Career 180: StrongHeart Fun, the biz of child’s play

New York apartments are notoriously tiny, and parents often struggle to find space for their kids’ toys. That spurred Priscilla Pineyro’s idea to create StrongHeart Fun, a rental company for children and toddlers’ soft play equipment, which is geared toward safely fostering movement and motor skill development. Prior to launching the business with her husband in February 2014, Pineyro, 26, spent four years as a broadcast engineer for NY1. The mother of two lives in Pelham Gardens.

Why did you leave NY1?

Engineering and especially working in the news field is a great industry and it’s really stable, all the engineers I worked with had been there for years. But I was at a time in my life where I really wanted to take some risks and challenge myself more, and since leaving I’ve definitely been more challenged and more fulfilled. And while I loved being hands-on with the equipment [in engineering,] I feel I really thrive in an environment where I can use my interpersonal skills more. While working in engineering I spent predominantly the time by myself in the equipment rooms.

How did you get the idea for StrongHeart Fun?

I got the idea when my first daughter was around 9 months old. She had started walking really early and I wanted her to have a soft, safe environment for her to continue developing her motor skills. So I had researched some equipment that she could climb on and play on, and after finding the products, I saw they were very expensive and also very space-consuming. And so I looked to see if there was anything available that I could just rent for a few hours at a time and there wasn’t anything available. So I moved forward with purchasing the equipment and I decided it was important for other mothers, especially in the New York area where space is an issue, to have these types of products available to them for their children as well.

Who designs and manufactures the toys?

There’s this company that I work with called Children’s Factory and they’re the ones who manufacture the products that I purchase and what I do then is rent them out as individual products, I put together packages and let my consumers decide whatever works best for them, for their space arrangement and the type of event that they’re having.

How does the rental service work?

All of the equipment, it basically has to be assembled. So what we would do is, the person would let us know which equipment they’re interested in, we would show up prior to the start of the time they want to have it and we would come in, deliver, set up and create a play-space for our client and we leave and let them have it for a few hours while they rent it out, and at the end of the rental time we come back and we disassemble everything and pick it up.

How many people work for you?

Currently it’s just myself and my husband who’s also a co-owner in the business.

What was an unexpected challenge in launching this business?

One unexpected challenge that I had was actually since there’s not any other company that does what we do in New York, it was hard finding an insurance company. We knew definitely since we’re working with children, one of the primary things we needed right away was to get insured and a lot of companies didn’t really know what we were about or if they could insure us, so it took us a while to find a company that was able to work with us before we could move forward.

Did you need any certifications?

No special certifications are required for the company just making sure that we’re insured thoroughly and that we handle our products correctly and are sanitary, since we’re working with kids it’s really important. Nobody comes in for inspection but it’s definitely something, you know we have to outline all of our policies and procedures with the insurance company in order to be insured with them. It’s called Markel Insurance Company.

How did your former career prepare you for this one?

It definitely helped a lot. Working as an engineer it taught me how to be an efficient problem solver and definitely working in the news industry in particular taught me how to kind of stay calm and think fast under a lot of pressure. And I feel like those are skills that are definitely essential in helping me launch my own business and be an entrepreneur.

What kind of profits have you made?

Profits have been really, really good, surprisingly well considering that this is our first year. There’s nothing else in New York that is really like this and so people have been learning about it, they’ve been booking up with us. We spent most of our profits though reinvesting it back into the company to continue growing it and moving forward.

How many customers have you had?

Over 75, probably close to a hundred.

Anything new coming up?

One of the things we’re focusing on immediately is expansion, so just looking into expanding inventory as well as hiring staff so that we can service more clients, because we book up very quickly, 10 months in advance. Also, because I’m an engineer, I’m interested in the manufacturing side of the business so I do have some products in development. I’m working on the designs and finding the fabrics and materials and foams that I want to use and then I coordinate with a seamstress on putting it all together, assembling it.

Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?

Get yourself financially fit. You might want to review your personal living expenses, pay off any debt and save money to invest into the career change.