Allison Klein is committed to challenging the assumption that learning is best achieved by completing worksheets at a desk. This is why she decided to take the leap from teacher to entrepreneur and start her give-back toy brand, Rose & Rex.
During her time as a teacher, she found that many people viewed play and learning as opposite concepts. However, they’re actually deeply connected complements. Play is an essential component of child development. Through play, children develop their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills. And she wanted her brand to engage in a larger conversation about the role of play in development.
“I wanted to create a brand that promotes skill building and learning through imaginative play with high-quality, eco-focused, and beautifully designed toys,” Allison says.
With this in mind, she founded Rose & Rex and launched a comprehensive collection of curated toys online.
Building Community Online & In-Store
Rose & Rex began as a digital-first brand, selling their curated assortment of imaginative toys directly to consumers online. They used social media to acquire new customers and reach a large community of parents, grandparents, and teachers. However, as the company grew, Allison realized they needed to engage their community in real life as well.
“While we love ecommerce because it allows us to reach as many customers as possible, we realized that our community wanted to experience Rose & Rex in real life,” says Allison.
As a growing business, though, they don’t have the capacity to take on retail space in every market they want to reach. So they decided to open pop-ups and do events around the country. The brand now has physical locations in New York City, Charleston, South Carolina, and at Fourpost in Mall of America. Their Fourpost location allows them to reach the local market while also being part of an exciting collection of brands.
“Fourpost gives us the opportunity to showcase our toys in a beautiful space that will allow us to introduce new customers to our brand and interact with our existing community in person,” she continues. “Having a physical location allows us to bring the brand and what we believe in to life.”
With physical shops, they engage families and let children play with their toys in person. They also use their shops to become a thought leader in areas like play-based learning and positive parenting. With physical space, they can hold workshops and programming, such as parenting and play classes.
Curating & Creating Imaginative Toys
Every toy that Rose & Rex offers is meant to inspire imaginative play and foster well-rounded skill building. Education professionals, teachers, and child development experts select them during a careful evaluation process. First, they look at whether or not a toy is imaginative and can be played with in many different ways. Then, they see if it’s well-crafted and environmentally-conscious. Rose & Rex only chooses toys that are high-quality, non-plastic, and made out of toxin-free materials. Finally, they select the toys they believe are stylish as well.
“Our toys are made by artisans and small manufacturers all over the world,” Allison says. “We care about quality and the environment so look for sustainable, heirloom toys only.”
Recently, they also launched their first branded product, the Calm Mind Kit. American-made and designed by child development and wellness experts, the kit includes playful mindfulness and meditation exercises. It teaches children how to focus, self-regulate, and build confidence. And in the coming year, they plan to launch even more Rose & Rex branded products.
Playing it Forward
Like all of their toys, Rose & Rex’s Calm Mind Kit supports their commitment to giving back to children in need. Their social initiative, Play It Forward, is a core component of their brand.
They partner with non-profit Second Chance Toys (SCT) to ensure that every purchase makes a positive impact. SCT rescues, refurbishes, and donates plastic toys to children in need. By collecting toys made out of non-biodegradable plastic that would typically end up in landfills, the organization helps protect the planet and promote children’s ability to play. Every toy that Rose & Rex sells allows them to donate to SCT, providing thousands of toys to children who need them.
“I’m really proud of how many toys we have been able to donate to children in need,” Allison says. “Play is a right, but so often children don’t have access to toys or play materials and we want to change that.”
And you can help Rose & Rex play it forward. Stop by Fourpost in Mall of America throughout April to donate your child’s own well-loved (and probably forgotten!) toys to SCT.