Green Toys broke the mold with recycling

Green Toys founders Laurie Hyman and Robert von Goeben came up with the idea for a children's toy line made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk containers and started the business in a Silicon Valley garage. Now it's a $10 million a year business.
Green Toys

Green Toys founders Laurie Hyman and Robert von Goeben came up with the idea for a children's toy line made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk containers and started the business in a Silicon Valley garage. Now it's a $10 million a year business.

Ever heard of children’s toys being made out of milk containers? Neither had anyone else including the founders of Green Toys when they first came up with the idea. But that didn't bother Robert von Goeben or Laurie Hyman a bit.

Now—as the holiday toy selling season gets into full gear—the company’s whimsical, BPA-free plastic toy seaplanes and submarines (plus a whole lot more) for small tots are bright-colored proof: They're sold through 2,000 stores, including Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFM), Pottery Barn and Amazon, nationwide and across 75 countries with sales approaching $10 million this year. Besides being an environmentally friendly company that uses recycled materials (mostly milk containers) the company also makes everything in its San Leandro, California-based factory which means “Made in the USA” bragging rights.

“We started the company, literally, in a garage five years ago,” says von Goeben, a toy industry veteran and former venture capitalist who co-founded Green Toys with marketing guru Hyman. “At that time, we were an anomaly.”

The recession has driven the interest in Made in the USA goods. In some cases, consumers are interested in buying goods that support the domestic economy and employ Americans for patriotic reasons. In other cases, it's boutique, artisan-made stuff that they're after. Even Apple (Nasdaq: APL) CEO Tim Cook recently announced the company's investment of over $100 million to bring some of its production back to the United States, although the motives behind this more are not quite clear (is it the real deal or a publicity ploy?).

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