Officially starting its second year in business, Milton & Goose founder, Shari Raymond, often thinks back on the way her business began and the process of getting to where she is today. Like most business ventures, Milton & Goose began as a desire for something in the marketplace that was lacking.
“As my son’s first birthday approached, I set out to find him a play kitchen as a milestone gift,” Raymond recalled. “I’d seen him express interest in them at playrooms and figured it was a toy he could grow with. We lived in a small New York City apartment at the time, and I knew the play kitchen would have to be front and center in our living room. With that in mind, I set out to find one that would delight him without being an eyesore in the middle of our apartment.”
In all of Raymond’s searching, she came up short in trying to find a play kitchen that was made with quality materials, and also presented a modern, chic look. Her hunt for the perfect birthday present for her child quickly turned into the idea to create the kitchens herself.
Figuring out the first steps of starting a business from the ground up can be daunting, but with the Internet at her fingertips, Raymond started to research.
“Having previously worked in media (television, mostly), I had never made a physical product before, so my first step was Google,” she remembered. “After doing some research into the idea-to-product lifecycle, I had a vague sense of where to start.”
It was at that point that she began to seek out the perfect manufacturer to partner with on her endeavor.
“I wish I could say I found my manufacturer early on, but it in fact took many months and a painful amount of rejections and closed doors before I found him,” she continued. “Many manufacturers were not interested in my designs, either because they wanted nothing to do with the highly regulated toy industry or nothing to do with me, because I was too new and too small.”
From there, the manufacturers she found that were willing to work with her provided her with astronomical estimates for production costs. Not wanting to go overseas, she kept searching.
“It was a long journey, but I thank my lucky stars daily for the manufacturing partner I did find, because as a second generation Amish toymaker, he had the skills and expertise to turn my sketches into reality.”
Once her manufacturer was set, it was design time.
“As with most things, I started with research, hunting for inspiration from real world designer kitchens, high-end furniture, and toys. My very first designs were simply rough sketches on paper,” Raymond revealed. “I went on to build a cardboard model and then a CAD model, but it was a very low-tech process for most of the time. One interesting thing I learned in designing the kitchens is that things might work in your head or even look good on paper, but once you start cutting out the wood, figuring out assembly, and playing around with functionality, many ideas that sound good in theory don’t actually translate to a great product; which is why getting to a working prototype is key.”
Fortunately for Raymond and her happy customers, that working prototype turned into her Classic Play Kitchen, then evolved into an Essential Play Kitchen model within her first year, with only a few minor hiccups to speak of.
“One major pain point we had at the beginning was shipping,” Raymond recalled, “so if I had designed the kitchens from the very beginning with ship-ability in mind, it might’ve saved us some headache down the line.”
Nevertheless, Raymond’s vision came to fruition and is enjoying success in the marketplace, with even more items to come from Milton & Goose in the near future.