Exclusive Interview: P’Kolino
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Kids need a lot of things to grow into the healthy and happy adults they were meant to be. And while food, clothes and a roof over their head is important, there’s one thing they need a lot of that’s tons of fun: play. The children’s furniture and toy company P’Kolino (pronounced Pee-ko-lee-no) are experts in creating products that encourage play, are safe for kids to use and parents won’t feel like are an eyesore for their house.
Founders J.B. Schneider and Antonio Turco-Rivas know a thing or two about what kids want; as dads themselves they understand how vital the worlds of play and imagination factor into producing creative, open-minded and talented grown-ups uniquely in tune with tackling the problems of the future. Going off of plenty of experience and intuition, they also employ much research into the science of play, maximizing their products to increase all sorts of development in kids. They also value and utilize collaboration–working with tons of smart and talented folks and working with kids to give feedback on their designs.
Creativity isn’t just reserved for their furniture and toys; the founders and designers at P’Kolino understand that business itself is a kind of art–and infuse every aspect, from marketing to design, with creativity. We got to talk with J.B. about the company’s beginnings, his own background and just where the unique name P’Kolino comes from:
Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use
under Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
You better believe we’ve got a transcript for this interview below. And we believe in this product so much…we sell it! Find P’Kolino on 2Modern. As always, you can download the interview if you’d like: Pkolino 2Modern Interview
2M: We are talking with J.B. Schneider, who along with his business partner founded the fabulous kid furniture company P’Kolino, focusing on fun products meant to encourage play. Thanks for being here!
JS: Oh you’re welcome Adrienne thank you, thank you very much.
2M: I just have to ask where you guys came up with the unique name of your company first.
JS: P’Kolino is a term of endearment in Italian for children. I think literally it means ‘little one’ or ‘little little.’ We spelled it a little differently so we could put some branding around it. The origin of the name came from Antonio who has some family with Italian heritage and he refers to his nephew as p’kolino. When it came to naming the company, it was right there, and it’s something that had a fun ring to it. You’ll hear later that everything we do focuses on play and playfulness, and we liked the way that that aligned with the philosophy of the business we were creating.
2M: Even without reading a synopsis of your business, just one look at your website and you can tell that you guys are just so full of fun and so full of encouraging play, how did a business centered around play spring up?
JS: You know, we’re parents. And at the time that we started we had very young children. I had four children within 5 years, so they’re very tight together and there’s a lot of play going on. And Antonio has two. At the time we were looking to start a business together, it was something that was at the forefront of what was going on in our lives and we saw an opportunity to improve play at home not just from a furnishings perspective but from the whole aspect of play at home, from arts to toys to bringing all that creativity together. It is an evolution and it’s going to continue to evolve, but it’s all around improving that play experience at home. We see that every day in our lives with our families.
2M: Yeah, well you read so much about the science of kids needing play, needing that kind of encouragement and inspiration. Do you guys go into the science part of it? Or is it based on intuition from just having so many kids?
JS: Well I think when you’re designing you have that intuition, but you also have to do that research, because, two heads and certainly more heads, are better than one. So the more information you can gather the more empowered you are to design good products. So yes we do research, we do look at the science, we have designers on staff that focus on the aspects of child development, not just the physical characteristics of child development from the furniture side, but also the cognitive development, the creative development, the motor skills development from the toys and arts and crafts perspective. It’s very important in what we do and it’s something we’re looking at all the time and sometimes it’s great to have the children available to test out those theories, so it all comes together really well.
2M: You and your partner’s kids totally come in and test out prototypes or do you guys ship in other kids?
JS: Oh yeah absolutely, and friends and family. You know it’s great too; we have a very vocal customer base, so we get to see a lot of that feedback every day.
2M: And you guys are in Florida, correct?
JS: We are. We love it down here. We started in Boston. The business started while we were in the MBA program at Bapson, which is in the Boston area. We started the business in the middle of the program, so we had one more year to go in the graduate program. Beyond that we stayed in Boston one year. We had some services in kind we were rewarded by several business competitions so we had office space there for a year. I love Boston tremendously, but I think we hit one of those Nor’easter winters…the story Antonio likes to tell is we took a later Latino lunch–which Antonio is Venezuelan so we tend to take these later lunches–and we’re walking back from lunch and it’s dark outside. Coming from South Florida where he’s from it was such a shock. And when you’re looking at starting a business that is really based on your creativity and your energy on a day-to-day basis, and it’s that constant passion and enthusiasm you need to have, I think the sunshine helps and the weather helps, and not having to battle snow and all of that. So Florida has been tremendous for us. We’ve found some great talent down here and we certainly—I’m looking at palm trees out of my window right now and the sun’s coming out and I talked to some of my friends up North and I know they have a foot of snow so–we’re pretty happy out here.
2M: Sounds like you have something figured out.
JS: Yeah you can work anywhere you want these days. And if you’re gonna start a business and move it why not start it where you enjoy it?
2M: I couldn’t agree more. Well, what is your specific background like? It sounds like there’s some business there, but have you always been interested in design?
JS: Yeah I have. I’ve always been interested in creativity. I’ve always had a creative leaning. But I think I consider myself an entrepreneur first, and that really is engrained in me from the very beginning. Visiting my grandfather’s factories and visiting my father’s business and just seeing how business can be so creative. I think people have a sense that business is counting beans, but it’s fabulously creative. Everyday you have to have a new solution to a problem and you have to think creatively for those solutions and creatively how you’re going to manage all aspects of a growing business. Starting a business is increasingly challenging and creatively really helps. I had one person tell me that they’re an artist. And I said what is your art? And they said business. I’ve always been involved in business in the creative industries. My first love is marketing and advertising, and really reading the market and understanding the market. I think that that complements business very well. But I don’t think there’s anything more gratifying than seeing a physical product come from someone’s head to manufacturing to the shelves in a store to a home and seeing someone really enjoy that. Whether it’s a parent raving about it online or a child just having a blast playing with the products. That to me is the full complement of creativity. Being able to use the analytical side, the business side, and also that creation side, creating the product for the right market—it’s very gratifying.
2M: What’s up on the horizon for you guys? Do you guys have new product lines or do you guys go to shows?
JS: Well we’ve got a lot going on. Some of them will happen some of them won’t…We just came from the toy fair; we’re becoming more and more play in general so the fair was a really exciting one for us. We introduced at that show some new furnishings. We have a line called Café con Leche, which is a dark wood with a white [accent], so it really elevates…it’s has a very sophisticated, modern urban feel. So it’s a little bit of a departure from some of the playfulness, but it just looks gorgeous. We’ll continue to develop the furnishing line, so that Café con Leche line will have our bed, our tables and chairs, children’s desks, so you create an entire room environment with that look, or you can mix some of our more colorful items with that and kind of change up the environment. You know we like to have a little playfulness in there for the children. We have more in the range of arts, toys—focusing on that creative development. We’re very focused right now on creating what we call creative problem solving. Kind of what I alluded to before, looking at the challenges and coming up with creative solutions. You’ll notices a lot of our products have multiple solutions or multiple solution puzzles, puzzle stackers…a lot of our toys have different ways to use your creativity, to use your creative problem solving capabilities to come up with a solution. I think that that’s important in today’s society where we are so creatively driven, that we continue to enforce that in our children’s development. That children have the ability to come up with alternative solutions and find the one that’s gonna best fit them or the challenges around them. For us it’s not all about furnishings, we don’t always have—we’re not always looking into moving into the next style arena. So there are different things about what we’re doing and as we continue to evolve and move forward as a company, I think you’ll see some of that.
2M: Well thank you so much for speaking with us today.
JS: Oh you’re very welcome, thank you for having me.
2M: Be sure to visit pkolino.com. You’ve been listening to a 2Modern designer podcast, for more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2Modern.com