Most companies start in response to a demand. Somebody realizes that there’s something people want and then figures out a clever and efficient way to give it to them. Technically, just like so many other companies, that’s how Fat Brain Toys began. But… there’s also a little bit more to it than that.We’ve told this story so many times before. Adam, 10 years old at the time, received a new toy for his birthday called Geomag. It’s a fascinating construction system made up of magnetic rods and metal spheres that can be built into all kinds of intricate, geometric structures, providing a powerful opportunity for open-ended, creative play and learning. Adam loved this new toy and, just like any other 10 year old, he wanted more of it. So, naturally, he went online.This is where you might say the “demand” was discovered. As Adam searched the internet, he realized the only place he would be able to get this toy was straight from the manufacturer in Switzerland. Nobody else in the U.S. seemed to be selling it, or anything quite like it. Not exactly an ideal shopping experience. So, he suggested to his father Mark Carson, a web developer by trade, that they create their own online store where they could sell their own inventory of Geomag kits.
At first glance, this sounds like the typical, perfectly quirky beginning to the success story of cleverly meeting demand with supply. And to be completely honest, the “success” part of this story is definitely not something to sneeze at…
- They carried 110 products for their first holiday season in 2002 and now carry over 5,000.
- They’ve created 125 original toys.
- They grew from a 200 square-foot basement to 123,000 square feet throughout two warehouses, two stores, and one corporate office
- During peak season, they employ over 300 people.
However, what makes this story different, the thing that’s special about Fat Brain Toys, is that it wasn’t driven by the desire to sell a product, start a company, and make some money – It was driven by a child’s desire to experience more open-ended, authentic play. And so, in that sense, those astounding numbers mentioned above aren’t just a testimony to the success of Fat Brain Toys, they’re a testimony to the success of authentic play and the passion for learning and discovery that’s inherent in all children.
Of course, just like any other business, Fat Brain Toys still has to be driven in part by revenue and meeting demand with supply. It wouldn’t be able to survive otherwise. But the other part is still that same essential desire that 10-year-old Adam felt when he first went online to search for more Geomag kits: the desire to forge new pathways through play.
This week, Fat Brain Toys is celebrating their 15th year of business. Help them celebrate by sharing the joy of authentic play with the children in your life.