With a degree in chemical engineering and a Harvard MBA, Sandra Oh Lin could have taken her career in many directions, and in fact, she did. She began working at Procter & Gamble, and eventually landed in Silicon Valley, working at startups like PayPal and then at eBay where she led the rollout of their fashion marketplace. Under her leadership, eBay Fashion rose to a $2 billion business.
When she wasn’t in the office, Sandra was spending time with her two young kids and found that keeping them engaged was a second full-time job. Using her engineering mind and inherent creativity, she often set up play dates with her children’s friends and their parents where they would create elaborate crafts and science experiments, and other creative hands-on projects. Intrigued by the intricate crafts as well as the educational themes, the parents encouraged her to make a business out of this concept.
The idea for KiwiCo was sparked and Sandra launched the company in 2011 after market research showed that exposing children to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) concepts was important to parents, but many didn’t have the time, energy, or resources to research and execute homemade projects.
Now, KiwiCo is the leading subscription box service for kids, developing award-winning, hands-on projects and activities designed to spark children’s curiosity and creativity. In today’s screen-obsessed society, KiwiCo’s mission is to encourage the next generation of tinkerers, creators, and innovators to build the creative problem-solving skills needed to succeed in life, through hands-on projects.
As the original product designer, Sandra has built the company to roughly 100 employees—the largest team being the product design engineers, whose job is to ensure that each KiwiCo project delivers against that mission. The KiwiCo team spends over 1,000 hours designing and testing each crate—and before the projects are sent into the world, they have to pass through the toughest critics: kids. Every project goes through multiple rounds of testing with kids—and no crate gets a green light without a wide-eyed, “Whoa, awesome!”
KiwiCo currently has seven product lines designed for toddlers all the way to young adults. From the Tadpole crate for babies up to age two, to the Eureka Crate, where kids aged 14-plus can build an actual functioning product—like a mechanical pencil sharpener or working desk lamp—there’s a line to spark the interest of every kid (and kids at heart!)
KiwiCo is headquartered in Mountain View, California, where Sandra resides with her family. So why the name ‘KiwiCo’? As a favourite travel destination, Sandra has a great deal of respect for the country of New Zealand—as well as its iconic bird. “I loved the natural beauty of the country, and so admire the friendly, adventurous spirit of its people,” she said. “That spirit of adventure, innovation and creativity are all qualities that KiwiCo hopes to instil in children across the world.”
KiwiCo now has over $100 million in sales and ships crates all over the world. Now a mum to three, Sandra’s deep desire to encourage them to love learning and become creative individuals keeps her inspired to grow the company—which offers parents a seamless way to present fun, enriching and engaging projects to their kids, right to their doorstep each month.