Have you ever wondered what would happen if the eggs in your fridge came to life and built fantastic chain reaction machines out of your stuff? No? Well, we did. And this weirdly wonderful question led the GoldieBlox team on a years-long creative journey that resulted in perhaps our most ambitious project to date: The Eggventurers. It’s a preschool animated series aimed at getting kids around the world egg-cited about STEM with lovable egg characters, cool machines and whimsical problem-solving adventures.
A persistent theme in The Eggventurers is about overcoming failure through trial and error, teamwork and humor. What’s ironic is that the story behind The Eggventurers and how it came to be is a real-life example of this very theme.
It all started 10 years ago, when GoldieBlox launched its first construction toys, aimed at getting more kids, especially girls, into engineering. At the time, we were a small startup with an office the size of a closet, shipping out our first Kickstarter orders and dreaming of one day “disrupting the pink aisle” in toy stores.
We couldn’t afford to do traditional TV commercials, so in order to get the word out, we turned to YouTube. We brainstormed ideas of how we could show parents and kids alike just how much fun they could have with engineering. The result was a video called “The Princess Machine”, where we built a giant chain reaction machine out of stereotypical princess toys to show that engineering isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone.
Just a couple months later, we began shipping our toys nationwide to mass retailers in the US, and GoldieBlox was awarded two Toy of the Year awards, known as “the Oscars of the toy industry”. We couldn’t believe that we had achieved such a lofty vision so quickly. It was almost too good to be true! That is… until disaster struck.
Not long after our toys hit the shelves, we started to hear complaints from the mass retailers that the toys weren’t selling fast enough. As it turns out, the construction toy category is entirely dominated by a single player, and if you can’t keep up, you head straight to the clearance bin. And that is exactly what these retailers were threatening to do to GoldieBlox, after we’d only been on the shelves for a couple of weeks!
The retailers had turned from our best friends to our worst enemies on a dime. One of them had the audacity to look me in the eye and sneer, “You’re not even a real engineer, are you?” I’m not going to lie, to this day, it still stings.
Our whole team was in a state of shock and emergency. We had suddenly gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, and we needed to come up with a plan… fast. So, we brainstormed.
We still couldn’t afford to do traditional TV advertising, which was what all the big toy companies were doing at the time. So we thought, why not turn to YouTube again, and see if we could have another viral hit? Easter was coming up, the second biggest toy buying season of the year. We begged, pleaded and somehow convinced the retailers to keep GoldieBlox on the shelves through Easter. We assured them we would go viral again, and they reluctantly gave us one final shot.
In April 2014, we released “This is Your Brain on Engineering”, a PSA video inspired by the classic “This is Your Brain on Drugs” videos. In this video, we showed the journey of an egg on a conveyor belt, experiencing the negative impacts of princess culture. Just before the egg falls to the ground, it gets “saved” by a fantastic chain reaction machine built out of GoldieBlox toys, sharing stats about the positive impacts of STEM education on children. At the end of the video, the egg hatches into a chick.
At the time, I remember trying to keep a smile on my face for my team, but inside feeling like a huge failure. Our toys went on sale. And even though this is something that happens every day to all the biggest, most successful toy companies, it felt so painful to us back then because it felt like such a setback to all of the incredible momentum we’d been having. It was a real wake-up call that we had a lot more work to do in order to fully realize our social mission of getting more kids, especially girls, into STEM.
After that, we put our heads down and got back to work. The years went by and we evolved. We kept making great toys and great videos, all in the spirit of making STEM fun and cool for kids. With all of this awesome content, our YouTube audience kept growing and growing. Before we knew it, we had hundreds of thousands of subscribers on the GoldieBlox YouTube channel. All of this success led us to hiring a YouTube channel manager to help us grow our channel even more.
On his first day on the job in early 2019, our new YouTube channel manager did an audit of our channel so that we could learn about what was working and not working. When he gave his presentation, he started with a caveat that all of the data he was about to share was separate from the big outlier, “the egg video”. We all looked at each other in confusion. “What do you mean, the ‘egg video’?” I asked. He looked at me in amazement. “The ‘egg video’,” he said “is the top performing video on your channel. It has tens of millions of views from people all over the globe.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I went to YouTube and sure enough, the “egg video” from 5 years prior, the one I had cast off as a total failure, had quietly and unexpectedly gone viral, albeit YEARS after we had so badly wanted it to.
Shortly after this revelation, YouTube announced it would be investing $100M into high quality children’s programming. My team and I thought this was the perfect opportunity for GoldieBlox to have an even bigger impact with our video content, so we immediately hunkered down and started brainstorming. We put together a killer pitch deck with all sorts of cool STEM-inspired show ideas based on all of the successful content we’d been producing over the past 5 years on our YouTube channel.
The day before our pitch with YouTube, I couldn’t stop thinking about the “egg video” and decided at the last minute to include one final half-baked idea into our deck: “The Eggventurers”, a show about a crew of egg characters who build amazing chain reaction machines to solve problems.
Sure enough, “The Eggventurers” was YouTube’s pick. The video that we thought of as the “stinker” turned into one of the biggest opportunities for GoldieBlox yet: the extremely rare chance to develop and produce a brand new animated series, one that would spread the joy of STEM to kids all over the world.
The lesson I’ve learned from this is that if you dedicate yourself to making something really great, something that you’re really, really proud of… eventually that hard work will pay off. So don’t be too hard on yourself if that recognition doesn’t come right away. It’s important for you to still be proud in the moment of what you’ve created, because you never know what opportunities may open up for you down the road when you commit to doing your best work. So while some people say, “Don’t count your eggs before they hatch…” let me add, “because some eggs could take a decade.”