December 2011 | Vol. X - No. 12
Q&A With Bonnie Morantz, President and Co-founder of Number Effect Inc
Q. What career path did you originally envision for yourself? Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?
A. Being part of the toy industry for the past 18 years has been a great career move for me personally. There are huge rewards developing children’s products. It’s a happy industry inspired by a community of people who love nurturing the creative spark in kids. When we first approached the idea to open our own business we knew we wanted to build a company that would impact kids in a positive way. While there a lot of preschool toys on the market already, we knew from the onset that our focus would be geared to children aged 7-15.
Our challenge was to develop a proprietary brand that would resonate with kids and be sought after by parents.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?
A. Coming up with the product was kind of a “eureka” moment. We did a lot of research into tweens and looked at what they were doing between school and extra curriculum activities. We talked to a lot of kids, family members, friends of family… and they were all unanimous in their love of online activities.
Q. How did you decide upon the name Bunki Munki?
A. It was during one of our marathon brainstorming sessions. We had already established we wanted to spell Munki differently. We were preparing lunch for the team and Merle, one of the co-founders said, “Who wants a nice “bunki” roll? The ah ha moment came when Candice and I looked at each other and said, “Bunki…BunkiMunki?” That was it!
Q. How long did it take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production?
A. The original spark of an idea to actual production took 11 months, all in all until we finally launched our website and brought product to market, took 18 months.
Q. How much money did you need to create the first prototype?
A. Since we’re an online and offline business, we had to come up with money for the tooling of the actual product, and a prototype of the website. We spent about $50,000, out of pocket, but this was the best investment we ever made. Certainly investing in the website prototype gave us a framework to work with and it tested our ability to ensure the user experience for kids would be right.
Q. How did you raise it, and how long did it take to raise it?
A. The start up money was seeded between the partners of the business. Although the bank helped us out as we moved further along, we faced the same difficulties as most entrepreneurs starting out who seek funding. It’s not an easy road, but we managed to secure great working partnerships that propelled us along to where we are now.
Q. Did you work with a web designer? Or did you already have a background in web design?
A. While one of the co-founders has a background in design and web applications, we did build an experienced savvy team of developers and creative illustrators to help bring our vision to life.
Q. What aspect of the toy industry most surprised you when you first started?
A. The transparency and co operative sharing between manufacturer’s, sales reps and buyers in the industry was the most welcoming surprise when we first started up.
Q. What hardships did you have to overcome during your formative years and how do they help you persevere as a business owner?
A. As women in business today, we didn’t grow up surrounded by a lot of working women role models that certainly exist for girls today. When we were growing up, we knew there were roadblocks to becoming successful women, but we had big dreams. Somehow, we found ways to overcome obstacles by believing we had the power to do most anything.
Q. If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
A. I’m not sure we would do anything differently. While there have been challenges in getting to where we are now, looking back what stands out is what we’ve accomplished to date and the fun and joy we’ve had getting to where we are.
Q. What were the top two or three best pieces of advice you received?
A. Listen with an open mind.
You’re intuition is usually right on.
Believe in your Dreams!
Q. The worst two or three pieces of advice?
A. It can’t be done! It’s too expensive!
Q. What one unique quality makes your product better than your
A. An understanding of the tween age group we are targeting, and our ability to resonate with these kids. We listen and hear their words, and we deliver on their needs.
Q. How do you hope your product/s will affect children's lives?
A. At BunkiMunki.com we provide tween-relevant activities such as journal writing and earning badges, where we hope to broaden children’s thinking, and give them an outlet for their own self expression. As kids see other kids wearing the iconic BunkiMunki™ keys, we hope they will enjoy a sense of kinship and become a movement of likeminded positive thinkers.
Q. What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the toy industry?
Q. Build a team, do your research, have fun, and believe!
BunkiMunki™ Keys are collectible trend merchandise kids can wear in unique ways to express their own style. When kids see other kids wearing the iconic key, they will recognize fellow members of BunkiMunki, an innovative social network that provides tweens a unique online experience. Kids create their own alias in the likeness of BunkiMunki™, the brand character, their own home space with realistic decor, and choose activities like journal writing, music creation, earning badges, games and virtual shopping. Launch date: October 2011.
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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