I was inspired to start GoldieBlox because…

Construction toys are notorious for developing the spatial skills needed to excel in engineering, and yet they are also notorious for being a “boys club.” It was important for me to provide girls with the same opportunity. GoldieBlox makes construction toys for girls and gives them a much-needed positive role model to look up to.

Our mission at GoldieBlox is…

To disrupt the pink aisle and inspire future generations of female engineers.

We measure our impact by…

We receive hand-written letters, drawings, emails, videos and testimonials daily from kids and their parents who have been inspired by our products. It’s the handwritten letters that I get in the mail from seven-year-old girls about how GoldieBlox has introduced them to building, how much they love it, and how they hope to grow up to be engineers one day that truly keeps me and my team motivated day in and day out.

What else needs to be done to tackle the gender gap in STEM…

I think the key to getting young women involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is to make engineering fun and exciting. The idea is that if we can reach our girls at a young age and teach them that they have the power to build, they will have the confidence to rise up the chain of command in a male dominated field.

How I conducted research before developing and launching GoldieBlox…

I started doing research into gender differences, cognitive development in children; I read books about the female brain by neuroscientists; I met with science and math elementary school teachers, and nonprofit educators who are doing programs to get kids interested in STEM.

And as I started to dive in and do all of this research, a theme started to emerge that was really fascinating. It was around girls and their verbal skills development. I was reading all this academic research about girls developing their verbal skills quickly and at a young age and having a lot of confidence around reading and having a strong preference for play that involves storytelling and characters.

Girls preferred more context to their play. “What are we building and why and who is it for?” And I came up with the idea of a character named Goldie who stars in a book series, and you read along with her adventures as she solves problems by building machines and so the concept was to read along and go along with Goldie.

My advice for entrepreneurs prototyping their product…

Never give up. It might sound crazy, but I never gave up because I believe that this is what I was born to do. I wake up every morning, so excited to tackle the next challenge of the day, all in the name of inspiring more girls and women to explore engineering.

The impact that video has had on building awareness for GoldieBlox…

In 2014, we won Intuit’s “Small Business Big Game” promotion, which gave us a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl. One hundred million people saw GoldieBlox’s message about empowering girls. It was incredible and validating that America voted for us and wanted us for their daughters. Immediately after the ad aired, the traffic on our website jumped and we’ve been able to turn that excitement into something greater for the company.

How entrepreneurs can leverage video to market their business…

It’s hard to put your social mission on the front of a box. With video, we were able to tell a truly genuine and authentic story. Our first Kickstarter video enabled us to talk about what GoldieBlox was and why it existed, and most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to tell my story. People connected with that, and consequently, they connected with me.

The key factors that contributed to our successful crowdfunding campaign…

The number one key factor was creating an authentic video. I spoke from the heart—and that’s certainly not easy to do when you have a camera six inches from your face.

Having Tim Schafer, who’s the founder of Double Fine, on-board with us was another key contributing factor. Tim is extremely well-known in the Kickstarter space and he actually filmed a cameo in our video with his daughter (you can’t fake moments like these!). He then shared the video with his thousands of backers, which was a huge help in raising awareness for our brand in the very early stages.

Lastly, we reached out to as many press outlets as we could leading up to the launch. We emailed every reporter and influencer we could find and reached out to all of our friends and family. We really dug into our extended networks and campaigned as best we could to get the word out.

Looking back, what I would do differently…

I would have gone to visit the factory much earlier in the process and given more precise instructions on the manufacturing of the product. Basically, I would have used more engineering!

3 tips for getting your product into retailers…

  1. Having something like a Kickstarter or crowdfunding video helps prove market demand. That was the catalyst for stores finding out about us. We were able to prove that there was a need for our product and that people wanted to buy it.
  2. Attend industry trade shows—even if it means getting a small booth or a badge just to go to a show and check it out. That is where buyers go to look for products.
  3. Go into local stores and speak with the owners. Get them to try your product out and then get their feedback. A lot of stores function as segments of bigger communities with huge networks that you can capitalize on. If one store likes your product, there’s a good chance they’ll share their positive experience with another store.

What I’ve learned about hiring a great team…

As GoldieBlox matured from a prototype in my living room to a company, the biggest challenge was really building an amazing team. The first initial hires are hard to do when you’re starting out and you don’t have a lot of money to pay anybody. What I did have was a ton of passion for this and a really great social mission, so I was able to find people who were equally as passionate and willing to take a risk.

I had to really be comfortable asking them directly, convincing them to take that leap with me. One of my very first hires was a woman that I used to work with at my last job, and she had two kids and a mortgage, and she was leaving a very steady job to come work with me at my startup. It took a lot of convincing and a huge leap of faith on her behalf.

Skills I’ve learned as a CEO that weren’t always natural to me…

Managing people who have different personality types. In previous jobs, I’ve worked almost exclusively with creative types. It’s a new skill set to work with people who are more analytical or introverted. That said, it’s important to have a diverse workplace and that’s what we strive for at GoldieBlox, which is why we have a lot of unique personality types. It takes a lot of time and thoughtfulness in understanding how to motivate and manage different types of people.

Top qualities I look for in a mentor…

When I cook at home, I like to look up a bunch of recipes and blend my favorite components to make my own unique dish. Similarly, I rely on a variety of different mentors to help inform my business decisions. It’s not about having one soul-mate mentor. It’s about making sure you have your bases covered in all aspects of business. Tina Roth Eisenberg, who I met through the Shopify competition, is a business mentor that truly touched my personal life. She encouraged me to create a fun company culture, and reminded me to always pause, reflect and celebrate successes through even the most hectic work days.

Advice for finding the right manufacturing partner…

Start by looking for similar products that you respect, and that you think are well-made and see if you can get in touch with anyone who works for the companies that are responsible for those products. Once you find them, get advice and find out who their manufacturers are.

How we innovate and create new product ideas…

In addition to a lot of blue sky brainstorming, we have a really diverse team with different backgrounds. After all, that’s the goal—to get more girls and women in engineering so that the field is more diverse. Our employees have all different backgrounds. That alone breeds innovative thinking.

We also spend a lot of time with kids. At least twice a week, we get their feedback on new product ideas and that’s honestly where our best ideas come from.

What’s next for GoldieBlox…

We have some exciting announcements in store for 2016: more stories, more pieces, more stuff to build and even a new app that teaches the fundamentals of coding. This is only the beginning toward building our ultimate goal: creating a girl engineer role model who will inspire kids around the world to find a passion in STEM.