Your Names: Alice Wang & Pegah Ebrahimi

Business Name: Spark Box Toys, a subscription service that brings personalized learning toys to children

Type of Business: Children’s Goods & Services

Business Location: Newark, New Jersey, United States

Twitter @sparkboxtoys

Reason for starting
Best friends and MIT grads, we wanted to launch a business together. Many classmates had companies in fashion or finance; we wanted to take another route. Though not moms ourselves, many friends & family have kids. At one point, Alice had cousins in different countries having children at the same time, buying many of the same toys yet unable to share/recycle them with each other. Our “aha” moment came at FAO Schwartz: to create a “Netflix for toys,” and build a global community of shared toys.

Biggest Success
In business for just under a year, our biggest success is the validation and input we get from our customers. It’s one thing to have a growing customer base (and we’re excited to be on track to hit 1,000 customers by year-end). It’s another for those customers to actually take the time to offer feedback, because they really value what you’re doing and want to contribute to its growth. This data and insight is what drives our business; it’s what allows us to truly be successful.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Getting the word out so parents not just know us, but trust us, and understand how we differ from other options out there. Because we’re self-funded, we’re addressing this as grassroots as we can: 1. Go where the moms go, working directly with preschools and parenting blogs. 2. Refer-a-friend feature for all customers, with contests and incentives to drive registration. 3. Work with non-profits to give back, donating our toys to inner city schools through Project Playdate & other partners.

Who is your most important role model?
For both of us, our parents are our most important role models. We are both immigrants to this country, and our parents are all business owners who started from nothing and showed that you can build a dream into reality with a lot of dedication and hard work. We never felt like anything was out of reach, thanks to their influence.