Unplugged on a Rug is a small business in New York City dedicated to the most important business of children: play. The company organizes 'Great Green Playdates' for parents and toddlers all around New York, and teaches parents how to go green with their kids. By designing the business around their young toddlers and babies, momtrepreneurs Natalie Cronin and Ofrit Peres seem to have solved the work-life balance struggle that so many small business owners face. The founders and creators of Unplugged on a Rug sat down with Inhabitots moms (and babies) to a Great Green Playdate in New York, where kids are given the chance to tinker with toys they make from recycled materials, and create connections through music. Natalie and Ofrit passed on the advice they learned in starting a business inspired by kids.
1. You CAN Do It!
The first lesson is one we were taught as children, but as adults we often forget. “Believe you can do it and it will change your life! It surely changed mine,” Ofrit tells us. Natalie was inspired by the founder of Kidville, Andy Stentzler, her employer and a key supporter of this small business. At a speech on entrepreneurship, he encouraged her to do what it takes to get her business off of the ground. “He planted the seed for me and there are so many women who could reap the economic benefits with their ideas as they serve their communities and of course their families!”
2. Make Stuff from Stuff
Natalie works as the Early Childhood Program Director at Kidville where she met Ofrit, a musician who taught Music Together. Together they observed that kids gravitate toward toys that were made from stuff already lying around. You know this if you have ever seen a young child with a simple cardboard box. Natalie holds the view that “out of the box” stuff is a platform for complex play, and their program encourages young children to make their own toys out of boxes, juice cartons, and yogurt cups. You can read more about their DIY toy making tips at Inhabitots.
3. Play Well With Others
The two have a collaborative and supportive working relationship that thrives off of creative play and a shared passion for teaching kids. As Natalie describes, “It is great to have a partner to brainstorm ideas with and together bring them to life.” Her partner Ofrit describes their relationship in a similar way, “Natalie is such an optimistic and talented person and doing this with her seemed like a dream.” One of their core ideas is that “giving back makes us good play partners,” and as such organize fundraising events for the Max Cure Foundation. By working together, the two create an idea and a vision that is larger and more sustaining that what they could do on their own.
4. Be A Rockstar When You Grow Up
Ofrit in particular struggled to find her path in life after moving to New York to pursue life as a performer/musician. She had set out to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a rock star, but it wasn’t until she had her baby that she realized that she got her most enjoyment from teaching kids to sing. “When my little Yahli came into my life everything changed and becoming a rock star and having a hit single on MTV no longer seemed real or as appealing. I knew I had to do something creative for myself and inspirational for others.” To Ofrit’s own children and the kids that she teaches, she IS a rockstar.
5. Kids as Muses and Testers
According to Ofrit, the event series “was inspired by the experiences we want most to share with our sons. We were laughing how we could change the world if we taught everyone how to recycle young and use everything up before throwing it away, then we realized we could do it, and should do it!” The two rely on their young kids as muses and testers. Natalie describes the experience as an organic process, “as a play artist, I am just tinkering and keeping open for ideas to impress my son.” Brainstorm sessions and working lunches happen with children fully present, at the center of their business meetings. Their work lives were designed to nourish their family experiences, their friendship, and the lives of their children. And if you still need more energy, Natalie advises you as any good mom would to “take your Vitamins!"
For more information on the 'Great Green Playdate' in Manhattan, check out this video I put together for my eco-baby website, Inhabitots.