Toys that have true staying power are ones that enable further discovery and teach creativity. There are few classics that fall into this category, Legos and K’NEX being good examples, and a new toy is on its way to joining their ranks: Makey Makey by Joylabz.
It’s a flexible invention kit powered by a simple circuit board that connects to everyday objects – from bananas to beach balls – and transforms them into a responsive keyboard for a computer. It’s a next-generation building block of sorts, and it also accomplishes a unique challenge: Makey Makey crosses the gap between physical toys and digital tools. The result is a product that inspires curiosity and further creation.
Makey Makey, a product of Joylabz, has never had trouble finding an audience. Between a successful Kickstarter, a viral video, a demo during founder Jay Silver’s TED talk, and exposure at New York’s Toy Fair, demand for the toy continues to grow – so much so that Joylabz ran into order fulfillment challenges.
One challenge was shipping efficiently and cost effectively to customers across six continents and in over 130 countries.
“When our core mission is to empower and inspire, it didn’t seem right that our customers would have to wait weeks for Makey Makey to arrive in order to start inventing and creating,” explained Rachel Silver, Customer Relations Manager. For this, they needed a wider fulfillment network and more control over their shipping.
Another obstacle was selling and shipping to multiple types of customers.
“We are in Best Buy right now and we hope to land product in Target, Toys R Us, and a couple other retailers,” Rachel explained. “A large portion of our sales come direct from our website, but we have a lot of resellers and schools that buy Makey Makey kits wholesale or at a discounted rate.” Doing business with each group comes with a set of unique requirements and they needed a fulfillment partner that could flex to fit everyone’s needs.
Joylabz and Shipwire met at the New York Toy Fair in early 2014. Makey Makey was two years old at the time, but it was the first time the product was introduced to large retailers and was featured alongside mainstream brands. “It was a big deal for us because it put us right in front of buyers and distributors and all sorts of people in the industry,” said Rachel, then added, “We’ll be back in 2015!”
At the time of introduction, Joylabz was using a family-owned warehouse to ship orders. “We were running effectively with our existing setup and just weren’t ready for a more robust solution,” Rachel explained.
Less than a year later, however, the team’s needs had shifted. “It was when sales for Makey Makey continued to grow worldwide that we found we wanted more control over our shipping needs,” Rachel explained. “We started considering the benefits of having access to warehouses all over the world.”
Stressing the importance of maintaining control over their inventory, she added, “We needed powerful technology that would give us management tool and options, and because we’re a virtual company spread across three time zones, we needed to be able to control our operations no matter where we are.”
Impressed by the personal conversation earlier in the year, Joylabz felt comfortable asking Shipwire to be its fulfillment partner. Rachel explained, “We always get cold calls and we always ignore them, but Shipwire came right up to our booth, listened to our concerns, and listened to why we weren’t ready to commit at the time. They had us on the back burner for almost a year. They stayed in touch and knew who we were. So when we were ready, we were comfortable choosing Shipwire. We have a manager personally dedicated to our account who’s committed to helping us grow beyond what we could do on our own. The personal care makes all the difference.”
When we were ready, we were comfortable choosing Shipwire. We have a manager personally dedicated to our account who’s committed to helping us grow beyond what we could do on our own.
Joylabz moved into its first Shipwire warehouse right in time for the holiday season. “The transition to Shipwire was really smooth,” said Rachel. “It was kind of nerve-racking to make the switch – especially around the holidays, but it was really amazing to see all our orders fulfilled on time.”
Shipwire has eliminated a lot of Joylabz’s previous pain points, including the complications involved in shipping to various clientele.
“We’ve sold to over 300 schools all over the world and a lot of teachers want Makey Makey for their classrooms,” said Rachel. “However, schools can’t purchase products online using credit cards and before, if they couldn’t buy online, it was really hard to send shipments to them from our old warehouse.”
With Shipwire, this is no longer an issue. “We can accept payment through other processes and can easily go into the back end of the order management platform to send shipments, which we couldn’t do before.”
Joylabz’s direct-to-consumer channels are also reaping the benefit of Shipwire’s robust order management solution. “Now, if a kid halfway around the world watches our video (from the Kickstarter campaign) and is inspired, he can get a Makey Makey delivered in just a few days without paying exorbitant shipping fees,” Rachel explained. “On our side, we can see where any unit is, anytime, and with just a few clicks we have detailed information about the cost for each shipment, down to the penny, which is great.”
On our side, we can see where any unit is, anytime, and with just a few clicks we have detailed information about the cost for each shipment, down to the penny, which is great.
With its operations optimized, Joylabz is currently placing product into five new Shipwire warehouses.
Of the move into new warehouses, Rachel said, “Expansion in general is new for us, but I really feel confident that it’s going to be easy; we’ve seen how easy Shipwire makes things and we really couldn’t have afforded to not switch order fulfillment providers. It was the right time to bring Shipwire into the picture.”
Joylabz isn’t stopping at adding warehouse locations. According to Rachel, the team has plans to grow sales through an increasing number of retail channels as well. “We feel confident in our growth plans because we have so much control and transparency,” she said.
Meanwhile, Makey Makey continues to fly off physical and virtual shelves. “It’s successful because you can plug in and start inventing right away,” explained Rachel. “And it’s not a toy that’s exclusively for kids – all sorts of people are interested in it.”
When Makey Makey’s original home video went viral, it caught the attention of artists, engineers, teachers, and hobbyists of all sorts who have demonstrated continuous support of the product. Simply stated, “When technology is easy to use, everyone can discover the magic of making.”
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