The Toy Book chats with Jordan M. Willing, CEO of Blue Marble, about the company’s stand-out educational products.
Toy Book: Why did you change your company name from JMW Sales to Blue Marble?
Jordan M. Willing: I’ve been feeling now for a couple of years that our name didn’t represent the mission and values of what we were really bringing into the world, so we wanted to pick a new name, and we wanted that name to have significance. We picked Blue Marble because it’s a nod to the “Blue Marble” shot that the Apollo crew took in 1972. It reminded us that no matter our differences, we all share one thing in common: this beautiful home.
We’ve also always been a company that cares about the environment, and we try to bring natural wonders into our products. A lot of the core of what we do is earth science-based, so we’re really heavy into bringing real fossils and gemstones into our products. We just want to share the natural wonders of the world with kids. That’s why we chose Blue Marble; we wanted something that was a daily reminder of our inner connection and the wonders of the planet, and we just felt like that encapsulated the heart of what we were trying to do.
TB: What sets your products apart from other STEM toys?
JMW: There are companies out there that have 100 microscopes, 50 telescopes, and they’re really broad in what they do. That’s not us. We would rather put all of our energy into making two or three products that are better at the price point than anything else on the market. Our goal is to really own each category that we enter by making sure we have the best product, the best value, an amazing experience, and extras that you won’t find anywhere else.
TB: Why is it important to make your toys accessible to all families?
JMW: We don’t want to just make toys for rich people. We want to make toys accessible to everyone. Most of the stuff we sell in stores is at the $9.99 price point. That’s kind of our entry level into the experience. You don’t make an impact in the world if you don’t reach
TB: How is the company dealing with challenges presented by COVID-19?
JMW: The reality is, I’ve never been more proud of what we make because we’ve got all these kids across the country stuck at home, and their parents are looking for ways to educate them because they need to make up for that hole that closed schools is creating for them, so our products have never been more important than they are right now. We make high-quality products that people want. [They’re] activities and educational, and that’s kind of the magic combination for parents, especially right now.
TB: Blockaroo is a totally unique new building experience. How did you come up with it?
JMW: This is a product that we got a sample of in a very early form when we were on a sourcing trip, and we just loved the idea. We’ve seen very young kids successfully play with this toy. It’s amazing because it’s foam, so it’s soft. One of the wonderful accidents of the product is we found out that they float. We realized: This isn’t just a great construction toy you can play with on the carpet, but it’s the ultimate bath toy. You can make boats, spaceships, and robots, and you can stick them to metal tubs and fridges, which makes them so unique.
TB: What other new products are coming this year?
JMW: We have a ton of new products that we’re working on, mainly in chemistry. I think that’s really our theme for this year: We want to reinvent the chemistry category. We’re working on Amazing Reactions and Chemistry Magic, which has chemistry experiments that are so amazing they look like magic. Our goal would be to have anywhere from 10-20 experiments with which you could do everything that you see with the ingredients included in the box, and you have this wow factor with every single experiment that you’re doing.
As a company, we are all about fun first. STEM is important to us, but it has to be fun first if we want to inspire kids and really create a transformative experience for them. That cool factor is always on our mind and it is always the priority. We always find ways to talk about the actual science behind it, which only enhances their learning experience but fun has to come first.
TB: What’s next for your company?
JMW: “Blue Marble” for us is really the next step in our company’s evolution, being able to build an audience and communicate our values. At the end of the day, it’s up to all of us to make sure that our kids are inspired and moving forward in the right direction. Our company is committed to continually improving how we bring our light into the world, and we’re looking for great partners to value those things as well, and when we find them, we all really thrive together. I feel that we’re doing important work.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2020 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!