A Real Toy Story: St. Louis University Entrepreneur Lachlan Johnson

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in Featured Stories, Innovation Tuesday | 0 comments

Click here to hear KMOX Radio’s Charlie Brennan’s 2/4/2014  interview with Lachlan Johnson

Seven years ago, Lachlan Johnson, along with her older sister and younger brother, built a successful business by creating a combination toy and fashion accessory for kids that is now carried online, and in hundreds of retail stores across the country.  Johnson sold that business last year, and now, she and her brother are planning to create their own toy company, one that will offer toys to pre-teens, but will target an older demographic as well.

That’s pretty ambitious stuff for just about anybody.   It’s even more impressive when you consider Lachlan Johnson is 18 years old.

The Charlotte, North Carolina native has a lot on her plate these days.  Just back in St. Louis, where she is a freshman at St. Louis University, Johnson spoke with InnoVox STL by phone this week, eager to talk about both the product she helped create, and the company she’s in the process of creating.

First things first.

In 2007, Johnson, her sister Erin and brother Jake founded Flipoutz, a line of interactive bracelets designed for kids.

“We came up with it on a long ride home from the beach.  It was about a three or four hour drive.  I think I was 11 years old.  My sister and brother and I were bickering over something and my mom, in an effort to keep us occupied, asked if each of us could have one toy, what it would be.   We put our ideas together and he result was Flipoutz.”

Flipoutz, according to Johnson, are silicone bands that hold up to five small coins.   “The coins have pictures of your hobbies, your interests, your favorite quotes,” she says.  “You wear the coins in your bracelet.  You can pop them out and trade them with your friends.  On the back of each coin is a code, and if you go online and type in the code, you can track the coin as its traded.”

The backseat brainstorming session that produced Flipoutz got a boost in 2011 when the Johnson kids pitched their new product on the popular ABC television show Shark Tank.  Flipoutz received a commitment of $100,000 from the show, contingent on the acquisition of a patent, but more importantly the Johnson kids formed a relationship with Shark Tank investor Daymond John, helping the bracelets become a bit of a national phenomenon.   Flipoutz went from being carried in ten stores, to more than 300 nationwide, including ToysRUs and Hallmark stores.    “We didn’t think we’d take it as far as we did,” says Lachlan Johnson’s mother Emily.  Not willing to rest on their laurels, or bracelets, the Johnson’s sold Flipoutz, for an undisclosed sum, last year, to a newly created toy company called Wild Craze.

Now it’s on to the formation of her new company, the one she plans to start with her 15 year old brother Jake.  “We actually aren’t sure of the name, but Joxie is the name we’re working with.  It’s a combination of his name – Jake — and my nickname, Loxie.  So we put them together,” she says.  “As of right now we’re working on developing new products and we have some great ideas.”  She says she and her brother filed for a provisional patent on one of those ideas, and they are in licensing discussions about it with a major toy producer.

The fact that she will launch her new company while a studying at St. Louis University is a product of good fortune, and good marketing by the school.   As a member of the teen entrepreneurship organization Independent Youth, Johnson spoke at a conference at the university while she was still a student at Woodlawn High School in North Carolina.  While appearing in St. Louis she met Tim Hayden, who heads the university’s entrepreneurship program.  Hayden, says Johnson, was influential in her decision to come to St. Louis.

After graduation, Lachlan Johnson says she is interested in pursuing a career in marketing, but she says she does want to stay involved in her companies.

“I’m not exactly sure where I’ll end up in four years, but we’ll see,” she says.

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