Some people joke that Jenn Chin’s job is to play with toys all day.
In truth, the Cal Poly alumna is the chief product officer and co-founder of Toybox, a company that allows children to 3D print their own toys. With Toybox CEO and co-founder Ben Baltes by her side, Chin struck a $150,000 deal on “Shark Tank” in March 2019 to expand the company’s vision.
After graduating in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic communication and a minor in computer science, Chin met Baltes and three other Toybox co-founders in 2016. Baltes owned a 3D printer, which she said they used to test different printing ideas from shoes to lampshades.
“With most of the things we were printing, I felt like I was a kid playing with toys again,” Chin said. “We thought ‘Wouldn’t it be so inspiring to help the next generation feel like they could do anything?’”
Through the Toybox app, children can choose from more than 750 designs to print on their Toybox 3D printer, or they can create their own design. Marketed as “the last toy you ever need to buy” on the Toybox website, the printer itself costs $299.
Chin said that since children are the future, it is important to start inspiring them at a young age to think outside the box.
“It’s so empowering to see how easy it is to make them happy,” Chin said. “Their smiles are infectious.”
The “Shark Tank” episode took months of preparation for Chin and the other Toybox co-founders. After starting the 50-page application process in March 2018, followed by video applications and multiple rounds of interviews, Chin and Baltes were among the less-than-one-percent of applicants to pitch their idea to the sharks. They filmed the episode in June 2018.
They asked for a $150,000 investment for 5 percent equity in Toybox.
“It was the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Chin said. “It felt like you had zero control the whole time.”
Chin and Baltes negotiated a deal with Kevin O’Leary, who offered to invest the full $150,000 and settled on a 13 percent equity with 2 percent in advisory shares, according to Business 2 Community.
Baltes said Chin brought a unique eye for design to the Toybox team. In the company’s early stages, before there even was a product to sell, he said they were still able to secure deals due to Chin’s strong design abilities.
“When developing the Toybox idea, she brought the face of the company,” Baltes said. “Anything you see on our platform — all the toys to the actual 3D printer packaging — it’s all Jenn.”
Chin said she had always been interested in making technology accessible and enhancing the user experience during her four years at Cal Poly. She said she wanted to gain further knowledge from outside the graphic communication department.
Adding a computer science minor as a female liberal arts major was challenging, Chin said. However, a source of inspiration came from computer science professor Hasmik Gharibyan, who taught her in 2013.
“I just hope there are more people like Jenn — so determined and so not afraid of hard work,” Gharibyan said. “Without that, she wouldn’t be where she is.”
Chin said that although creating a startup turned her life upside down, it was worthwhile to see Toybox come to life.
“It’s really rewarding because I feel like I’m actually contributing to something,” Chin said. “I’m achieving my dreams while allowing kids to achieve theirs.”