You don’t need to be a parent to know that kids can get bored of toys fast, especially when they’re younger. So why should parents buy toys for their kids when they’re probably going to stop using them in two weeks or less?
Shiva Kashalkar—who’s worked in product management and got her MBA from Babson College—doesn’t think parents should have to waste all that money and space, which is part of why she launched Green Pińata, a curated toy subscription box service, earlier this year.
“I had my first child in July 2014, and earlier this year, when she was eight months old, she started getting into toys and we went to the toy store and found she only played with the toys for just few weeks and she’s already bored with them,” she said. “I was like, this problem is only going to grow.”
After encountering the problem, Kashalkar said she looked online for subscription box services that shipped toys that were educational and toxin-free—two things that are important to her as a parent.
“Nothing like that existed and I was just thinking about it,” she said. “This idea of toy rental grew within me and consumed me, so I thought, ‘why don’t I start this?'”
Subscription box services have grown in popularity over the last few years, with a number of businesses popping up in different markets, from health and beauty to entertainment. Birchbox, considered a pioneer in the field, was founded in 2010 and has amassed more than 800,000 subscribers, which equals about $96 million in annual sales.
“This idea of toy rental grew within me and consumed me, so I thought, ‘why don’t I start this?'”
The growing popularity of subscription box services has caught the attention of a number of investors. Another subscription box pioneer, Dollar Shave Club, raised a $75 million round over the summer, bringing its total venture funding to nearly $150 million, with Forerunner Ventures, an investor in Airbnb and Instacart, among its backers.
Kashalkar began working full-time on Green Pińata in March, putting together a business that charges a monthly fee for a new box of three to five toys every four weeks ($39.99) or six weeks ($24.99). When the child is finished playing with the toys, the parents can pack them in the box it came in and ship them back for free. If parents find their child becoming attached to a particular toy, Kashalkar said they can pay to keep it.
All the toys are premium, toxin-free brands that can’t be found at large retailers and even specialty stores sometimes, Kashalkar said, and they’re currently sourced from about five vendors, including toymakers based in California, Minnesota and Germany.
To help parents figure out what toys are right for what age, Kashalkar said Green Pińata worked with education experts to develop a proprietary toy curriculum divided in six age groups. Toys in each age group are designed to develop certain skills, such as cognitive and language skills for children 12 to 18 months old. The oldest age group, 4 to 5 years, covers skills like social play, reasoning, long-term memory, listening and visual perception.
“We make sure all of our toys hit those different skills,” she said.
Kashalkar didn’t specify how many subscribers there are but indicated the service has already generated nationwide appeal with customers spanning from California to Pennsylvania to Maryland.
“We don’t have direct competitors, but we may have indirect like other subscription boxes, but there is none that really ships just toys” for younger children, she said.
The startup is bootstrapped for now, Kashalkar said, but its planning to fundraise soon.