One of the biggest concerns in today’s society is the exposure of electronic devices towards small children such as tablets and video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics state infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology and 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day. The attempts to preserve the traditions and enjoyments of yesteryear have become a monumental task for some as the growing demand for ‘screen time’ from children are becoming more and more difficult to overcome. Aneesa Bozai, a former Montessori teacher, educator and ardent supporter of homeschooling recognized the trends parents are instilling in their households by bringing in more electronic devices to mollify children’s tantrum-like nature.
With her experience in the Montessori world, she was responsible for the purchase and procurement of learning tools, visual aids and play mechanisms for the schools she had worked for. Because of her passion for homeschooling and traditional educational methods, that gave her an idea to bring in products that would not only enhance a child’s learning experiences at such a young age, but also help them connect with some of the traditions of old in toymaking and toy interactivity. In 2011, she launched Eastern Toybox offering “Western Treasures, with an Eastern Twist” as per her Facebook page. Hearing the growing needs of environmentally conscious consumers, Eastern Toybox brought about toys and learning tools from her own design and has also established a platform for artisans and organizations to showcase their own products that fall in line with the same theme. Aneesa hopes to inspire parents to share with their children the origin of their material possessions, and to help raise a generation of thoughtful children. With the mere fact that this organization is product heavy, the use of social media in her product development and produce acceptance strategy was a critical part in ensuring the items she is involved in are at high quality and carry the theme she wishes to showcase.
Aneesa had a unique vision to bring back some of the traditional toys that were widely used by children, but at the same time, make them much more safer to use, more eco-friendly and possess features that would attract kids that would play with them and for the adults to purchase them as gifts. Eastern Toybox’s mission was to bring a sense of Fair Trade in all the products that they would develop, design and eventually get it into the hands of consumers. The main challenge for her however was how to bring that vision to a reality. She would first draw and sketch what she would like to see and would in the initial stages would utilize Google’s search engine to discover toy manufacturing companies locally and abroad that would give her the best quality at the best price adhering to the standards she wanted Eastern Toybox to exemplify.
On top of that, this newly minted organization would also engage other would be entrepreneurs to develop and sell their product under the Eastern Toybox banner, but needed to find a way to communicate with these prospects to ensure the product design and quality are also meeting standards. Finding methods in taking existing or past used toys, innovating them and getting them the attention they deserved before the competition jumps on them also posed a big challenge. Along with this, speaking to the right people that were capable of handling tasks and delivering on time were important factors to consider when communicating on social media.
Some of the solutions that Aneesa initially implemented was some of the more traditional methods in collaborating with her designers, manufacturers and other vendors that wished to sell products through her. She would set up face to face meetings and also attend various trade shows that allow her to network with various prospects. What she found however, was the time factor played against her. With her children’s homeschooling and family to tend to, it became an arduous task to leave her home and market Eastern Toybox to a larger audience. With this, Aneesa vigorously started to utilize social media tools such as Facebook and Instagram to get not only the vendors she hires to get her products developed, but also engage the audience to give her feedback on the variety of toys put out into the market.
Other means in where Eastern Toybox would promote its wares would be online and one of the sites that captured her attention was Etsy which is a peer-to-peer e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items.
Eastern Toybox has established themselves with a fairly large presence on social media and with the strategies Aneesa has executed, she now possesses the wherewithal and experience to get toys produced not just by her design (see play blocks here), also innovate existing products (see Eastern version of Babushka dolls here) , and collaborate with other entrepreneurs (see Poppy Dolls here) to develop products and get it under the Eastern Toybox banner.
Social media has enabled open communication with manufacturers and getting prototypes of new products Aneesa likes to bring out. An example of which is the Stempelset she wishes to bring out into the market. This product was a high quality stamp set that would allow users to stamp various phrases in Arabic Calligraphy on any paper-like substrate. As she made a call out for a manufacturer over social media, she found a customized stamp manufacturer out in Europe to produce a prototype. As the initial prototype arrived, Aneesa then turned to online focus groups to see what they thought of it. With all the responses given, another prototype was developed. Aneesa still didn’t feel it possessed that quality she was looking for, made some tweaks to the design, packaging and overall look of the stamps and got a third one produced which is pictured here which could go onto the market very soon. This is a clear example of how she utilized the online world to take an existing product, bring it more along Eastern Toybox’s vision and continue to improve on it so it is ready for sale.
Aneesa also had some of her vendors utilize the technique of Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing to launch her business into the publishing sector and not just focus on toys. With some success, she now is able to offer various types of interactive books such as pop-up books and water-safe booklets, and has also added organically made baby clothes.
Lessons for Others
Aneesa Bozai who is the founder and owner of Eastern Toybox has developed a unique venture project for herself that brings back some of the forgotten days of how children interacted, learned and played with toys. Her prowess and proactive nature on social media has paved the way for her to acquire such an extensive product line that she solely designed and employing other vendors to sell alongside her company name to provide that much needed brand impact.
Never be afraid to reach out on social media. Always network and always be open to learning by taking advice and receiving feedback regardless if it is positive or negative. ~Aneesa Bozai
Eastern Toybox’s main goal is to develop and innovate such products that will bring about a more positive environment in one’s homes and she always mentions that businesses need to always innovating and taking in ideas. Social Media opened those roadways to other businesses, vendors and entrepreneurs which has allowed her to work alongside them and push her products not just online, but in actual stores located in Markham and Mississauga.
Industry: Childrens Toys
Name of Organization Contact: Aneesa Bozai, Owner
Authored by: Safi
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