Safety-Minded ‘Once Kids’ Moving Production of Customizable Toys to North Texas

Child safe, environmentally friendly, and largely disruptive, the Dallas-based startup relies on innovative machines to create wooden bricks in six seconds. Next year, the Once Kids production facility—resembling 'Santa's Workshop'—will move to North Texas.

Organic, Natural, Charitable, and Eco-friendly. More than an acronym, those words are the inspiration behind ‘Once Kids’: A product line of various customizable, child-safe toys crafted from biodegradable wood. 

The idea for Once Kids was born from a couple’s desire to give their son safe toys he could personalize. Fortunately for their son, the entrepreneurial duo behind Once Kids—Brad and Emmy Grimes—were no strangers to product development and innovation when the idea initially came about.

Before launching Once Kids in 2012, Brad worked in product development and sourcing for companies like Michaels Companies, The Honest Company, GoPro, and Kid Made Modern. Emmy, meanwhile, learned sales at Neiman Marcus and in the real estate sector.

The couple was living in Seattle, where Brad worked for a toy distributor. But Emmy hated Seattle, she explained, and wanted to return to Dallas as soon as possible.

“I was pregnant and miserable, and it rained all the time. I wanted back to Dallas as fast as I could,” Emmy says. “So Brad did what any good husband would do: he quit his job, and we flew back to Dallas three weeks before our due date.”

Emmy said she and Brad’s passion for safe toys was born the same day she gave birth to their son, Landon. The night Emmy delivered Landon, Brad received a call from a factory he worked with.

The next night, he met them for dinner. Their brand journey had begun.

Once Kids’ wooden blocks are child-safe and eco-friendly. [Photo courtesy of Once Kids LLC]

Once Kids incorporated in 2014, and in 2015, Once Kids’ first product—a wooden block compatible with LEGO—was unveiled in the Neiman Marcus holiday book.

In addition to the LEGO-compatible blocks, Once Kids now sells action figures and cityscapes like Hong Kong, San Francisco, and London. Dallas’ skyline, they said, will also be available for purchase in 2019.

But the Dallas skyline is only a blip on the couple’s innovation radar. Brad said in 2019, Once Kids will move its production facility to North Texas. 

The facility, Brad said, will resemble something of a ‘Santa’s Workshop,’ offering children a window from which to watch the production of the blocks. 

Once Kids’ action figures are child-safe, eco-friendly, and customizable. [Photo courtesy of Once Kids LLC]

Once Kids relies on innovative machines that can create a wooden brick in six seconds. At the end of production, the machines repackage sawdust into fire-building logs.

The space, Brad said, will provide kids a creative space where they can personalize toys and include an educational area that teaches children about the negative impact plastic has on earth.

In addition, Once Kids’ eco-friendly products have disrupted the toy industry, which is driven largely by plastic.

“Upon our initial placement, larger companies started to explore more sustainable types of raw materials,” Brad said.”After we first placed product in Target, LEGO came out and announced they’re going to invest $150M to potentially explore moving away from oil and gas.”

Looking forward, the pair aim to grow and expand in 2019. In addition to open in a North Texas production facility, Once Kids will roll out a Sesame Street 50 year anniversary toy set and explore partnerships with mass retailers, including Walmart, Brad said.

In the meantime, the couple are focused on their mission: “Creating toys again that are able to be personalized, made your own. We make toys that kids make their own.”

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