like and less of what they don’t like.
CB: You see a lot of subscription box companies pop-up nowadays. Why choose that business model? Did you have other ideas?
SK: Subscription businesses have changed the way people buy things. People love purchasing things that are personalized to their individual preferences. Traditional retail is not sufficient for the consumers anymore. Particularly, the millennial generation prefers convenience, personalization and easy access to expensive products. Subscription services meet their needs perfectly. The reason we chose subscription model is that toy retail has not changed in decades and It has not caught up to what the consumers these days are looking for. Toy subscription has proven to be a great opportunity for us to go after.
CB: How do you pick what is in each box per month?
SK: Using machine learning and predictive analytics, we curate the selection that is optimal for the child’s playing and learning. For every box, the customer is presented with an individually tailored recommendation of toys based on preferences of a child, the age of the child and their developmental milestones. The parent has the option to either approve the recommendation or choose their own. We partner with the best retailers to make sure our toys are safe and educational. All of our toys are free of chemicals, made from sustainably sourced wood or recycled plastic, and have been produced in an eco-conscious environment.
CB: How big is the team? Are you looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
SK: We are a team of 5 and each one of us brings a perfect mix of skills and experience to help us grow. We are currently hiring for the position of Head of Growth - who will focus exclusively on customer acquisition and revenue growth. References welcome!
CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?
SK: We have been very active in the Boston startup scene. We graduated from the WIN Lab - an accelerator for women entrepreneurs. We have showcased our startup in Mass Inno Night and several other local events.
CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?
SK: We have bootstrapped our initial growth and received an angel round last fall. We are always seeking the right partners to get to the next level.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did Green Pinata get its name?
SK: It’s a funny story. At the time of launching the business, I knew I wanted the name to have “Green” in it and also something that indicated fun and play. One morning, I was reading the book “The Adventures of Curious George” to my daughter in which he learns to hit a piñata at a birthday party.
CB: Any other additional comments you’d like to make?
SK: At Green Pinata, our favorite quote is “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors but we borrow it from our children” and we strive to be environmentally conscious in every step of our process. We have partnered with eco-conscious manufacturers, all of whom use sustainably-sourced wood or recycled plastic to make their products. Together, we help families ‘go green.’ Once our toys have been loved by our customers, we donate them to children in need.