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Toy Maker Wins Small Business Super Bowl Contest

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 2:03pm
Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer

A small business that makes toys for girls will have its 30 seconds in the spotlight during the Super Bowl.

GoldieBlox will appear in a commercial in the third quarter of Sunday's game, the grand prize in a small business competition held by software maker Intuit.

The company's toy sets include a book, blocks, wheels, cranks and other parts that children can use to build structures with moving parts. Owner Debbie Sterling, who trained as an engineer at Stanford University, got the idea for the company after realizing that construction toys are marketed to boys, not girls.

The company won the commercial in voting by Intuit employees and the public and beat three other small companies in the competition's final round. Intuit will pay for the commercial that by some estimates will cost $4 million. Intuit wouldn't say what it spent on the ad.

One requirement of the competition was the winner be able to meet the increased demand for its products that can follow a widely-seen commercial. The Super Bowl audience is estimated at more than 100 million.

GoldieBlox, which already sells to Toys R Us and 1,000 specialty stores in the U.S. and Canada, is prepared for an order surge, Sterling says. The Oakland, Calif.-based company has hired a company to help with shipping, and has signed up with a second factory in China, where its toys are made.

"We've been doing our due diligence over the past couple of weeks to make sure we're ready," she says.

Sterling, who founded GoldieBlox in 2012, has already dealt with the challenge of more orders than toys to fill them. The company sought early funding through Kickstarter, a website where people can raise money for projects. It promised toys in return for donations.

"We had over 20,000 preorders for toys we had never made. We had to figure out how to manufacture them and ship them here," she says.

She worked her way out of the jam with help from mentors and by hiring employees with expertise in manufacturing.

The other finalists in the Intuit competition were Barley Labs, of Durham, N.C., which makes dog treats out of barley; Locally Laid Egg Co., a Duluth, Minn., egg producer and POOP — Natural Dairy Compost, a Nampa, Idaho, fertilizer maker. Nearly 15,000 small businesses entered the competition after it was announced last summer, Intuit says.

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