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Business Is More than Fun and Games for GoldieBlox
As an engineering student at Stanford, Debbie Sterling couldnt understand why there werent more women in her classes or in the engineering industry overall. So she decided to do something about it and created GoldieBlox, a line of products that pairs books with construction sets, allowing girls to build alongside Goldie, a confident, curious and accessible role model, in order to create machines that solve problems and help people.
The concept caught on, and in 2013, Debbies company went from Kickstarter success story to the shelves of Toys R Us and other retailers, thanks partly to a controversial parody of the Beastie Boys jam Girls and an Intuit-funded commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. Now GoldieBlox is leading the charge to turn a new generation of girls into engineers. If Debbie has her way, girls will be building the future literally.
We caught up with Debbie to learn more about how shes turned her vision into a successful business, and why its so important to make your voice be heard.
What kinds of roadblocks did you encounter when you first launched GoldieBlox?
When I first introduced the idea to toy industry veterans, I was told, "Construction toys for girls don't sell. You cant fight nature." Refusing to take no for an answer, I turned to crowdfunding GoldieBlox on Kickstarter, where I found a group of supporters who really believed in our mission. In 30 days, we nearly doubled our goal and garnered more than 5,000 supporters. With their help, we were able to fund our first production run. It can be challenging at times to continue to believe in myself, my vision and the mission of GoldieBlox, but Ive learned to surround myself with people who share my passion.
What is your advice for someone looking to start his or her own business, or to grow an existing one?
My best piece of advice is to make your voice be heard. Speak up in meetings, go way outside of your comfort zone and establish relationships with people you normally wouldn't. Putting yourself out there in a big way is essential. Eventually, youll find people who strongly believe in what youre doing these are the individuals youll want to surround yourself with in the long run.
Along those same lines, what effect did the Beastie Boys controversy and the Super Bowl commercial have on your business?
Everything we do as a company is built around our mission: inspiring girls to become future innovators. We were blown away by the reaction to both our "Princess Machine" video and our commercial produced by RPA and sponsored by Intuit for the Big Game. The true reward is seeing the photos, videos and stories pour in from girls all over the world who are building with Goldie, understanding simple engineering concepts and getting excited about the masterpieces they create.
Do you have a mentor? If so, who is it and how has this individual impacted your business and career?
I was thrilled to be paired with Tina Roth Eisenberg, founder of SwissMiss, a popular design blog and studio, during my time in the Shopify Build-A-Business program. Tina taught me so much about strategizing, prioritizing and staying focused as my business grew rapidly. Tina also reminded me to pause and reflect upon our successes, and celebrate the moment when I felt the most overwhelmed.
How do you make more happen?
At GoldieBlox we wholeheartedly believe in the superpowers of our team. Oftentimes, more means receiving ideas, feedback and solutions from the entire team, regardless of what their day-to-day focus is. Our passion for our mission to inspire the next generation of female innovators translates into our work and always helps us improve. In our office, no means maybe.
What is one tool, item or service you cant run your business without?
Our company is run essentially paperless, so we rely heavily on the tools created by smart, innovative companies like Google, Dropbox and Intuit. Their tools help so many small businesses run seamlessly, and we rely so much on technology to keep us moving.
Do you ever rely on Staples to help GoldieBlox succeed?
Yes. We rely on Staples for our office supplies and crafty items for special projects. Staples always has what we need, and plus, we share a common goal. Both of us aim to supply children with the tools they need to succeed!
And Staples is a great stop for a last-minute snack run! Id be lying if I said our team doesnt have a sweet tooth, so its convenient when we pass by Staples and know we can run in for snacks to keep us energized and burning the midnight oil.
Thanks! Whats the most important item you buy, or service you use, at Staples?
We use the Copy & Print Center a lot for events and special projects. Its helpful to have staff guiding us in the right direction and helping to get the job done in a time crunch.
If you could go back in time to the day you decided to start GoldieBlox, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to always be excited about sharing my story and ideas. The more people I share my passion with, the more they want to engage in our mission and company. Our company has grown so rapidly thanks to an awesome network of supporters Ive garnered so far, and I cant wait to see what our girls build next.
How does your business make more happen? We want to know! Share your story with us in the Comments section below, and we might contact you for a future article.
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