Part III of our month-long series!
Part 3: Lexi Glenn
For the third part of our KIDS IN THE TOY BUSINESS series of blogs (see Part I: Maddie Bradshaw and Part II: The Aebersolds), I think it’s time to celebrate one of the newest faces on the toy scene—Lexi Glenn. Lexi was in the fourth grade last year when she and her grandmother, Donna Ramere (pictured together, left), teamed up to create the PUMPONATOR. It premiered at Toy Fair this February and all of the Learning Express stores placed orders for the spring and summer season. I asked the corporate buyer that oversees the outdoor category, and although he doesn’t have final numbers yet, he estimated that we’ve sold over 8,500 PUMPONATORs in two and half months company-wide. It’s one of the best selling summer items to come along in a long time, and it all started with a simple water balloon fight…
Last summer, Lexi (8) and her brother Austin (6) were playing out in the yard at Grandma Donna’s house. (See photos below.) They had a bunch of water balloons but Lexi was getting frustrated because there was only one hose available to fill them up, so she went searching in the house for something she could use. She came across a spray bottle, which she promptly used as her aquatic weapon against her younger brother. Then, she tried putting a balloon onto the nozzle to see if she could get water into the balloon that way. And sure enough, a little water did go in. She ran over to show her grandma her “new invention,” as she called it.
Donna was quite impressed with the idea and thought maybe with a few modifications they could really make it work. Together, grandma and granddaughter took on the project. They went out and purchased about ten different types of sprayers and pump bottles to figure out which one would work best. The design of the PUMPONATOR was based on the mechanism that was most effective, and by August of 2009 they were testing their first prototype. When it was ready, they placed their first manufacturing order for 2,000 pieces. It was a big decision for the family—taking a chance on Lexi’s idea. But boy was it the right one!
Donna recalls being overwhelmed by all the paper work that was involved in setting up the business between filing for the patent, the trademark, and establishing the company. Luckily, she had a companion. “Lexi sat right by my side,” she said. “She completed a lot of the paperwork for the trademark and also did a PowerPoint presentation of the PUMPONATOR.”
It wasn’t long before local newspapers and news stations picked up the story and generated some local buzz. The product launched at Toy Fair in February 2010. “Learning Express was a real turning point for us,” Donna commented. “With the support of the home office we had orders from over 140 stores, which helped us get off to a great start.”
These days Donna is in the driver’s seat as President/CEO handling all the day-to-day operations, but Lexi is still very much a part of her “new invention.” She gives her input about designs and color choices, and particularly likes spending time in the production area, making sure all the labels are on straight. She and her brother Austin were ecstatic when they saw the product on the shelf at their local Learning Express store for the very first time.
This kind of family business is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a story about a small idea, big dreams, and the willingness to take a leap of faith to build something of your own. That takes a very special kind of person, and, clearly, a very special kind of granddaughter.
So what’s up next for Donna and Lexi? Look out for a larger, more powerful PUMPONATOR EXTREME due to come out in 2011.
Additional photos and videos are below. Feeling inspired? Stay tuned for the final installment in our KIDS IN THE TOY BUSINESS series next week!