Partner Spotlight: Rhonda Collins, CEO of TOYCYCLE
Getting to know TOYCYCLE.
Recently, PlanToys joined forces with TOYCYCLE in a partnership to create the largest sustainable second-hand marketplace for families. The digital marketplace will help create a circular economy for toys and ensure continued life for toys children have grown out of or no longer play with. We spoke with Rhonda Collins, CEO of TOYCYCLE, to share more about TOYCYCLE, why she created it, and what she hopes to achieve.
TOYCYCLE from Oakland, California
Who are you, and what is your background?
Well perhaps most relevant is that I’m a mom. I’ve got twin daughters who are now 12 and entering 7th grade! I know other parents with kids in school will understand how crazy each year feels as our babies get bigger and bigger and grow into young people. My experience as a mom has really shaped my life at this point. But before kids, I worked in the arts, producing and editing documentary films. Most of these were social change documentaries. And while it was my mom who initially taught me a love of nature and commitment to conservation, I also have had the opportunity to work on a few films about our environment and the havoc human consumption is causing.
What inspired you to create TOYCYCLE?
So, prior to having kids, I would have characterized my lifestyle as minimal. One of my favorite activities was wilderness backpacking where the practice is leave-no-trace. If you pack it in, pack it out. I loved the economy of carrying everything you need on your back and leaving the wilderness as you find it.
Of course, when my daughters were born, that minimalist aesthetic flew out the window! We were suddenly overwhelmed by the need for baby carriers and bouncers, cradles and swings, strollers and car seats – and two of everything! We lived in an urban apartment at the time, and believe me, it was a pretty radical change for me.
Like so many other families, I struggled with the gearing up, and then the gearing down as my kids grew. We had no more use for the cradles after about five months, but we did need cribs at that point. The bouncers and swings were replaced by jumperoos around 7 months. My kids LOVED their Jumperoos. And of course, the clothing, and the toys – it all has to be swapped out every few months in the early years.
The problem becomes offloading all that stuff in a short period of time when you’re busy working and trying to raise kids. And most of us would like to recoup something – baby gear is expensive. When my girls were little, I tried to get things used, and often did, but finding what I needed when I needed it wasn’t always possible, and then the whole hit-and-miss nature of used marketplaces like Facebook and eBay was not fun. Sometimes I’d get a great gear item at a great price, and other times I’d get something that was barely worth my time, much less the cash I put out for it.
I knew there just had to be a better way. And given my entrepreneurial nature, I decided I would try to make it happen.
What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
Every day is exciting at Toycycle. We’re always working to understand secondhand markets better, and to provide the smoothest experience for our customers. The partnerships we’re developing are a big part of that.
Working with a company like PlanToys is thrilling for us because the mission alignment is so solid. We know that toys represent a huge burden on the environment. The resources that manufacturing them consumes, and the end-of-life waste created in the current take-make-waste linear model.
In my view, PlanToys is the model for sustainability in the toy industry. We really love that you consider sustainability throughout your manufacturing process and entire supply chain. We’re really excited to be partnering with you to provide an end-of-life option for toys and bring the product life cycle full circle. It’s also super exciting to hope that with this partnership, we’re contributing to a new circular model that the rest of the industry can follow.
Why is sustainability important to TOYCYCLE?
There really are so many ways in our society to be wasteful. And sustainability, if it’s an option at all, is often a big challenge. We’re pushed toward wasteful consumption every day. In ways that aren’t always about personal choice. How our food is packaged for instance – in a lot of places, it’s hard to find food that isn’t overly packaged such that it creates tremendous waste. Clothing is mostly fast fashion and harmful to the environment. We’re incredibly busy – most families have two working parents, who are also juggling pickups and drop-offs, appointments, play, and everything else their kids need. Amazon is fast and convenient, and sometimes feels like the only real choice in our crazy fast-paced lives.
It’s important to us at TOYCYCLE to provide a better choice. Another way to live more sustainably, especially for parents. There’s no reason we can’t have a secondhand shopping experience that is as quick and convenient as Amazon. Buying secondhand is already a super sustainable choice. You’re buying something that was already made, so it requires no new use of precious resources. And you’re keeping that product out of the waste stream – another great choice for the environment. So as far as that goes, sustainability is baked into our business.
We also do our best to develop sustainable business practices in parallel with the fundamentally sustainable nature of our marketplace. For example, remember the 3 R’s - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We’re reducing our use of new shipping materials by sourcing a combination of used, recycled, and compostable shipping supplies. That includes fully compostable mailing bags, and even compostable shipping tape!
We encourage our customers to load their carts and ship multiple products at once. That’s completely different from the one product, one shipment model of most other secondhand marketplaces.
Because we’re a Public Benefit Corporation and sustainability is our North Star mission, we’re always looking at ways to be more sustainable.
Where can our community find and connect with TOYCYCLE?
You can learn more about our consignment program by visiting the information page on the PlanToys website. You can also visit us at www.toycycle.co. And you can connect with us on Instagram @toycycle. We share tips, offer products, post discounts, and run giveaways for our community.
How can our community of families and retailers support the circular economy that TOYCYCLE is helping to create?
We’d love to have your community join us in whatever way makes sense for them. Whether as buyers or sellers of the toys and gear they need, or the toys and gear their babies have outgrown. Another great way to support the creation of a circular economy is to ask your local toy store to be a part of it. We’re working on an initiative that involves partnering with retailers to ensure returned and unsold products are given a second chance and stay out of the waste stream.
TOYCYCLE is part of PlanToys mission to close the product lifecycle loop keeping toys out of landfills. Learn more out PlanToys Circularity efforts with PlayCycle here.