Companies is a monthly feature where we recount the odd beginnings,
interesting permutations, or otherwise unique and noteworthy circumstances
of a toy or hobby manufacturer. If you think you know of a Cool
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Beyond the Boundaries of Business as Usual
By Kris Decker
Cool Kid Dino
year, Kent Blackford and Daniel Coffman of Cool Stuff for Kids from
Far Away (coolkidstoys.com) travel to Bali to acquire the unique
handcrafted toys sold on their website. Next year, their destinations
will also include Tibet, Russia, Germany and Sweden. But for these
San Francisco-based Internet entrepreneurs, doing business on a
global level extends beyond the boundaries of cyberspace or geography.
“We want to find toys that are unique for both adults and
kids from all over the world,” says Coffman. “But most
importantly, we want to promote fair labor practices--no child labor.
And support of local artisans too.”
And the journey doesn’t end there.
“All of the toys Cool Stuff sells are ecologically sound—all
paints are lead free; all toys made from found woods. The idea is
not to abuse system and people and ecology as we move along,”
says Coffman emphatically.
With a delightful, constantly changing website, Cool Stuff currently
offers 67 whimsical toys that reflect the vibrant Bali culture.
Each one is either hand-carved or handcrafted by native Bali artisans.
E-patrons may find it difficult to choose what to buy (bamboo kites?
a banana leaf notebook?); the colorful photos and lyrical descriptions
of each item make it hard to decide where to even begin looking
(the balancing elephant or the parachuting frog?). Virtual visitors
also receive a mini e-tour of the island of Bali itself through
lively pictures and descriptive captions about its people, customs
kid Sail boat
Stuff began as a hobby for Blackford three years ago. Now, fueled
with fervor for their environmental and economic ideals and having
a five-year marketing plan firmly in place, Cool Stuff is looking
toward a major expansion. Beginning in January 2003, the company
will start selling wholesale, offering exotic kids’ products
to more than 100 stores who share their beliefs. Blackford and Coffman
expect this strategy to grow their business by as much as 200%.
“We’re committed to being a successful e-business,”
says Coffman. “But our first business goal is to provide good
jobs for good people.”
Helping kids is a big priority too. On January 5, 2003, they’re
going online to share a different kind of treasure--the donation
of 10% of their profits to a children’s charity.
“The money will go to a camp in Zaire that helps kids with
AIDS and cancer,” explains Coffman. “It’s a place
where the kids can get medical help and treatment when their families
are no longer able to care for them.” Blackford and Coffman
plan to spend next summer there as volunteers.
No question about it, Cool Stuff for Kids is just that: unusual
toys from across the globe. Though the coolest thing about the company--two
businessmen who care as much about people as profits--started right
here at home.
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