Editor's note: Since this article was published, Pley has expanded its service beyond LEGO rentals to include STEM and educational toys and changed its name to ToyLibrary. Below is the original interview with co-founder Elina Furman from 2014.
Since the early 20th century, LEGO bricks have been a staple in many children's toy collections. In an increasingly digital world, modern parents seek out toys like LEGOs for their kids to encourage creative, educational play that doesn't involve a screen. The problem? LEGOs aren't exactly cheap, and they require a considerable amount of storage space.
Parents Elina Furman and Ranan Lachman realized that there was a better way to provide their children with these classic toys. Capitalizing on the increasingly popular rental business model, the pair founded Pley, a company that allows families to rent and return LEGO play sets for their children.
Since its launch in 2013, Pley has sold more than 15,000 subscriptions to families who want to save money by participating in the growing sharing economy. Furman, the company's chief marketing officer, discussed Pley's tech strategies and where the business is heading.
Business News Daily: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started your business?
Elina Furman: LEGO sets are expensive and take up so much room in our houses. We wanted to create a solution to cut down on costs and eliminate the financial pain point that many parents were laboring under. Providing busy parents with a new way to get educational toys for their kids that is affordable, convenient and keeps kids engaged without screen time was always our objective, and I think we accomplished that.
BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?
E.F.: Yes, a LEGO rental service could have existed, but fulfillment would have been very tough since technology is far more advanced today. Logistics have improved, [online account management] is available, and communication speed has increased.
BND: What technology has been the most helpful to your business?
E.F.: We love using InfusionSoft. It helps us communicate with and market to customers, in order to target them at various points on the customer relationship management (CRM) cycle, and help us retain and effectively upgrade current members. [Looking for a CRM solution? Check out our recommendations on our best picks page.]
BND: If you could hire one extra employee right now, what would you have that person do?
E.F.: Community manager. Our community is robust and loyal, and we need someone to tap their already existing brand loyalty to engage them with a loyalty program. This way, they can become brand ambassadors while doing activities they already enjoy, such as posting photos and videos of creations, and sharing LEGO building tips. This would increase our viral reach and amplify our brand across a variety of social media channels.
BND: What technology do you wish existed that doesn't?
E.F.: A LEGO sorting and scanning machine would have been nice, but we have invested funds into developing it on our own.
BND: What app are you relying on most right now?
E.F.: Skype. Our marketing team is in New York, and headquarters are in Santa Clara, California, and we rely heavily on Skype to communicate. It's important that we have a unified corporate culture, and we try to do face-to-face meetings via Skype as much as possible.
BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?
E.F.: I think the "every-social-network-fits-all" framework is overrated. Marketers should work carefully to identify the best social media ROI and then invest their resources there, rather spreading themselves too thin across all channels.
BND: What are the most valuable non-tech skills an entrepreneur needs?
E.F.: Tunnel vision when everyone is clamoring for attention and you need to focus, as well as the ability to have a big-picture vision, so that everything you are doing pushes that vision forward.