Successful Social Entrepreneur Launches New Venture Selling Toys With A Purpose
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
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After creating the top-selling organic baby food company, Happy Family, and selling it to Groupe Danone in 2013, Jessica Rolph, 43, is ready to go big again.
Joined by Rod Morris, 46, co-founder and President, Rolph, who serves as CEO, has launched Lovevery, a toy company employing scientific research about early childhood development to create toys that help babies learn.
Lauren Loktev, a partner at Collaborative Fund, which invested in Lovery through its partnership with Sesame Workshop, Collab+Sesame, says she was impressed by the products.
“Lovevery makes beautiful products that parents and children love, backed by rigorous scientific research. We and Sesame were impressed by Jessica and Roderick’s depth of research and thoughtfulness about early child development, and by their ability to translate this into great products,” she says.
She explains that the toys are paired with books for the parents to read to the children to create a parent-child connection. “Lovevery has done all the work such that parents can just enjoy time with their kids!”
Jennifer Carolan, general partner for Reach Capital, which also invested in Lovevery, shares Loktev’s enthusiasm for connecting parents with their children.
“Our firm focuses on education technology investing but for us, in the early years, that means using technology to distribute access to resources, tools and products that enable connection. In a world increasingly overtaken by screens, we loved Jessica and Rod’s vision to build connection between parents or caregivers and children,” she says.
Carolan adds that her firm has invested in Tinkergarten based on a similar thesis.
Jessica Rolph and Rod Morris, Lovevery CREDIT: AMPERSAND STUDIOS 2017
The products are not based simply on a mother’s intuition—though Rolph is a parent to three children, all under the age of eight. Morris, who helped lead the growth at Opower through a successful IPO, says, “There’s a lot of science that went into every single product that we design, and we try to make the science as approachable as possible.”
Carolan explains how the science drives the product development. “The Lovevery team has distilled the body of research on children’s cognitive development and presents it in a digestible way for parents. It’s similar to what Malcolm Gladwell does with PhD theses (makes them accessible) but Jessica and team do this with childhood development research – they make it accessible to parents. And they do this with toys and other learning materials so that parents understand how to use the physical world to connect and inspire their babies.”
One example of the products and what they teach is the “Magic Tissue Box” that is intended for children five to six months old. The washable, organic “tissues” can be pulled out of the box and the baby can then push them back in and take them out—over and over—without wasting a box of tissues. This helps the child learn “what goes in what,” Rolph says. The box also has a removable bottom to allow parents to quickly reload.
The products are primarily sold by subscription. Over the course of a baby’s first year, six packages of toys and books arrive, corresponding strategically to the child’s stage of development.
“But the fact is that there are all kinds of benefits around children being able to learn faster or learn more,” Morris says.
The company also conducted some market tests with 25 families across the country and across the socio-economic spectrum. “Every parent was looking to give their baby the very best,” Rolph says.
The parents also appreciated that the toys were paired with developmental information. “There was something actionable for them to do, like they could read this book, they could play with this toy and they knew what it was doing for their child’s development,” She says.
With investors and parents quickly buying in, it will be interesting to see if the babies do, too.
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