Kevin Gatlin, a local entrepreneur, admits that his company, Playtime EDventures, all started with a song! Learn more about his company, the challenges he faces, and his commitment to give back to the community in this latest Business Spotlight.
Charlotte Business Resources (CBR): Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Kevin! First, tell us a little about yourself.
Kevin Gatlin (KG): I grew up in Denver, Colo., and moved to Charlotte when I was 16. I graduated from Independence High School and then attended North Carolina State University. I own and operate two businesses: Playtime EDventures and Charlotte Hotel TV. I am married, and I am blessed to have two sons ages 2.5 and 11.
CBR: So, what exactly is Playtime EDventures?
KG: Playtime EDventures is a toy company. It’s not just for kids, but for adults too. All of our toys are created in collaboration with accredited teachers and professionals with an emphasis on creating toys kids love and parents appreciate!
CBR: How did it get started? What products do you offer?
KG: It all started with a song on the radio that wasn’t exactly kid friendly. I picked up my son from school one day and turned on the car radio, only to find my 8-year-old son singing along to the hook of a “bad song.” He was too young to know what he was saying, but I did!
So I tried to find something suitable for him and I to listen to while in the car, but everything was either a storytelling CD or a sing-along. So, I remembered the “A-B-C, 1-2-3” game my mom, a retired school teacher, used to play with my brother and I during car rides and I chose to create a character that could guide children through various games they could play during car rides. Thus, the “Ride Along with Dooey” CD and the toy company, the Charlotte-based Playtime EDventures, was born.
Our second toy, Playtime Sheets, was created because I noticed my wife would always use my son’s bed to do his homework and other activities. So the idea popped in my head to turn his bed sheets into one big game board! Playtime Sheets are a unique bedding solution that combines the comfort of traditional bedding with cognitive stimulation and creativity. Consisting of real twin-sized bed sheets – one fitted sheet and one flat sheet – as well as a pillow case and 8 Crayola crayons, Playtime Sheets offers more than 30 games and teaching vignettes. Activities range from traditional games, such as checkers, chess and Tic-Tac-Toe, to original custom games and activities.
Playtime Sheets stays true to Playtime EDventures’s mission of providing educational activities for children. I recruited a team of educators who are experts in their field to develop educational curricula that go with the product, and even the most traditional games incorporate more than just playing by simple rules. It’s not just I move, you move. I wanted to make it an educational, fun game, so there are questions that have to be answered in order for a child to advance in a particular game, like Tic-Tac-Toe.
CBR: What challenges did you face while starting this company?
KG: I’ll start off by saying I have faced the same challenges any person faces when stepping out on FAITH! “Self doubt” and “sleepless nights” sum up my experience until this point! It was, and is, very hard to get started in a city not known for product development and production. I had to network a lot before I met people who could help me with things like sourcing and manufacturing. It has been difficult learning the process of importing a product from a foreign country.
CBR: You believe in giving back to your community. What organizations do you partner with to achieve that?
KG: We currently partner with Beds for Kids, The Salvation Army Center of Hope, and Classroom Central. Choosing these organizations was a perfect fit for our toys. We donate a percentage of our sales and donate the products that we sell to those organizations.
Beds for Kids and the Center of Hope both need linens to go on the beds, but they rely on other organizations to provide toys. Playtime Sheets provides linens and toys in one product! Children feel the most safe in their bed so we want our sheets to be a bright spot for them in their current situation. Because children can write and draw on the sheets, it reduces the amount of money the shelter has to spend on paper.
Classroom Central’s goal is to provide school supplies for under-served children and schools. With every purchase of our Ride Along with Dooey Car Game CD, we donate a percentage of the sales to them so they can buy supplies.
CBR: What plans do you have for the future?
KG: We have several new products in the works! You will see more linens and new educational books coming out soon. We hope to introduce them in 2015 so stay tuned!
CBR: Would you change anything about your business if you could go back to the beginning?
KG: No, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every experience, good or bad, prepares you for where you are today! Life is the best teacher there is.
CBR: Do you have any advice for a new business owner?
KG: Research, research, research! Make sure you get honest feedback on your idea, not only from people you know, but from strangers too. Then don’t be scared to take a chance. There are many people who have great ideas. But success is bringing that idea to life!
For more information on Playtime EDventures, visit their website at www.playtimeedventures.com. A special thanks to owner and CEO, Kevin Gatlin, for sharing his story with us!