Playper’s Curious Kingdom: We’re Here!
“Planet-Friendly Toy Brand Playper Launches Curious Kingdom Playset” reads today’s press release headline. That’s nine simple words with so much story behind them. The fruits of the labor of of my uber-talented team including my awesome co-founders Michael and Susy who’ve been with me on this journey since the very beginning and many more who’ve joined us along the way – all summed up in those nine words. It’s been said that having a child is like watching your heart go walking around outside your body. Launching a product is similar. It’s out there now for the public to see… and hopefully love! The playset is in a warehouse and the recently updated playper.com website is accepting orders. I hope Kevin Costner was right when he said, “if you build it, they will come!”
But no matter how many boxes we sell, building this company and product has truly been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. From the day I first met my co-founder Michael, I knew he was a creative genius, and it’s been so much fun watching him work, coming up with brilliant ideas and creating a world of lovable characters that Susy brought to life through an enchanting AR-enhanced app, built by our incredible engineer Mitch Cichocki, who took on the challenge head-first of doing something totally new. Making it all a reality involved all the trials and occasional false starts that occur with any entrepreneurial startup, but looking back at it now, it’s come together like a well-choreographed symphony with each member playing their parts so beautifully that it feels like it was meant to be.
Like a new parent welcoming their first child into the world, I’m feeling a lot of similar feelings today – pride, excitement, a little nervousness. Reflecting back, one decision I’m particularly proud of is to not rush our product to market. At the end of last year, we had a version of our product we felt was ‘good,’ but we knew it could be better. We could have hurried it to market, but we huddled up as a team and decided to take the harder path of pulling it back and sending it out to hundreds of families to get their feedback. The glowing response we’re seeing to the new product prove it was the smart choice. I’d like to highlight some other aspects of our toys that make me feel that primary new-parent emotion – immense, unadulterated, joyous pride.
Playper is a purpose-driven toy company creating planet-friendly toys. Our products are made with sustainable materials and created from PlayperBoardTM – a high-quality, durable paper-based material that contains no toxic chemicals, plastics, or dyes. When parents, caregivers, and gift-givers buy a Playper playset, they can feel great knowing that they are working to make the world a little greener. As a parent of four children seven and under, I’ve seen first-hand how the vast majority of children’s toys are made out of plastic (90%!), and I’m proud that our product isn’t one of them.
This journey has made all of us involved with Playper more sensitive to the many issues with plastic – its overuse, the way it pollutes our planet, the difficulty of recycling it, how harmful its chemicals are to our kids’ growth and development, and more. Becoming more aware of the problems with plastic, resulted in my wife coming up with an initiative for our household last holiday season. She challenged us to not buy any plastic toys for our kids and creatively named this initiative: Plastic-Free Under the Tree™. I thought it was so clever we trademarked it! You can read about our own hits and misses with this challenge last year here. We hope more friends and business partners will join us on this campaign this year as we’re definitely not the only company making planet-friendly toys!
AR and Edutainment
Also, on my list of things I’m “most proud-of” is the play pattern we’ve created for the Playper toys, focused on the interaction between the digital (app) and physical (playset), creating a seamless experience between the two. The app inspires organic offline play and the two worlds interact with each other in an ongoing loop. Curious Kingdom is an open-ended world that fosters valuable pretend play world where a child’s toy comes alive both through their own imagination and the corresponding Curious Kingdom app that unlocks additional content and extends the life of the playset with animated episodes, interactive stories, learning games, music, and hidden surprises. In our focus group testing, we learned that for every parent, there is a different view on screen time and device use for kids at this age. Some three-year-olds have their own devices, some six-year-olds have parents who aren’t comfortable with any of it. That’s why our free app is completely optional. You don’t need it to enjoy Curious Kingdom – but for those who do choose to download it, we’ve worked hard make sure it’s not passive, junk screen time. It provides interactive, fun-filled, educational experiences that are age appropriate, pedagogically aligned, and informed by our team of experts.
A ‘World-Changing Idea’ – with the award to prove it!
Another highlight for which I feel a lot of pride happened when Playper was honored by the leading business media outlet Fast Company earlier this year with a 2022 World Changing Ideas Award, recognizing our small business and its efforts to make a positive impact on the world through innovative eco-friendly playsets. But we’re not doing this for awards; we’re doing this for kids. As I wrote about in this blog post, at Playper, we believe toys can change a child's life – and in turn, the course of history! The best ones offer opportunities to expand imaginations, discover new worlds, and develop problem-solving skills. What we really want is to inspire kids and change the world, one toy at a time.
It Takes a Village
I’ve been overwhelmed by all the generous, smart, and talented people who make up the village that created Playper. From our investors who’ve given us their hard-earned money to help make our dream a reality, to our advisors who’ve generously given of their time and shared their knowledge. From our toy testing families filling out surveys and providing valuable feedback, to the PR and marketing people helping get the word out. We have illustrators, graphic designers, animators, app developers, story writers, toy designers, consultants, freelancers, spouses, friends, and more who have all been part of Team Playper, and we are so grateful for the work and contribution of each and every one of them.
So yep, here we are – our first product, Curious Kingdom, is out there, and our heart running around outside our body! It is now ready to be purchased, played with, and loved. But what now? Well, we’re not resting on our laurels! We’re already hard at work creating our next product. Want to know what it will be? Follow us and find out!