Welcome back to another episode! This week we are bringing you something very special our first interview! Luckily for us, we have amazing entrepreneur friends whom we have known since we were practically toddlers. They started a brand from scratch that is involved in helping children with special needs. If you haven’t heard it yet, tune into the episode now!
Now let’s talk about Bestie Toys. It is a brand founded by our dear friends Sophia Dvorkina and Frances Levin! We delved into the brand itself, what it is, how it was founded, what struggles they had to go through in building Bestie Toys, their advice for starting a business, and where to find their products! Let's get right into it.
What is Bestie Toys? The thought process behind the brand was to create a sensory tool that children with special needs can use. So they stumbled upon an innovation known as the chewy toy which provides a sensory outlet for all children. From the design to the manufacturing the entire process was done from scratch. One day they were sitting together, brainstorming. They picked up a paper, a pen and went to the drawing board. What did they come up with? Chewelry. The products include a basketball, butterfly and a train. They come in a variety of colors and can be worn as a necklace! It is a multipurpose and sturdy product. Depending on the chewer there are different strengths of each item with the basketball being the strongest one. Further descriptions can be found on their website.
How did they come up with the name Bestie Toys? As childhood best friends they wanted to create a product that can appeal to that. Creating the chewelry became something that everyone can use everyday. The point of the chewy toy is to have something to rely on like you would on your bestie! This is especially helpful for those with special needs who have a harder time socializing or building relationships.
How do they fight off competition? Since they are a small business, there are a lot of big brands fighting for the same spot. One thing they have is originality! They are approachable and customer service is what their business revolves around. Their products are made in the United States with 100% food grade silicone and is FDA approved. Safety comes first! So producing non toxic products was the main concern even before the manufacturing phase.
How important is customer service? For any small business customer service is key. They love their customers and attempt to keep an open dialogue! They are fast with their replies and always try to send over extra products or samples. For example, when a customer really needs their item and is unable to afford them they have even sent them items for free! They offer discounts and various promotions because there initial purpose is to put each child first and even though it sounds cliche their business does not strive from sales but from customer satisfaction!
What is in store for the future? Bestie Toys is coming out with new products however, that is still kept a secret. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to see what’s in store. They are currently going through a rebranding period and so a lot of changes will be coming our way. One secret they can divulge is a long term goal! They are working towards opening a center where they can create a community for parents, children, families, therapists, specialists and teachers. The goal is to build a bridge between everyone so as to provide a supportive and safe environment. They say it takes a village to raise a child and it really does! Having everyone involved is important in helping the child develop and reach their highest potential.
Aside from children with Autism spectrum disorders who else can use these products? Individuals with ADHD, tactile dysfunction, nail biting or any individual with anxiety can enjoy these products. Furthermore, moms and little kids who are teething can benefit from the use of the chewy toys. For example, Sophia uses hers for her child and wears it around her neck as a necklace. Frances has had all her siblings use theirs for fun and to ease anxiety!
What did they wish they knew before starting this company? Their advice is to be careful about who you hire and cautious about who you trust! In the beginning, you will feel vulnerable so people will try to take advantage of you. Their recommendation is to not sign your life away and read the fine print on any document. They have had incidents that have led to setbacks but they bounced back and have moved forward. Also, don’t expect anything from anybody (friends and family included). Don’t let people change your mind and tell people your ideas because people will take what you say and either use it for themselves or use it against you.
One story that stuck with them? There was a mother who ordered one of their products, a pink butterfly and she reached out to tell them how happy she was with the product. She stated that it helped her child focus and become less antsy! She even sent them a bunch of photos and tried to connect with them in New York. These types of experiences is a reminder of why they set out on this journey in the first place. They are grateful for every customer review and know that this is what helps small businesses like them grow.
How do they give back to the community? They have accounts with schools throughout the states and even worldwide. They attend Autism walks, a variety of fairs across New York and California, donated chewies to different organizations especially for individuals with autism, special needs, as well as for families with low income. They have donated toys to other countries like in Ukraine and Russia. They try to give back to their community as much as they can. Even though they are a small business they feel it is their job to help those in need. They are both lovers of children and know that people don't understand kids with special needs, unfortunately. So their work is to help people not only understand these children but to eliminate false perceptions that include the inability to socialize, interact, smile or love. In reality these children can do all of these things and require the support system to help them achieve these goals.
How much do the chewy toys cost? Each chewelry is $12.99 but is currently on sale on Amazon for $9.00. See the link below to purchase: . If you are an educational center or school it is usually required to buy in bulk of 30 or more so they receive a wholesale pricing of $7. This price varies depending on the bulk amount.
When comparing with other companies? There is definitely a big gap in pricing. This is because most of the products that schools buy (public schools in particular) have a very low budget and they import products that are made in China. These will be a lot cheaper however, you don’t know the ingredients or the safety of the product you’re using. Unfortunately a lot of places don’t have the budget or the means to buy these products. There are some public schools in Maryland and Milwaukee that they do sell to but this depends from state to state as well as on the school itself. On Amazon they have business accounts where some schools will order individual chewy products which basically implies that people are buying these products out of pocket.
Where can their products be found? @BestieToys on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, Etsy and Youtube. Check them out on www.BestieToys.com
Throughout their journey they learned that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into but that was a part of the growth of their business. They have shared some important tips in that respect and these include:
1. Use Fiverr! This is a cool website that allows you to create anything! For example, you can make a brochure or advertising ads. You get to meet different professionals and work with whoever best aligns with your needs.
2. Create a schedule! Everyone needs one. Our dear friend Sophia is a full time mom, business owner and teacher. Sounds like a lot right? That’s because it is. In order to master the art of multitasking she builds a day to day schedule! You guys know how much we love having a schedule!
Resources they recommend:
Frances recommends the book
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M Prizant which helps you understand Autism in a very unique way
Sophia recommends her favorite podcast Affect Autism and her favorite book is
Engaging Autism by Stanley Greenspan
It is perfect for anyone who is beginning to work with Autism like parents, therapists, or anyone who just wants to learn more about it.
If you think you have a child with Autism or you feel like something is going on with your child please go to a pediatrician specifically a developmental pediatrician. A good website you can use is AutismSpeaks. There you can find more information, centers, programs like ABA versus DIR, speech or music therapy and great resources for anyone who is interested. If you notice your child has some social, developmental, or emotional difficulties please seek the assistance of a specialist such as a pediatrician, a family therapist or a speech pathologist. This is usually a collaborative approach and you should always seek more than one opinion given the difficulty in diagnosing a child with a particular condition. Co-occurring conditions may be present so an appropriate evaluation is important. Also, there are a variety of therapeutic options and all should be explored.
If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us for more information. Bestie Toys has partnered with use to do a giveaway which includes a chewy and a free hat. All you have to do is go on our instagram page for information on how to enter. Thank you for tuning in and we will see you next week!