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These Palo Alto teens prove that cute and clever is a winning combination

Palo Alto sisters Sydney and Toni Loew, teen entrepreneurs, with their namesake Pokettis

Losing an iphone in your covers might not be a problem for most adults, but for teen sisters Sydney and Toni Loew, it was an annoyance they were determined to solve. Looking around at the stuffed toys that filled their Palo Alto home, the girls had an epiphany: What if we combined a plushie with a pocket so kids could keep their phones or (other fragile items) safe in bed? And what if we called it.. Poketti?

Cute and clever= Poketti

Sydney the penguin was the first Poketti. Photo by Poketti

Sydney the penguin was the first Poketti. Photo by Poketti

While many girls might dream of creating a business, these two sisters actually took their idea and made Poketti into a company that has not only caught the eye of major media outlets, but also won a national award.

Unique entrepreneurial program helps launch first Poketti

The initial Poketti prototype was developed in 2013 when Sydney took a seventh grade class in entrepreneurism at Girls Middle School. After the first batch of Pokettis sold out, the girls knew they had the potential for a business.

Middle school kids in Palo Alto with Pokettis. Photo by Poketti.

Middle school kids in Palo Alto with Pokettis. Photo by Poketti.

Taking Poketti to market

Step one? Design a collection of Pokettis that would appeal to kids and adults of all ages. The girls created a penguin named ‘Sydney’ because that is the older sister’s favorite animal, a bunny named ‘Toni,’ (of course), a sweet kitty named Roxi and a sporty puppy named Baxter.

Step two? Tap into an incredible in-house talent pool to take Poketti from idea to market. Not surprisingly, Toni and Sydney’s knack for creating cool ideas runs in the family, as their dad Chris Loew is a renowned product designer who worked at IDEO and helped design the Orbit stroller, and their mom Kris Loew (not a typo) is a graphics expert with strong organizational skills.

Sydney designing the first Pokettis. Photo by Shopstarter.

Sydney designing the first Pokettis. Photo by Shopstarter.

Kickstarter leads to attention from Huff Post and others

Working together, the family created an adorable Kickstarter video, complete with stop action animation, which quickly raised its target of $20,000 in August 2013.  Along the way, Sydney and Toni’s story was picked up by The Huffington Post, a blog on Shopify and other media outlets.

With this ‘seed money’ in hand, Kris Loew took the lead on finding a manufacturer. Although she hoped to manufacture in America, she ended up working with a middle man based in Chicago who could get the Pokettis made at the same factory in China that produces goods for UNICEF.

Distribution through Etsy, boutiques and more

Poketti’s cute design and inspiring story has helped the plush toys move quickly, selling at local boutiques and online through the Poketti website, along with EtsyAmazon.com and other stores.  “We don’t go to the big toy stores because we just get lost,” Sydney said. “Small retailers love our unique story and they often put the Pokettis on a special shelf with information about our company, which really helps with sales.”

2015 brought awards and more- Shark Tank?

During the past year, Poketti was recognized by the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market with an Icon Award for branding, and the girls were featured in a video that chronicled their journey.  Poketti also caught the attention of the producers of Shark Tank, who are interested in featuring Toni and Sydney in an upcoming season of the show.

As the girls look towards the future, they are phasing out their first collection of Pokettis and are busy designing the next group. Spoiler alert: a pony and monkey are on the short list, although the animals have not been finalized yet.

Balancing school and business takes the whole family

Sydney, Toni and Kris Loew of Poketti

Sydney, Toni and Kris Loew of Poketti. Photo by Palo Alto Pulse.

Toni and Sydney, now in 8th and 10th grades respectively, have busy lives typical of Palo Alto teens, with homework, ballet classes, and other responsibilities. So how do they keep Poketti going? The answer: it’s a family effort. “I help Poketti with branding and marketing,” said Kris, “but the girls are really in charge of distribution.”

“We love packing and shipping the Pokettis,” Toni said. “We put notes and stickers in each shipment and it’s fun to add our personal touch.”

As to dad Chris Loew’s role? “He comes in for last minute design help, such as the crucial question of where to put Poketti Baxter’s ears,” said Sydney. “We had a big fight about it, but he won and he was right!”

While managing a business with two teenagers might sound like a recipe for conflict, the sisters and Kris all emphasized the positive impact Poketti has had on their family. “During the teen years, kids tend to separate,” Kris said. “But working together on something we are passionate about has brought us closer.”

Poketti gives back and fosters entrepreneurism for other kids

The girls forged partnerships with local organizations to give Pokettis to kids in need, including Ronald McDonald House, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and Project Night Night. “When kids check in at Packard Hospital, they all get a Poketti to comfort them,” said Toni.

Sydney started an entrepreneurial club at her high school, Castilleja, where she shares her experience with other girls, and she hopes to continue building on Poketti as she looks toward college and beyond. “Launching a business as a young entrepreneur is cool because we can change it as our interests evolve. For example, we could move Poketti into technology, virtual reality and more as we get older.”

Baxter, Toni and Roxi- where's Sydney? Photo by Palo Alto Pulse.

Baxter, Toni and Roxi…but where’s Sydney? Photo by Palo Alto Pulse.

Whatever the future brings for Poketti, these two girls are bound to continue inspiring other kids – and adults- to take an idea and make it happen. They certainly inspire us!

Get a great deal on Pokettis…while Sydney, Toni, Baxter and Roxi are still here

To buy Poketti, visit the Poketti website. Shop now as the first collection will not be around forever…and it’s on sale! Poketti makes a great holiday gift for a ‘kid’ of any age.

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.