Two years ago, Debbie Sterling hoped to raise $150,000 to produce her toy and storybook designed to get girls excited about engineering. She ended up raising almost $300,000. Little did Sterling know that crowdfunding success was just the tip of the iceberg and would end up being the launchpad for the most exciting time of her life. Last week, Sterling’s toy company, called GoldieBlox, had a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“This last year has been such a whirlwind,” says Sterling, speaking to Entrepreneur.com in New York City. “To see the impact it is starting to have on girls is just, truly, so fulfilling.”
Despite the startup’s blockbuster success, GoldieBlox has made some pretty substantial missteps, one being the highly-publicized feud between the company and the Beastie Boys that ended in a seven-figure settlement. The other blunder was less known but no less damaging for the brand: The manufacturer shipped a defective product. Sterling says that realizing some of the pieces of the GoldieBlox toys didn’t fit together was devastating. But the GoldieBlox staff, which has grown from a group of four to a full-fledged team of nearly 30, confronted the error head on. They reached out to every customer who had ever bought GoldieBlox and offered to send a new set of blocks for free along with a personalized note.
“We decided to take that as an opportunity to get out there and tell every little girl that hey, engineering is all about constantly improving. And if you aim for perfection the very first time, you are going to be disappointed,” says Sterling.
It was an expensive mistake to fix, for sure. Just how expensive is less sure. GoldieBlox has yet to release any profit or loss figures, so it’s not clear just what kind of a hit the young company’s revenue took as a result of the blunder.
To manage the company through such a meteoric growth phase -- and such significant setbacks -- Sterling, who is the ripe old age of 31, has had a crash course in learning how to run a company.
"In building this business and venturing into entrepreneurship, failing is the name of the game,” says Sterling. “And the people who succeed are the people who don’t get paralyzed by failure but think about it as a learning experience.”
Watch this video to hear more about what Sterling has learned in her first two years as CEO.