Family launches toy company
A Westport couple recently launched their own toy business -- with some help from the family.
Rod and Dana Larsen and their adult children, Alex Larsen and Courtney Larsen Keller, recently launched Larsen Toy Lab, an online company that sells sets of wooden blocks that come with a personal engraving and children's storybook. The small home-based firm is rounded out by Mike Keller, Courtney's husband.
Alex said the idea for the business, in the works since last fall, came from his passion for entrepreneurship and Rod's love of woodworking. Alex grew up in Darien with Courtney before their parents moved to Westport in 2007.
Most of the blocks are made out of maple by a private manufacturer in Vermont that every year plants twice the amount of wood harvested for its products, said Alex, who lives in Stamford. The book is made by a company in South Carolina.
Since the launch of the website in late May, the firm has sold 15 orders and 20 sets, averaging a little over a set a day. Revenues so far have been $1,270, with an average sale of $87, the most popular Adventure Set being the Oslo Set, the largest of three sets.
Prices range from $39 to $89, depending on the size of the set.
The firm, funded initially with $19,000 from the co-founders' personal savings, considers well-known companies such as Toys R Us and Melissa & Doug among their competitors.
Rod, the president, who bases the business out of his Westport home, has spent a career as a sales and marketing executive in the office furniture industry and has honed his woodworking skills in his basement.
Alex, creative director, has a master's degree in business administration and has been a product design engineer.
Courtney, marketing director, who has a degree in interior design, lives in Boston with her husband. She has design, sales and marketing experience in the furniture and architectural lighting industries.
Dana, art director, is an artist and teacher who illustrated "Color My Country," a children's book published in 2005. She is the head of the art department at Darien High School.
Mike Keller, who handles the firm's legal affairs, is a lawyer who spent his youth working in the back shop of his family's machine fabrication business in northwest Ohio.