• Andrew Olsen

I Quit College to Make Toys: Here’s Why

The summer after my junior year of college was a weird one. I began a part time “service mission” for my church, working at different community organizations such as Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, soup kitchens and historical societies. Just two semesters away from undergrad graduation I walked away from it all and committed to serving for two years.

Life became monotonous.

I’m a very ADD person and when I get stuck in a rhythm, life gets very boring for me. I served for about 4-6 hours per day but went home to nothing. I’m not one to play video games or waste my time watching TV. My philosophy is, if I’m not progressing, I’m digressing. I needed a new challenge in life, something to take my time and energy--something to keep me up at night. So I started making toys.

I went back to a childhood hobby of mine, which was puppet building. At one point when I was 16 years old, I had a small business making custom puppets for libraries, theater companies, schools and entertainers. It was a passion that I could do 12 hours a day and still yearn for more.

There was one problem. Puppet building was expensive and time consuming. A single puppet could take weeks to produce and I used to charge $600+ for my work. My puppets were works of art more so than a toy. One thing I had always wanted to do was to bring my creations to the world--to see them in toy stores, schools and libraries. But with the process I was accustomed to--that dream could never be.

Being the problem solver that I am, I searched for a way to cut cost and time for making puppets, while keeping the same level of quality. I eventually got in contact with a state of the art toy manufacturing company in China. I pitched my vision and my products to them--they aligned rather quickly and from there on Puppet Pals was born!

I wanted Puppet Pals to stand out from the competition. The toy puppet marketplace is dominated by 2-3 large companies that have far more resources than I. Bootstrapping the whole operation I decided to specialize in food look-a-like puppets.

Why food?

Being the puppet nerd that I am (and owning hundreds of puppets) I noticed that no company was producing food puppets. I found a niche that no one was in and began pumping out products!

I launched my company’s first product, “Sandwich Pal,” in February 2020, just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. Despite what you may be thinking, I could not have chosen a better time to launch my company. Let me explain.

As schools closed and education was forced online, teachers scrambled for resources and tools to use to engage and keep the attention span of young children. What better way to do so than with puppets?! My product line quickly grew and by the end of 2020 I had 6 puppets in my product line and had already sold thousands of puppets around the globe.

With my company getting off the ground, “logically” I decided to head back to school and finish my bachelors degree. I set up a self-managing warehouse in California, and I moved back east to Virginia, where I handle the business and creative side of my company.

If you’d like to check out my company visit:

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