Entrepreneurs

How This Mom of 3 Turned Tissue Boxes and Sawed-Off PVC Pipe Into a Multimillion-Dollar Toy-Subscription Business

Jessica Rolph’s foray into mother­hood in 2010 meant getting deluged by overly titillating toys made from petrochemicals. That didn’t sit right with the founder–who had helped launch eco-baby-food maker Happy Family Organics in 2006–particularly not after she’d seen the latest research on building lasting neural networks. (It posited that a child’s ability to, say, drive a car later in life may be informed by her Tonka truck.) Here’s how Rolph, ever the entrepreneur, turned that insight into Lovevery, one of the fastest-growing companies in the Rocky Mountain region. –As told to Jane Porter

One day when my son was about 8 months old, I was playing on the floor with him. He pushed a button on this toy and lights started flashing and a purple cow popped out. I could see his desire for cause and effect and that he was memorizing that sequence of events. I intuited that this kind of toy wasn’t as useful as going around the house, turning on and off the lights and opening and closing cupboards.

By the time I had my two other kids, I was making my own toys. When my husband sawed off a piece of PVC pipe and my son loved it, I started dreaming: What if it didn’t have rough edges? My kids loved playing with tissue boxes. But I tired of fishing soggy tissues from their mouths and thought: What if we created a wood and fabric tissue box?

From those musings, my business idea took shape: I could create stage-based learning tools that would be direct-to-consumer. Working with my best friend’s husband, Roderick Morris, we developed our first product: a play gym. It took well over a year to design and it was three times the cost of other gyms. Still, within nine months of launching, we hit number one for the category in revenue on Amazon. Celebrities started finding our gym and it became a thing on Instagram. In July 2018, we launched the subscription for 0- to 12-month-old play kits, which we’ve since expanded through 3-year-olds.

Last year, we sent more than a million play kits to subscribers in more than 30 markets globally, inked a partnership with Target, and announced a $100 million funding round. In 2022, subscribers can look out for our first book bundle. Take that, purple cow.

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From the March/April 2022 issue of Inc. Magazine

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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