Here at IANtB, we are always on the lookout for great companies that encourage learning and development for children. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Teona Lazashvili, the co-founder of Laddine, an online toys specialist platform. Laddine has an amazing array of products that are developed both for play and learning. Their emphasis is on “quality play,” that helps kids sharpen their skills and “realize their full potential.” Teona and her friend Amali Eddine are passionate about children’s education and well-being. They started their venture to make educational toys more accessible to children everywhere. They are the winner of the 2014 Zahn Prize for their innovative business ideas as well as their great potential for success. Excerpts from our Q&A follow:
Q: So why toys?
A: Well, most of us grew up playing with toys and games without realizing how important play is to our own development, but for thousands of years play has been the most natural way for children to learn.
And today countless studies agree that quality play time encourages and nurtures not only children’s physical, but also their cognitive and social development and that its influence reaches well beyond childhood. In fact, quality play might just be the best and the most efficient way to help our children grow up confident, skilled and creative, in other words, successful.
Given the importance of quality play and our passion for helping children everywhere reach their full potential, it’s only natural that we turned to quality toys as the means to achieve that end.
Q: How exactly did Laddine come about?
A: It all began when I was looking for a gift for my niece, Anne. I wanted to find the girl a toy that is more than just a time filler because I knew how important quality play is. But after looking through one website after another, including some big name stores, I still came away empty handed. Of course, there were many toys out there, but the problem was that there was little to no information on whether or how a toy would benefit Anne. Would the toy inspire her imagination? Or would it help her with problem solving skills? It was hard to tell. When I shared my frustration with Amali, it turned out Amali, through her experience in the toys industry, was also aware of the lack of dedicated resources to help consumer find the right toys that would actually benefit children. After talking to more people, we realized there is indeed a market demand for a simpler more informative way of shopping for the right toys. That’s why why decided to start Laddine, to make shopping for the right toys both simple and informative.
Q: How do you guys go about doing that?
A: Well, we take away all the uncertainties and difficulties in finding the right toys through our curated selection.
In order to earn a place at Laddine, a toy must undergo a rigorous and curated selection process overseen by a team of specialists to ensure that it is not only fun to play with, but also helps develop the skills that children need for future success such as imagination, creativity, communication, STEM skills, and many more.
These targeted skills are then clearly labeled so that customers can easily identify them at a glance without having to read through a detailed description. But, of course, if you are interested in finding out more about the toy, a detailed description is also available at your finger tips. So whatever your preference is, we got you covered.
Q: And you guys also have your own blog, is that right?
A: Yes, we do. While our focus is clearly on providing the right educational toys, we are also aware that children’s growth does not stop when playtime is over. That’s why we keep a blog where we share with our readers tips, advices, news, and frankly anything that would help their little ones reach their full potential.
Q: Tell us more about the Zahn Competition that you guys participated in.
A: The Zahn Innovation Center is a business incubator at City College of New York. We were the only all-woman team out of the 48 that participated in the competition this past May, and after some pretty stiff competition we won the highest Zahn Prize of $20,000 to help take Laddine to the next phase. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also a very rewarding experience. We receive a lot of support from not only our mentors, but also many parents and others who are just as passionate as we are about providing children with easy access to quality and educational toys. And we are grateful for all their support. Our experience with the Zahn Competition also helped us understand our responsibilities as women entrepreneurs. We want to show that women can be successful entrepreneurs just as men. We also hope to encourage more women to start their own business and pursue their own dreams.
Q: Where does the name Laddine come from?
A: I’m glad you asked. Actually we went through quite a few different names before settling on Laddine, but none of them seemed unique enough. More importantly, given how passionate the two of us are about what we do, we wanted the name to reflect that personal connection. So we decided to use a combination of our own names. After trying out the different possibilities, we decided on Laddine, which is an amalgamation of our last names, (Teona) Lazashvili and (Amali) Eddine. And we thought it has a nice ring to it.
Q: What is Teona’s favorite product from your catalog?
A: That’s a tough question. I love all our toys. That’s why they are in our catalog. But if I have to pick just one, it would be littlebits Electronics Base Kit. It’s the perfect toy to inspire interest in STEM fields. It’s designed to quickly familiarize children with the basics of electronics. For instance, all the pieces are color coded and can be snapped together just like LEGO so there’s no need for wiring.
But most important of all, it’s fun. You can make projects like an alarm clock with light sensor, a tattoo gun, and, get this, a robot that draws pictures for you. And that’s really what Laddine is all about: learning and fun both in the same package.
Q: What is next for Laddine toys?
A: Well, other than expanding our product line, we plan to improve our website and add more functionalities to it while keeping it easy to use. But most important, we want to promote the importance of quality play and to grow our movement to bring quality educational toys to as many children as possible wherever they are. Currently we are assessing different options such as partnership with charities and pre-schools.
Q: Send us some links for your blog and your newsletter sign up
A: Our blog can be found here, and you can subscribe to our newsletter on our home page .
We want to thank Teona for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Be sure to check out the Laddine product catalog.