About debrasterling

Debbie Glasband is a jane of all trades – product designer, writer, illustrator, brand strategist and marketer. She’s (one of the too few) women who graduated with an Engineering degree from Stanford in 2005. Since then, she’s done branding consulting for T-Mobile, Microsoft, Organic Valley and the New York Knicks. In the nonprofit world, she volunteered in rural India for 6 months and then launched “I Want a Goat,”one of the first viral fundraising campaigns. Her passion? Utilizing the power of branding, design and humor to make real change in people’s lives. Her favorite toy growing up? Playmobil.

Our letter to the Beastie Boys

Dear Adam and Mike,

We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.

When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to take a song we weren’t too proud of, and transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing the new lyrics with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.

Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.

We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.

Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.

We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.

Sincerely,

Debbie + Team GoldieBlox

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Kickstarter: Lessons We’ve Learned

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your patience.  We’ve finally shipped the last of our pre-orders of “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.” We’re rolling out into retail stores across the US and Canada. We’re up and running. Our team is expanding. We’re moving a million miles an hour, and now we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on this wild ride.

While everyone here at GoldieBlox is over-the-moon thrilled with what we’ve accomplished and, more importantly, where we’re headed, we know that with growing comes lessons and with lessons comes a little pain.

We’ve learned a lot in a fairly short amount of time and, since sharing and making learning fun is core to our mission, we figured you deserve to hear some behind-the-scenes stories of how everything unfolded.

Let’s take it back to the beginning.

As you all know, we reached our goal on Kickstarter back in October (hurray!)  What you may not know is that two weeks after our Kickstarter campaign ended, we went viral.  How do you know when you’ve gone viral?  When your video spikes from 9,000 views to over 1 million views overnight.  Luckily, we’d created a website (www.goldieblox.com) to let all the people who had missed our Kickstarter window continue to pre-order the toy. I had an email alert on my phone that would buzz every time we made a sale.  We were getting a handful of orders a day, high-fiving each time.  That is, until we went viral.  My phone started buzzing so quickly I had to shut it off. I didn’t know what was going on, I thought my phone was malfunctioning. Turns out, we pre-sold over 20,000 toys in addition to our Kickstarter orders in about a week.  While we were so excited to have so many girls to share GoldieBlox with, we were freaking out. At this point in time, GoldieBlox, Inc. consisted of two people: myself, and my very first hire, Lindsey (aka “Rainmaker”). We were inundated with hundreds of emails from various requests like changing addresses to cable news channels inviting me to speak on their shows to stores around the world who wanted to carry the toy. And while Lindsey and I were on a marathon burning the midnight oil, it became increasingly difficult for us respond to everyone.

On Thanksgiving weekend, I drove down to Santa Barbara to spend the holiday with my family.  They were worried about me because they’d never seen me more stressed.  All I wanted to do was respond to each email, one by one. Luckily, my family decided to help out.  So instead of “pass the turkey, Uncle Mort,” we spent our entire holiday responding to emails.  I even ended up hiring my sister, Stephanie, to take on customer service full-time. She dropped everything, packed her bags, and moved up to the Bay Area to help me.  I love working with my sister.

But even after hiring my sister, our mighty team of three was not enough to figure out all the logistics.  This is when I begged my husband, Beau, to lend a hand.  Let’s just say while I’m the messy, disorganized type, he’s the guy who knows how to run a ship.  The thing is, he’d never done anything like this before.  So we all had to learn from scratch.

Ultimately, we hired a fulfillment company to help us ship all of the toys.  Like most fulfillment companies, they specialized in wholesale orders, but lacked the knowledge of shipping individual orders.  This ended up in a catastrophe.  Our worst fears came true when retail stores started getting their toys before some of our earliest customers: you guys.

When we found this out, I had a panic attack.  We rushed over to the warehouse to pack the boxes ourselves in an effort to speed up the shipping process. (I still have packing tape in my hair.) For those of you who were affected by this, I am truly so sorry. It was not our intent and it was a hard lesson learned.

Now that you sort of get the idea of how everything came about, know how we spent our Thanksgiving, and that we have an Uncle Mort – we wanted to share with you our takeaway points.

Communicate Consistently, Honestly, and Openly.

We’ve learned that you guys, our biggest supporters, deserve to hear from us more.  It would have been helpful for us to give you a weekly behind-the-scenes look into our world while providing you with honest insights into our progress: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We’re committed to getting better at this. We are now updating on FacebookTwitterYouTube and our blog constantly, so please subscribe to stay in the loop.

Shipping is a beast. (Like Creature from the Black Lagoon, scary.)

We’ve learned that shipping internationally is way harder than we thought.  We even had to remove the option from our website until we can become a great fulfillment partner.  This doesn’t mean we’re giving up. We just need to beef up on a few things before we attempt to tackle it again. We’re starting with Buffy on DVD and plan to go from there.

Kickstarter is tricky.

The Kickstarter platform also caused some issues.  The process of sending out surveys to collect your addresses proved incredibly difficult to manage. We hear they’ve upgraded their tools since our campaign. Unfortunately, we were stuck with an incredibly complicated system that made it a huge challenge to collect everyone’s data.  In fact, we’re still catching up on this!  If you have not received your toy yet, it is because we don’t have your address. Please email Stephanie (my sister) at service@goldieblox.com.

This is our passion.

We put our heart and soul into this initial toy production.  We learned how logistics work using ugly crayon drawings. This Kickstarter project carried that passion over to all of you backers, making it an unforgettable experience.  It took a while, but we’ve still got our soul. There’s nothing like the first time.

The world is ready.

Ultimately, we’ve learned that the world is ready for this idea.  Engineering toys for girls are here to stay. We’re working hard on our product development, making improvements to the first toy, getting the next ones ready to ship, and dreaming up new adventures for Goldie.  The good news is that we are now up and running.  There’s so much in store for our company and more importantly, for your girls. The future is bright.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Love,

Debbie

Notes from the Assembly Line

This Monday I woke up early, checked my email, and found out that our production completion was a week ahead of schedule (wahoo!). This meant I needed to head to the factory ASAP to do a final quality control inspection. I already had a flight booked to Hong Kong for the following week, so I checked online to see if I could get an earlier flight. Indeed, the only flight option that was even remotely affordable was leaving in 4 hours. So I booked the flight, threw some clothes in a bag and raced to the airport. And since I booked the flight that morning, it should have been no surprise that I was in the very last row of the airplane.

Luckily, the seat next to me was empty, but one seat over was this very strange looking man. Well, actually, I’m not sure what he looked like because he was wearing the blue airline blanket over his head and body like a hijab. As soon as the plane took off, the strange robed man proceeded to lay out across the entire row, his socks practically in my lap. Even after a good 45 minutes of the worst turbulence I’ve ever encountered, this man still would not move. How come he gets to lay down and not me? Don’t ladies typically get the right of way in this scenario? About halfway through the 14-hour flight, the man finally got up to use the restroom. Now was my chance! I sprawled out across the row, double blankets and pillows in place. He returned with a scowl, nudged me and said, “Hey, I was sleeping.” So I retorted, “Yeah, and now it’s MY turn!” He relented, and I lay there, unable to sleep, wondering how many hours had passed since my last dose of Dramamine.

Seven hours later, the plane landed at Hong Kong airport. I wandered through immigration like a zombie, and was proud of myself for figuring out how to take the train to my hotel instead of a taxi. The only thing on TV to watch in English was “Con Air,” so I watched that, trying not to think about how much my plane mate resembled “Cyrus the Virus.”

Dennis, my brilliant engineer contact from the factory, picked me up from my hotel the next morning to escort me to the final assembly check. The trip to the factory is long. A ninety minute cab ride, followed by long lines at the immigration portal, followed by another ninety minute cab ride. Sometimes I think Dennis pretends to know less English than he does to avoid my annoying small talk. Nevertheless, I ascertained that he’s been married for 10 years, no plans for kids, heading to Japan with his wife for Chinese New Years and likes photography. When we finally arrived at the factory, my stomach was growling. Dennis gave me a bottle of water. I wished it was a bottle of cookie dough.

IMG_1179IMG_1176IMG_1178IMG_1180We headed upstairs to check out the assembly line. And there is was: GoldieBlox. Thousands of wheels getting Velcro-glued on by hand. Enormous bags of dolphins, sloths and dogs, getting cleaned and inspected, one-by-one, and sealed into little plastic baggies. I stood there for a moment in an absolute daze, kind of like a euphoria mixed with disbelief. This is really happening. It was absolutely surreal.

Dennis brought me the first toy off the assembly line to inspect. I took all the pieces out of their baggies – they were all there and they all looked perfect. I flipped through the book – all the pages were there in the right order. Then, I started to play with the toy. I stuck an axle into the pegboard hole and…oh no. My heart sank. It was too tight. My mind started racing. I looked to Dennis in despair. He said, “Oh yes, board too tight.”

“WELL THEN WHAT DO WE DOOOOO??” I screamed (in my head). We had gone back and forth seven times to get this board right. I was in a state of shock. Then, Dennis brought out a bag of axles from his desk and told me to try one. It fit perfectly. Turns out, the axles differ in diameter slightly, and I had pulled a thick one. We measured the axles with calipers and found that they were all between 0.598mm – 0.605mm. Anything 0.603mm or greater would be too tight. Dennis assured me he could go back through all the axles and discard any that were 6.03mm or greater. Problem solved. Oh man am I happy I booked that earlier flight! PHEW!

By the time I was leaving the factory to go back to my hotel, all the workers were hanging outside, changed into their regular clothes. They got to leave work early that day for a big company dinner party. They all looked really happy. It made me feel good. I headed back to my hotel solo, via taxi and train, with hours to reflect on this amazing journey of GoldieBlox. We are off to a good start. Now, I wonder who’s gonna sit next to me on my plane ride back?

A Wild Ride.

We just went from 0 to 1000 MPH in 6 weeks. In that time GoldieBlox raised over $285,000 on Kickstarter, got published in over 70 publications and blogs including The Atlantic, The Guardian and Forbes, won three awards at the World Maker Faire in New York, pitched on the main stage in front of 2,000 people at SOCAP, was featured on a panel run at the New York General Assembly, among many other things that would make this blogpost just way too long.

In all of this our team learned a lot of lessons. Our greatest lesson? Never underestimate the power of people. When you are a company, a brand, you have to treat your early adopters like family. They are the ones who will be most forgiving as you go through growing pains, who will be your cheerleaders even if you slip up, and who will feel your highs and lows as if they’re their own highs and lows too.

So to our Goldie family, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We’re working hard to make sure that GoldieBlox leaves its mark on society, and we know you’re sittin’ shotgun with us.

SOCAP, Here we come!

Big news, everybody: I have been awarded a scholarship to attend the SOCAP Conference the first week in October! I will be one of the featured entrepreneurs — here is my profile. This is an awesome opportunity for me to explore the impact GoldieBlox can make and get to know other entrepreneurs who are also going for more than just profit.

SOCAP asked me many questions about myself and my drive to start GoldieBlox. It really got me thinking about the issue that we’re addressing, and why should people care. I mean, why does it matter that more girls get into engineering?

Well here’s the thing; engineers affect everything we do on a daily basis. The fact that you are all able to read this post right now on a computer/phone/ipad is thanks to a the collaborative effort of many generations of engineers. The shower you used this morning, the mode of transportation you took to work, the vending machine you got your mid-morning snack from, the satellite your text message to mom bounced off of; all built by engineers.

So engineers determine a lot of our daily activities. They are also 89% male. That means that men, who make up half the population, are making decisions for 100% of the population. We’re missing the perspective of the other 50%. Well, 51% to be exact.

In order to build our future responsibly, we need the female perspective in engineering. We need to give our girls the chance to contribute to their world. Unfortunately, as it stands, most girls lose interest in math and science by age 8. Math and science are the backbones of engineering. While boys have a plethora of science-loving role models to follow, from Sid the Science Kid to Bob the Builder to Thomas the Train to Jimmy Neutron, our girls have none. Goldie is here to give them one.

Will all girls who play with GoldieBlox grow up to be engineers? Probably not, but that’s not the point. Do all boys who play with Legos and watch Dexter’s Laboratory become engineers? No, but that’s because it’s a consequence of choice, not of ignorance. In order to get rid of the ignorance, we need to open up the world of engineering for our girls from a young age. If they then make a choice to become a world-traveling journalist, fantastic, but at least they will have made the choice. GoldieBlox gives our girls the ability to choose their own path and build their own future.

We launch in less than one week from today through Kickstarter. You can help your girls become the builders of their own destiny. By signing up to be a Goldie Ambassador here, you are given the tools to help spread the word and get Goldie in the hands of as many girls as humanly possible. Help us give choice to the next generation.

Prepping for LAUNCH

September 18th. Mark your calendars. GoldieBlox goes live to the world on Kickstarter.

In just a few short weeks, you’ll finally get to see the girl, the product, the idea, the glory, the mystery that is GoldieBlox! We promise not to disappoint.

In the meantime, bear with us as we secure our intellectual property and build our army of GoldieBlox fanatics who will spread the word to every corner of the earth.

Come join our troops. We’ll give you some basic training and all the tools you’ll need to help us with a little toy industry shakedown. Pink aisle at the toy store, BEWARE.

Filming Goldie

I first met Debbie when she was giving a speech at a local youth leadership camp that I was a junior crew for. Despite it being my responsibility to tell my students to listen, I was feeling the exhaustion of the 8 straight hours of presentations and activities and came into the speaking hall scheming of ways that I could sleep without any of my students or other leaders noticing. My schemes never were needed however, for just as Debbie began talking about her life and GoldieBlox I realized that even if I tried I could not pull myself away from Debbie’s inspiring and passionate presentation about GoldieBlox. As her talk came to a close I thought to myself, “Lilly, she is the one”. Now you might be thinking that the next thing I did was jump up on stage and propose..no no. I realized that day that Debbie was starting something absolutely incredible and her passion and personality would separate GoldieBlox from all the other great ideas that people have. So when I told myself that Debbie was “the one” I meant she was the Oprah to my Tyra, I dreamt that she could be the person I could look up to. So I got all the guts that I had (and sleep deprivation also probably helped) and I walked up to Debbie at the end of her speech, spilling out which seemed like a nervous jumble of words, “Hi..I’m Lilly..love GoldieBlox..summer..work..internship?” After a few moments of awkward silence in which Debbie tried to piece together what I was saying, a miracle happened, she gave me her email (which is equivalent, i’d say, to digits for a guy). And the rest is history.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been in bliss, working at one of the best companies in the world doing what I love best, making movies! At the start, Debbie assigned me to do a video series in which young girls (Goldie in a sense) would interview successful engineers who in their own way broke the “engineer stereotype”. We first set out for our search of the “perfect Goldie” we scoured Craigslist and  audition postings and even tried cold calling modeling agencies. After finding our  first Goldie we scheduled an interview with the magnificent Ian Bennett, a young CEO of a company called Simpirica Spine. Maya and I spent hours thinking of questions and planning out the segments of the video. I then put my own mental health at risk from the fatal fumes of Sharpie markers when I started making cue cards for our Goldie, a young girl, Johanna who to my excitement (and jealousy) had been apart of a Sundance movie. Finally on the day of the shoot, we all met on site at an abandoned office building in SOMA. I was sweating bullets at the thought of directing the shoot, the only people I had directed in the past were my funny bunch of friends who didn’t need much directing as the basis of most of my short films consisted of the usual teenage drama that occurred naturally. Once on set, however, the shoot seemed more of a party (i’m serious)  than a serious movie set; we were laughing, dancing around, even doing handstands and backflips (no joke). Currently i’m preparing myself to go into isolation so I can start and finish editing these videos by the end of the month. Looking forward to it (and I hope you guys are too!)
‘Til next time
Lilly Tahmasebi