By Liz Segrist
Published Nov. 8, 2015
From the Oct. 19, 2015, print edition
Donna Brin looked across her son’s playroom and watched the plastic, neon yellow bop bag slowly deflate.
Brin’s husband had brought the toy home as a gift, and within an hour, it had a hole in it. Brin grabbed the bag, patched it with duct tape and walked to a tailor’s shop in their Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood.
|Donna Brin says her bop bags can be used by kids to let out energy or by adults to release frustrations over politics. (Photo/Kim McManus)|
And with that, Pueri Elemental was born. Brin wanted to create toys that were made of soft materials that could withstand the wear and tear of kids playing with them.
In 2012, she launched Eco-Bonk, the company’s first line of bop bags, which featured characters designed in-house by artist Nick Borosh.
“We wind up getting inundated with a lot of plastic toys that are made in China. ... For me, it was all about creating a great physical toy for a child that is aesthetically pleasing and allows for a great outlet for all of the excess energy that kids have,” Brin said.
Brin launched a second bop bag line, Bonk 2016, this year in response to the frustration of talking politics with her father. These bop bags feature President Barack Obama’s, Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s faces on them.
“The American people are so fed up with the state of the economy and the rhetoric that happens and the promises that aren’t kept,” Brin said. “This becomes a really fun way to take that stress out and relieve tension.”
The company’s third and most recent launch came from talking with customers who would jokingly request to put photos of their ex-husbands, bosses or friends on the bop bags.
So Brin launched the Bonk Yourself line. Customers can upload a photo and have it printed on bags.
“At the end of the day, all of this is about allowing for a positive outlet for energy, for stress. People in general are just so overscheduled. We have so much going on in our lives. ... You wind up losing the fun,” Brin said.
Brin, who previously worked on an energy commodities trading desk in New York City for 12 years, said the intense work environment and long hours prepared her to deal with the stresses of being an entrepreneur.
Brin said she struggled to centralize her supply chain for Pueri Elemental, as well as to secure a U.S. manufacturer that would produce vinyl inflatables. Brin decided to relocate her husband and two sons from Brooklyn to Myrtle Beach and moved the company’s production to the Carolinas. The vinyl inflatables are made in Rock Hill and the printing, cutting and sewing operations are in High Point, N.C.
Brin is now working to grow her company as a member of The Harbor Entrepreneur Center’s 14-week Harbor Accelerator entrepreneurial boot camp. She works from the center’s Mount Pleasant site a few days a week.
Brin said the company had its first private-label deal this year when Crate & Barrel printed one of Pueri’s designs for its holiday catalog. She said she plans to pursue more partnerships like that one, as well as create more customization options.
“Whether it’s a children’s toy or you’re looking at your good friend on a bop bag, it inspires laughter, and we all need that more than anything,” Brin said. “It’s all about capturing fun.”
Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.
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