Meet the Obos!

My kids got quite a loot over the holidays. One of the big winners is the book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site”, which my 2-year-old makes me read 18 times a day. The coolest thing they got though, hands down, is the set of Obos that I told you about in the Holiday Gift Guide for Kids. What is an Obo, you ask?
Munti Obo
Obos are adorable stocky creatures that hail from different sides for Planet Obo. They’re made of FSC Certified paper and recycled paperboard, which is very refreshing in a landscape of free-for-all plastic. They’re very simple and it’s fun to put them together. The parts range from eyes, horns, arms or funky tops and they are interchangeable, so if you have more than one Obo (there are six characters available) you can swap the parts and get creative.

When you first get one, all the parts are inside the Obo’s body, which makes the toy itself the only packaging – other than a strip of paper that includes the Obo’s name and instructions to put it together. Best toy $5 can buy. You can also get the set of six for $28. Check out all the characters in Series One:
Obos - Series One
I was already in love with the Obos’ awesome-looking and sustainable design, but then followed immense gratitude – they kept my 4-year-old busy for most of a two hour flight. And then ensued crazy excitement when I met Michael Weaker and Omid Sadri, aka Really Brothers, at their office in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Michael and Omid set the Obos loose in the market last October after concluding a pretty spectacular Kickstarter campaign (they raised almost four times their goal amount). They tell us how on Earth (or how on Planet Obo) these things came to be, and what’s in store for the next few months.
Obos - Guba and Burr
Omid – We met in grad school [Pratt, Industrial Design]. We are interested in toys and wanted to start our own toy company. We were both working and didn’t have a lot of money to start a company, but we really wanted to do it.

Michael – We talked about different ideas. One of the ideas was that it would be cool to have the packaging be part of the toy. So that was one of the initial inspirations. It was the idea of reducing and almost eliminating packaging.

O – We were also thinking about an inexpensive way of doing it. That’s how we thought about paper. It’s inexpensive to manufacture something out of paper.

M – This was an idea we had: what’s the coolest, best thing we can make out of paper? If we can come up with the best thing ever to make out of paper, then we’ll be able to prototype it ourselves.

O – It was also about coming up with a new way of putting something together.

M – the modularity. We thought that would be fun, cause it allows kids to customize things and be creative. There was also how is it easy for us to prototype on our own. There was the packaging. So those were those three ideas that were happening at the same time.

M – We really tried to add more and more experience value. We were shooting for a $5 retail price point – that’s affordable. But we want someone to have to have a better experience for that amount of money that they would expect to get.

The designs took time to solidify.

O – We really like the design process. Sometimes the process is more fun than the end result. One of the challenges was to come up with certain aesthetics for them that we will continue to use for the other series that will come out in the future. We established that aesthetic, but it took some time. We’re in a place now where we’re coming up with new ones a lot easier because we have certain rules that we follow, so they all feel very much like part of a cohesive group.

Then came the prototypes, which Michael and Omid started making themselves by hand. “It took so long, it was crazy. It’s like origami.” The first few tests with a laser cutter almost set a few Obos on fire, but luckily there were no casualties. Factory prototypes soon followed.

The product name also went through several rounds. Kubos turned into Ubos, which led the way to the final, awesome, round Obos.

Then came Kickstarter. In March 2012 their beyond-successful campaign was funded. They raised almost 400% their goal amount.

O – It was good to see people’s feedback and what they think of the product. It was almost like a focus group in a way. You see people’s comments and responses, see if there’s room for improvement and things like that.

M – that was the best part: feedback, validation.

The next series is in the works. “Series Two is really cool. We like to design those characters to procrastinate from our other duties.” Kickstarter may see another success campaign from the Really Brothers, as they are considering taking that route when they’re ready for Series Two.

Michael and Omid design, deal with manufacturing, fulfill orders, and wear all the other hats that come with being small business owners. It’s stressful, for sure, but “It’s very rewarding. That’s why we’re doing it.

Obos are available at planetobo.com. You can get the Series One set with six characters for $28.

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