Watch out Disney: This toy startup’s coming for you

Courtesy of GoldieBlox's Facebook page

Snoopy, Hello Kitty, SpongeBob and… GoldieBlox. Yep, the startup toy company for girls has crossed another big-boy barrier. Tomorrow morning, it will introduce its “Girl-Powered Spinning Machine” float, also available in toy-form, at the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (M).

Debbie Sterling, 31, CEO and founder of the two-year old company, has managed in a few short years to upend the toy industry after launching her company in a very unconventional way. When she couldn’t get traction for her engineering-oriented construction sets for girls via the Toy Fair, she launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised $285,000 (she was seeking $150,000) for her first round of production.

Instead of using traditional marketing and PR, Sterling developed a funky, empowering video (one which used the Beastie Boys song “Girls” without getting permission and ended up with a lawsuit, which she settled). The video went viral—and was a both a startup blunder and a brilliant marketing ploy; GoldieBlox’s first two products became Amazon’s top two selling toys last December.

That video, in turn, helped GoldieBlox win a contest sponsored by Intuit (INTU) for a free Super Bowl advertisement in January, a huge deal for the fledgling startup: a Super Bowl spot typically costs $4 million. And now, thanks to a suggestion from one of Sterling’s mentors, Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark, the float—powered by some 50 kids and constructed entirely of pieces from GoldieBlox toys—will travel down Manhattan’s 6th Avenue tomorrow.

“We want to be the brand that kids are whining for,” says Sterling, a Stanford grad who didn’t discover her passion for engineering until late in high school. “My vision is for us to become a multi-platform character brand,” a la Disney (DIS), but not exactly: “Disney is propagating a lot of the stereotypes I am fighting against,” she adds.

Later this month, GoldieBlox will release an animated music video, featuring a song from Emily Haines of the band Metric and starring Goldie, who, aside from the blond hair, is a pretty close replica of Sterling herself.

And that float? Sterling calls it “an engineering marvel in itself.” It is pretty cool indeed: there’s a bubble maker, a bicycle-powered animation section, and a “people-powered rotation drive.” Sounds like a good way to work off that Thanksgiving meal!

GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling test drives the company's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.
GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling test drives the company’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float.


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