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April 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 4
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Play Clay Models Success

Soft, Scented Dough Shapes Family Business


“The business has grown enough to support us, and we can do more with fewer people.” Linda Clark, Play Clay
Linda Clark, founder of Play Clay, was a stay-at-home mother of four when her husband was laid off for six weeks in 1989. In need of money, she started selling her special play dough creation. By 1990, her husband had joined the business, and they incorporated in 1992. Linda recently talked to TDmonthly Magazine about her recipe for success — being careful not to reveal her secret recipe for Play Clay.

HOMEMADE INCOME

I had sold Play Clay two Christmases before for extra money at the local holiday market in Lamar, Colo. After my husband was laid off, we started selling it for income. I started with a homemade recipe and then added a twist by scenting it to make it smell good. Our formula isn’t like anything else on the market, and no one has been able to duplicate it.

Play dough is one of the top-selling toys year round. It’s therapeutic and educational — it’s one of the most soothing things one can do besides rocking, and it helps develop hand-eye coordination. We started out thinking that Play Clay is appropriate for kids three and up, but our product is soft and pliable, so even 2-year-olds can play with it.

Mothers love Play Clay because it doesn’t crumble and flake. It’s water soluble and doesn’t stain so, unlike Play-Doh [by Hasbro], it comes right out of the carpet. Play Clay lasts two to three years, which is longer than Play-Doh, and it’s made in the United States from organic ingredients.

CLAY GOES TO MARKET

I designed the packaging with the help of a professional. I then hired some women and went to work making, packaging and selling Play Clay directly to consumers at fairs, craft shows and holiday markets.

After a couple of years, we went to wholesale market. Our first wholesale trade show was the Dallas Gift Market in 1991.

Now we do a lot of retail as well, and sell through our website. Our product is in independent toy stores and we were in Wild Oats Stores (now Whole Foods) for a few years.

GETTING IT RIGHT

One obstacle we encountered was finding the right machines for our packaging, as well as ones that worked well with our formulas. We used a company 200 miles away in Denver that would let me bring a machine back to try with the formula. If it didn’t work I’d exchange it. We kept doing that until we found machines that worked.

In the beginning, we did everything by hand in 11 homes. Now we have a factory and a process that makes our product 12 times faster. The business has grown enough to support us, and we can do more with fewer people.

SCULPTING INTEREST

We worked with a PR firm last year, and I’m thinking of bringing them back to help some more. It sometimes takes two to three years before you see results.

We had a radio station in Oklahoma that was promoting American-made products last fall, and we did well with that. We also do a lot of work with TDmonthly.

In the fall we do 17 shows in a five-week period in addition to educational shows during the year. The whole family — my kids and their spouses — are our sales people, and they sell directly to the consumer.

We funded ourselves by doing a lot of retail shows. We believe our product needs to be in the mass market, and we’re poised to make the transition. We’re open to selling our business or taking on a partner.

TAKING ON TIGERS

The business world was a shock to me because I was raised to tell the truth. People copy your product and your brochures — they’re dishonest.

My advice for people getting into the industry is to work hard and be ready for the tigers out there.

See products by Play Clay below:




MSRP: $4.95
Age Range: 2 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Preschool
Arts & Crafts
Developmental Toys



Four large, assorted Play Clay capsules in each storage tube. Made from all organic ingredients.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14738      (added 8/17/2007)
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AD


MSRP: $4.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Preschool
Developmental Toys



Five sets of eyes and noses, a set of horns, teeth and sunglasses come in each tube. Made from all organic ingredients.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14598      (added 8/10/2007)
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AD


MSRP: $4.95
Age Range: 2 and up
SKU or Item #: R17
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Preschool
Developmental Toys



5 colorful cutters with rounded child-safe edges come in each reuseable storage tube. Shapes include: elephant, hippo, teddy bear, heart and star. Made from all organic ingredients.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14540      (added 8/9/2007)
.
AD


MSRP: $13.95
Age Range: 2 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Preschool
Developmental Toys



Winner of the iParenting Media Award for excellence, the Super Play Kit includes five scented Play Clay rolls (Blueberry Blast, Pink Lemonade, Pineapple, Green Apple, Grape Bubblegum), a mini Rolling Pin, and two Clay Cutters in assorted colors. Made from all-organic ingredients.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14542      (added 8/9/2007)
.
AD


MSRP: $2.95
Age Range: 2 and up
SKU or Item #: R31
Launch Date: January 2007
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Arts & Crafts
Gifts
Developmental Toys



Each Play Clay Cup contains approximately 7 oz. of fruity-scented clay. Colors and scents available are red/Cherry Berry, green/Sour Green Apple, yellow/Pineapple Punch, orange/Orange Sherbet, sky blue/Blueberry Blast, purple/Grape Bubblegum and pink/Pink Lemonade. Made from all organic ingredients. Launch date: 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12787      (added 5/15/2007)
.
AD


MSRP: $25.00
SKU or Item #: R85S
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Preschool
Arts & Crafts
Developmental Toys



The vinyl tote is filled with all seven Play Clay rolls, five Clay Cutters, one Roli Pin and one Play Mat.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12545      (added 5/1/2007)
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AD


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Elizabeth GreenspanWriter's Bio: Elizabeth Greenspan edits and writes for trade and technical publications. She has interviewed and collaborated with some of the top practitioners in their fields. She lives in Philadelphia and travels extensively for her work. Read more articles by this author

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