[Startup story] Infinity Toy Box | Rubik Garage Accelerator 2022 Batch
August 29, 2022
First of all, we would like to know who’s behind the keyboard.
Hello, my name is Boryana Levterova. I was born in Bulgaria but went to study and live in Italy, US and Canada for 8 years, then came back to Bulgaria in 2015. My professional experience spans across strategy consulting, sales and business development. I have sold and worked on both B2B and B2C and both physical products as well as software services. I have 3 kids, 5 and 3 years old, who inspired me to start Infinity Toy Box, which is now my full-time occupation.
Tell us more about Infinity Toy Box. What problem do you solve? Who’s your audience?
The life of young kids is full of a lot of “transient goods”: ones that are used only for a short amount of time and then become obsolete. This happens due to several reasons:
1) the child grows out of the toy, a perfect example being a baby walker
2) the child breaks the toy or loses a piece
3) the child doesn’t like the toy in the first place and doesn’t play with it.
An added problem is that kids’ goods are expensive and take up a lot of space. We solve all these problems by providing parents with a rental solution, where they can use items only for the duration for which they are actually needed. Our audience is parents with kids aged 0-6, but we plan to grow the age range over time.
What motivated you to create this startup? What’s your „why”?
After having our kids, our apartment became more and more cluttered. Our dream to live a minimalist and hassle-free life was getting further and further away. I remember specifically one occasion on which our son got an electric racecar track for his birthday, which he really enjoyed. Except that, in 20 minutes, he broke a piece and the track became unusable. We did some research and realized the problem is global.
The toy manufacturing industry is huge (worth almost 100B USD worldwide) and growing steadily (even despite COVID). It uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1M in revenue, making it the most plastic-intensive industry in the world. On a consumer level: one out of three parents admits to having thrown out toys in perfect condition. And those toys are typically non-recyclable. There are other companies working to solve this problem in ways similar to ours, but there is no established global leader, which is what we aspire to be.
How is your startup different from competitors?
Some competitors have static websites where parents cannot choose the toys they receive. We believe this model is really primitive and not appealing to customers. We built a proprietary tech platform to enable the rental model, where clients can choose the exact items they want to rent. Also, our model is very flexible: we allow clients to make changes to their subscriptions, to sell their own items in exchange for rental credits, etc.
We are trying to evolve all the time and to keep a very close eye on customers’ wants and needs: in Sofia, our main market, we do door-to-door delivery which allows us to get immediate feedback from customers. This is how new features of our offering appear over time, for example, business and party rental.
Do you have a team supporting you in your mission?
My co-founder is Ivan Dimitrov, who is an MIT computer science graduate with many years of experience in software engineering in multiple countries. He designs the architecture of the platform and is a great thought partner when it comes to strategy.
The rest of the people work part-time or freelance. Iordan is our main developer, he has 2 kids himself who have also tested the service, so he is able to see first-hand the impact of his programming 🙂 His wife is a QA, so it works out nicely that he codes and she assures the quality of the code. The other people working on the project (e.g. lawyer, designer, etc) are ones we met and built trust with during past jobs. Now and then, we have people who volunteer to do a project for us: for example, a teacher in a private elementary school invited us to his photography club, where the students (grades 1-6) produced this video for us.
What are the biggest rewards of being a startup founder?
Having full control over the direction in which the project goes and being able to very quickly change things up, which is not the case in corporate structures.
On the contrary, what are the biggest challenges?
It is challenging not having colleagues to talk to during hard times, however, every now and then I go to coworking spaces and have meetings with other founders to brainstorm about our challenges. It is also challenging to make a pivot to your idea, a feature, pricing or something which is not working well when you were sure it would.
What made you apply to our accelerator Rubik Garage?
It seemed like a really robust program (which it is turning out to be!) and I wanted to network with startups outside Bulgaria. The Romanian ecosystem has a really good reputation in Bulgaria and we are very happy to be part of the accelerator!
What are your top 3 learnings of the acceleration program?
- Many startups face similar challenges regarding their product and the problem they are solving: it is always worth chatting with other founders
- Building a successful startup (and fundraising for it) is a marathon, not a sprint
- Building a network of mentors with expertise in different topics is super important
What do you like in the Rubikorns Startup Community?
There is little sugar-coating and more emphasis on helping each other grow. I appreciate everyone openly discussing their challenges and how we are going about overcoming them.
What are your plans for Infinity Toy Box for the next 6-12 months?
Our long-term plan is to grow Infinity as a franchise network, where we have centralized some functions such as software development, marketing, procurement, etc. On the ground: in each big city hopefully, we would have local operators who manage their own inventory and clients.
We are now in month 8 of the existence of our Sofia location, which we manage ourselves and the goal is to show consistently growing revenue and client base and create a playbook that shows how such a location can establish itself in year 1. In order to speed up our development, we want to find a strategic partner who can help us with funding, and with taking Infinity global. In the next 6 months, I also plan to attend an International Toy Library conference in Australia 🙂
What message do you have for other startup founders?
I believe in the impact of small but incremental changes in both our personal and professional lives. After not having worked out for a long time, I did 10 min situps yesterday, 15 min today, and will do 20 tomorrow. There are aspects of startup life that I do not enjoy, and I am sure it’s the same for every startup founder, just because the founder’s job is super multifaceted. But I apply the same approach of small steps every day and I find it works equally well, so I would suggest they try.
What is your special power?
I like to get my hands dirty and understand the workings of everything in detail. In the first months of Infinity, I did everything myself: storage work, cleaning the inventory, packing, driving around delivering boxes… How else would you build the best toy library software if you haven’t suffered through every feature yourself? Having had my first job in management consulting, where at the age of 22 we flew business class and stayed at 5-star hotels, I know the importance of the strategy side as well, and I combine both strategy and operational knowledge in a way that effectively drives the project forward.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
As someone who started their venture after having 2 kids, I would like to inspire fellow females to use their mat leaves to explore their passions and be brave to start something new. 🙂
Stay tuned to discover the story behind the other startups from the Rubik Garage accelerator! #WeAreInThisTogether
Rubik Garage is an equity-free acceleration program aiming to support startups from CEE. We are helping early-stage startups get to their first paying customer, raise investment or go international.
The accelerator started with a Founders Bootcamp in Piatra Neamt. Four months of acceleration will culminate with a Demo Day in September, where startups get the chance to pitch their startup in front of investors. For the most motivated teams, the journey will continue in the next 6-12 months – our team will offer their full support to help them raise an investment round.
If you want to pre-apply for the next Rubik Garage edition, complete this form and be the first one to get the chance of starting their acceleration journey!