Rachael Classi is the Founder and CEO of Tiny Earth Toys, an educational toy rental company curated by early childhood experts. Prior to founding Tiny Earth Toys, Rachael spent seven years building the women’s bicycle product line for Specialized Bicycle Co. in the Bay Area and two-plus years at Durham-based Teamworks.
Rachael received her MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business with concentrations in social entrepreneurship and corporate finance.
- What is in your pockets?
I always have my set of keys in my pocket and if our headquarters were anywhere else, that might not be the case. But we’re really proud to be headquartered at American Underground, and so I’ve got to carry my keys around for my fob to get in and out of the four different suites that we are currently occupying here. Most of the time I can also be found with an English breakfast tea bag in my pocket for my next caffeine fix. If I’m not going to be engaging with my phone, I leave it in my office or in my backpack, so that is very strategically not in my pocket.
- What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
Tiny Earth Toys is a high-quality toy rental business. Our mission is to build a society of environmental stewards to save Planet Earth, starting with our youngest learners. We rent and exchange high-quality Montessori-inspired toys, and we’re helping families minimize their consumption and access really great educational toys at the right time for their children.
The most exciting thing is how the team has grown. We launched our general release exactly a year ago. It was myself and one other woman—a woman who was the first to take the leap on something that was really unproven—and we just had our seventh full-time employee accept an offer on Friday, a front-end developer.
We’ve grown a really interesting and dynamic team and I’m excited about every single one of them. Looking back over the year, going from a two-person team that was packing boxes, refurbishing our inventory that was coming back to a team that has some functional categories is really helping us move a lot faster. I’m so excited to go into this summer with that behind us.
- What is your favorite coffee spot?
I’d have to say it’s Cocoa Cinnamon. There’s a location that’s less than a mile from my house and equal distance between our office and my house and so I find myself there a lot. They’ve also made it a little too easy to order online and just have it ready for pickup. But I definitely feel like they’ve got some of the best coffee around.
- What keeps you up at night?
The thing lately that’s been keeping me up at night and keeping my wheels turning is all of the pieces needed to continue to scale efficiently. It feels like all of systems need to level up all at once. Everything from the space needs that we have—we are constantly outgrowing our space—to the team that we need. It’s this macro question for me of what are all of the pieces and the foundation that needs to slowly be built for us to continue to serve the customers that are banging on the door?
Supply chain is the other really big one for me as an ecommerce business that relies on manufacturers. We don’t manufacture our own toys. All of the supply chain disruptions that have been talked about in the media have impacted our business significantly. So, preparing ourselves and making a plan for our business to exist in a world that has a lot of uncertainty related to supply chain is one of the trickier problems that we are working to solve. I love our supply chain partners, they’ve been phenomenal through all of this and we’re charting a path through it, but we got to get all of that locked down before the holiday season comes back around this fall. That’s the time that parents are looking for exciting new solutions and educational products for their children, so supply chain would probably be my end answer.
- What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I’m so biased to my neighborhood. I live in the Duke Park neighborhood and it’s been so convenient to walk right into that Geer Street location, across the street from my favorite coffee shop—and it’s Geer Street Garden. It’s a staple, and I just love sitting on the back patio. My husband and I went there on a date night recently and we just ordered all of their appetizers and just sat outside and saw a lot of people walking by and enjoyed really good food and a couple of really good drinks. I’m definitely pretty entrenched on that block; that’s my space.
- What is next for you or your organization?
What’s next is redefining how new parents, on a national scale, are purchasing and playing with toys. It’s our brand on a national scale. We just did a tally and we have now shipped Tiny Earth Toys to 47 states. It’s establishing our brand in a foothold in all 50 states. And it is changing the national conversation around consumption for young ones and families and being a solution for new parents as they’re navigating so many new experiences, and being present and available to help them.