How I Discovered the Wisdom of Play and Created Funosophy

by Nancy Zwiers | 08 Aug 2021

The Bloom Report

How I Discovered the Wisdom of Fun and Created Funosophy

When my daughter, Nikki, was born in 1995, I knew I wanted to say “yes” to her as often as possible and minimize the “no’s.” This was my concept of positive parenting. 


With this as a goal, I decided to make and enforce as few rules as possible (related to safety) and to allow everything else. This meant that I was willing to accept minor hurts, even as I kept Nikki safe from serious harm. I was there as a safety net, but my physical daughter got to be physically adventurous at a tender young age. One parenting book exhorted “Don’t tell her to be careful; teach her how to be safe.” I was an adventurous spirit and that resonated with me. 


This strategy extended to keeping our possessions safe. As a toddler, when Nikki wanted to push buttons on the stereo system, I didn’t say no. Instead, I taught her how to properly turn it on and off. That empowered her (and she didn’t screw up the stereo settings). 


In my quest to achieve a friction-less parenting style, I eschewed commands and focused on motivating Nikki. What could be more motivating to a child than play? I developed the mantra: Use fun to get it done! We found a way to play no matter the situation. Even waiting in the pediatrician’s office became an opportunity to play-- in a time before screens, I would send my daughter on silly little missions in the room (e.g., Take baby steps to the table and tap 5 times). 


My approach was working so well, I started modeling this with friends. When one’s toddler son refused to stop playing to get his diaper changed, throwing a tantrum, I knelt next to him and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “Which corner do you want to get your diaper changed in?” and pointed his little body towards each of the corners in turn. He thought a beat, pointed to a corner, and trotted over. It almost felt like a magic power.


I learned that my natural creativity and playfulness was a real strength and I wanted to give less playful parents access to this effective parenting strategy. I created a product concept called Kid Q’s and that, coupled with the need for flexibility, became the impetus for leaving my executive position at Mattel in 1999 and starting my own company. I called it Funosophy, which means “the wisdom of fun.” Working with a highly creative team of former Mattel designers, we designed the product, patented it, and launched it into the specialty channel in 2001. I funded this effort by doing consulting, leveraging my success at Mattel to attract clients and help them grow.


For three years I worked parallel paths—developing and launching products as a small toy company and doing consulting with other, larger companies. I was working hard but was having difficulty generating revenue momentum with my products, one $100 order at a time. Ultimately, I had to confront the reality: My consulting was a profit center, and my product business was a money pit. When I realized I could work half as hard and make twice as much, I pivoted away from developing “funosophical” products and licensed Kid Q’s to another company as a successful exit strategy. 

 

I reframed Funosophy to mean “Wisdom in the World of Fun” and focused on consulting full time.  I built a virtual organization, attracted other corporate refugees (mostly working moms also yearning for more flexibility), and began a 16-year “funosophical” journey that allowed me to leverage my talents across a wide ranging set of pursuits: consulting, product design and development, branding, advertising, packaging, strategic brainstorm facilitation, research, journalism, licensing, representation, recruiting, industry lobbying, speaking, training, mentoring, inventing, and building a big broad network of industry friends. 


 

 

 

#GeniusofPlay #Funosophy