My Diary of the Educo Adventure
In 1983, while my husband and I were on a work experience in Australia, my
family discovered a brightly colored toy with curving wires in the waiting room of
a dental office. Our sons were captivated by the Educo Supermaze and with my
knowledge of the selection of children’s toys in N. America, I knew that I was
looking at a totally fresh concept that provided both appeal and educational
opportunities for young children. After viewing the cottage style production, I felt
destined to bring the product to a much wider audience. My goal was to expose
Educo toys to every children’s specialty store in the world that sold wonderful
wooden trains and other beautiful educational products.
Shortly after, our family flew home to Canada, full of excitement and plans to
reveal our “big secret”. Our first order of 50 Supermazes arrived four weeks
later and the huge boxes were carried down the stairs in our home and into the
basement. There the entire family got involved in unwrapping and then identifying
the bits and pieces. The assembly of the first Supermaze was a great
achievement as we discovered that sixty-six components fit together to become
the most wondrous of toys. Educo became our family’s passion and the
Company that we created, my new baby.
When we first began to show the product to buyers, although they were attracted
to this totally new concept, their questions were always the same; “where do you
plug it in” and ” how do you turn it on?” It was at that point that I understood that
with this unique new product, traditional marketing strategies would not be
effective. So I ended up at the beginning of my story, taking the product to a
doctor’s office and asking the nurse to allow children in the waiting room to play
with it for the afternoon. Children’s response to the product was electric as they
all loved it and the nurses noticed more cooperative play than they had seen in
the past. When I would return to pick it up later in the day, the response was
consistent. I would never be allowed to take it away and it was an immediate
sale. Throughout the history of the product, children were the best promoters;
demonstrating the value of the product to their parents.
We began to exhibit the product at toy shows but the most memorable was the
first US show in New York. My husband and I set up our little 10 foot booth in an
obscure basement location in the famous Javits Convention Centre. Our
homemade styrofoam and cotton displays attracted so many potential buyers,
that we were constantly being squeezed out of the booth. We looked at each
other in disbelief as we stood in the aisle and looked at our booth crowded with
buyers, clambering for information. The experience of having a product that from
the first moment was market driven, became the biggest marketing thrill of our
We quickly learned that the market would demand new products from us and
since at that time, wire was not being used widely in the consumer market, we
began designing wire shapes and producing the unique configurations in our own
factory in Canada.
In product design, there were three values that in my mind, were non-negotiable.
Number one, the product had to be safe. With my office behind the shop, we
were hands-on in our diligence to ensure that no child would come to harm by
playing with our toy. Number two, the product had to captivate young
imaginations while providing educational value . The third ideal was to ensure
that each and every product was as stunningly appealing as any beauty queen.
Our focus was on the details as we sought out the brightest colors and most
pleasing symmetry. We felt that children deserve the best in products and that
they would learn to value beauty and come to appreciate that fine lines and
aesthetics added an important element to their lives.
The real heroes in the story are the amazing production workers who came to
work everyday with the focus of creating high quality products. Many staff
discussions on the value of our toy, centered on the importance of our Educo
product lighting up a child’s face as they opened their birthday gift or special big
box from Santa.
Over the years, many men and women who enjoyed the pleasure of working with
their hands, graced our production floor. Every step of producing an Educo
product required the attention to detail of a hand made product and the
manufacturing process required 40-150 employees a year. The diligence of Diana as she strung hundreds of thousand of beads on wires, Laurie, Ned and Helen as they perfected the smooth finish on the wooden bases, Jack, Greg and Bruno who bent thousands of wires, Anand and the painting department who coated both wires and wooden bases,
Jo, Shawn and many others in the assembly and packaging areas.
There were many amazing moments in the twenty-three year journey of creating
and guiding the distribution of Educo toys. Seeing the delight on children’s faces
as they discovered the toy was the part that filled me up and kept us all striving
for better and more innovative product. Since the wire and bead frames did not
require language to be loved and enjoyed, it was heart warming to move from
country to country, airport to toy store and witness the same delighted reaction
on children’s faces. In addition there were many industry awards and more
importantly, letters of appreciation from parents & teachers who offered stories of
how their child had benefited from our products.
In looking back at the wonderful experience of developing the Educo product, I
am most grateful that our record for safety stands and that the product continues
to be designed and produced in a manner that honors our original values.
Educo International Inc.