After scouring the Internet to fill her house with only the best toys for her infant twin sons, Lori Pope hated to watch the clutter build as the boys lost interest.
If you can rent movies, video games and even handbags online, she thought, why not toys?
That’s the idea behind Baby Plays, a Web-based company Pope launched in October that allows parents to receive four or six toys in the mail every month, assembled and ready for playtime.
Call it Netflix for the toddler set.
Baby Plays subscribers visit the company’s Web site to browse among nearly 200 toys for newborns through preschoolers. Customers build a wish list of toys they’d like to rent, and Pope’s staff ships them to their door.
“It’s going to take a load off of moms,” Pope said.
Pope started with 10 customers, shipping toys out of spare office space in her business. Now she’s got about 200 customers nationwide, including about 40 grandparents, and is preparing to move into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse next door.
She has spent $250,000 of the money she’s made from her other business to get the company off the ground, from buying toys and hiring employees to subletting the office and storage space. She still pours about $12,000 a month into the company but hopes to begin turning a profit by this fall.
Baby Plays’ inventory includes popular toys by brands such as VTech, LeapFrog and Playskool as well as more obscure European manufacturers. Pope keeps at least seven of each kind of toy in stock so she can fulfill almost every request. She plans to double her inventory over the next two months.
Photo by Pat Sullivan.
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