This month on the blog we’re going to do something a little unusual. A whole series of posts on ONE topic. “And what topic could possibly be so interesting?” you may ask. Good question. This idea was something that a number of Learning Express storeowners suggested, and it wasn’t long before I got really excited about the idea. Thanks in advance to the wonderful manufacturers who went through the trouble to answer my questions and track down photos! Here goes…
Part 1: Maddie Bradshaw
If someone mentions kid-inventors in the toy industry these days, chances are they’re talking about Maddie Bradshaw. In 2006, ten-year-old Maddie was just your average tween going into the fifth grade in Dallas, Texas. Today, she is the President of a multi-million dollar company.
Like most of her classmates, Maddie wanted to decorate her locker with something unique—something that would make a small statement on the two feet of real estate she would call her own for the year. When she didn’t find anything she liked, she decided to create something herself using the bottle caps from her uncle’s old-fashioned coke machine. She sketched a black and white abstract portrait of Albert Einstein (one of her inspirations) inside the cap and attached a magnet.
It wasn’t long before her friends caught on and started requesting their own custom designs, which inspired Maddie to take it a step further. She created a lanyard necklace with a metal pendant to attract the bottle cap magnet. SNAP CAPS®, the original interchangeable bottle cap jewelry, was born.
The part I find most remarkable about this story actually has nothing to do with Maddie’s innovation, which, as I think anyone would agree, is a force to be reckoned with. Instead, it’s her ambition that I find truly impressive. The idea that a ten-year-old kid had the gumption to walk into the Learning Express toy store in Dallas and ask if she could sell her jewelry there is a bit mind-boggling, but that’s exactly what happened. She boldly went where no kid had gone before.
Maddie approached Kathryn Cook (see photo, right), one of our contributors here on the blog who owns the Learning Express store in Dallas. She agreed to put SNAP CAPS® on consignment. Within two hours, all fifty necklaces were sold out. The news spread across the Learning Express franchise like wildfire. The product was golden, a bestseller from day one, but it was the story behind it that was really compelling.
SNAP CAPS® are now sold in over 2,500 stores across the country, including all Learning Express locations. Maddie still creates all the original artwork and although, for obvious reasons, she can no longer completely manufacture the SNAP CAPS® by herself, the product is still handmade in the USA with help from over thirty employees. In the past couple years Maddie’s jewelry has been featured on national television and at the Teen Choice Awards.
At the helm of the company, M3 Girl Designs, is Mom (Diane) the CEO/COO; younger sister Margot, the Vice President and Assistant Designer; and, of course, Maddie herself, President and Head Designer of more than 400 bottle cap styles and counting.
So what happens when a kid “makes it” in the toy biz? Maddie says she’s just trying to be a “normal” teenager at this point, keeping up with school, competing on the lacrosse and swim teams, etc. But when she’s not doing all those normal things, she’s drawing new artwork for SNAP CAPS®, finishing up her first book about starting a business (Maddie Bradshaw’s You Can Start a Business, Too! available this November), and making promotional appearances across the country. (We were thrilled to see her last month at our Learning Express Convention. At last year’s event she was awarded Most Innovative New Toy and Best New Product for Girls 5+ as voted by the Learning Express storeowners.)
Learning Express has been so honored to be with Maddie from the very beginning, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
More photos and videos, see below. Feeling inspired? Stay tuned for next week’s installment in our KIDS IN THE TOY BUSINESS series!
Maddie and Margot at the Teen Choice Awards with Actress Jennifer Stone (Wizards of Waverly Place) and actress Debby Ryan (The Suite Life on Deck)
Tween Tycoons (NBC)