This Founder Wants To Help Parents Reduce Plastic Toy Waste
It's estimated that 80 percent of plastic toys end up in a landfill. Rena Banka, founder of Carocycle Toys, is aiming to change that with a subscription box that lets parents rent sustainable toys instead. Thanks to our Office Depot OfficeMax partnership, we are sharing stories of entrepreneurs like Rena and the challenges and successes along the way. Learn how Rena stayed motivated despite challenges and moved the needle to get her brand to the next level.
B + C: What motivated you to start Carocycle Toys? What problem are you trying to solve for your customers?
Rena: I have always loved to curate, so a subscription box has been on my mind for a long time. I wasn't sure what kind of subscription box I wanted to start but after going through the first few weeks of Selfmade and doing the Ikigai exercise, I was able to identify the intersection of my interests and the idea of Carocycle Toys was born! Carocycle Toys helps parents save money and reduce clutter by allowing them to rent high-quality, sustainable toys through our monthly subscription box. Our subscription box also helps keep kids inspired and practicing sustainability to reduce waste.
B + C: How has the company evolved since your initial "aha" moment?
Rena: We are currently beta testing our service and have already identified a few pivotal points in the business model. For example, originally, we envisioned we would rent all types of toys. During our testing, we realized high-quality, sustainable toys are easier to clean, last longer, and do not end up in landfills. There are many toy companies that produce high-quality, sustainable toys that are made from wood, recycled materials, and are battery free. We are excited to discover more toy brands that are doing their part to reduce waste and ensure toys can be recycled.
B + C: What startup challenges have you faced along the way?
Rena: Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely path and it can be hard to stay inspired and motivated. It can be easy to give up when you don't see immediate results and you start to doubt your idea.
B + C: What strategies helped you overcome them?
Rena: Before Selfmade, I did not have a community I could lean on during these moments of self-doubt or demotivation. Selfmade really helped me stay motivated each week and commit to goals I had established for my business. I was also inspired daily by the hundreds of other entrepreneurs who were on the same journey as me. Additionally, having a coach was one of the best things I discovered during Selfmade. I would definitely recommend all entrepreneurs look into investing in a business or mindset coach.
B + C: What would you say are your top successes so far?
Rena: Getting the opportunity to pitch Carocycle Toys as a top 10 Selfmade finalist was a huge success for me and for the business this summer! It has given us more momentum to continue building our business and expanding our reach. Although we didn't win, we learned so much during the experience and are excited to keep pitching our business for more chances at grants and funding.
B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?
Rena: Social media has been a big driver for raising awareness and marketing our brand. We are also using our current network of family and friends to spread the word and build our community. We want to build authentic, genuine relationships with our customers so we are focused on quality over quantity right now.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
Rena: The most valuable takeaway from Selfmade was to just start. There are so many things that go into building a business and it is easy to get stuck. Selfmade helped me realize that the best way to build a business is to be consistent, fail fast, and keep putting yourself out there to make your idea a reality. I write down all the ideas I have for my business on Post-its and have them posted on a wall. This helps me prioritize, stay focused on the larger vision, and also helps me focus on different parts of my business weekly to keep things fresh and exciting!
B + C: Who and what inspires you?
Rena: Other female entrepreneurs! I love seeing female entrepreneurs create products and brands that solve problems I face as a woman. To also see female entrepreneurs changing the stats around funding, IPO status, and creating new categories is also so inspiring!
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Rena: Find a community of other like-minded entrepreneurs. Whether it is a course, community, or series, this will help inspire you to start. Listening to the guest speakers each week in Selfmade got me reenergized to keep going. Seeing others who you can relate to helps envision yourself in their shoes one day too!
B + C: What's next for Carocycle Toys?
Rena: After our beta launch is finished in October, we are going to be opening up our service to more users and expanding to other regions outside of New York.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade done to help you grow your business?
Rena: Receiving the Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship helped me enroll in the course for the summer and dedicate time to my business every week. It also gave me access to the most incredible coach, Annie, who was such a key driver in helping me shift my mindset and commit to progress over perfection over the course of the summer. With the scholarship, I was able to invest in myself and put the saved funds toward inventory for the business.
B + C: How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business?
Rena: After pitch day, I received a gift card to Office Depot OfficeMax and was able to purchase products I use daily for my business, like a new printer and mailing supplies for the subscription box. This helped us upgrade our subscription boxes to be more branded and feel more professional!
Entrepreneurship can be lonely, which is why finding support is key. Office Depot OfficeMax will be by your side to help you stay organized & save time. Our suite of business services and solutions, like print & copy services, are all about helping you accomplish more so you can focus on more important things, like seeing your big idea come to life. Learn more at Office Depot's Selfmade page.