Starter Series—PLAE

Team Mamalode reviews & interviews

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The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.

Interview with Ryan Ringholz, founder & chief designer, PLAE

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
A couple of years ago, a top executive from one of the major players in the industry asked if I’d want to design kids shoes. At the time, I never even entertained the idea, but then it got me thinking, “Why wouldn’t I do kids shoes?” I looked at the shoes my kids (who were 3 and 5 at the time) were wearing and thought, “If I were to create shoes for kids, what would it look like, how would it feel, etc.?” So I gave myself a project, and it eventually turned into PLAE.

What do your kids think about your job?
I don't think they think of it as a job. They know that I make PLAE shoes but not of it as work. It’s like if a kid does an art project, it's not work, it's fun. They're making something, so they think of what I do as a big project.  So they know there's a company, and there's Daddy's company, but they don't think much of Daddy having a job. And they're both great little salespeople; they've recruited all their friends to be PLAE kids…so they feel it's as much their company as anyone else's.  

Tell us about a total dad + biz fail?
A total parenting/biz fail is the moment when my professional self ran into my personal self. It’s how you feel when you first get pulled over for a ticket, that sinking feeling like ‘uuuuhhh.’ The failure was that I never realized that I would even do kids shoes, the very idea of designing kids shoes had never even crossed my mind. The guilt of that realization was really the impetus for PLAE.

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
The biggest win with this whole thing is that we have this thriving company. The people that we have, the culture that we've created. It’s like phoenix rising—from that  total biz fail—the notion that something could come out of it and have what we have right now is incredibly rewarding. We’re creating a fun environment where everyone loves to come to work every day. It's not just a job. The idea that we're doing something greater here is pretty humbling, and it’s evidenced in the letters we receive and the comments we get through social media. That we've touched people’s lives seems like such a little thing, but we're able to give the community something to get excited about. Being able to do something bigger than just me, growing a company and the community, and making a difference by just making great shoes. It still seems crazy to me, how a pair of shoes can transform the lives of parents and their children, and yet it does, from what we're hearing. That’s the win—creating top notch products with people who love what they’re doing and sharing it with our community.

What's your relationship with Mamalode?
It never ceases to amaze me how honest kids are, and the 'Quotable Kids' sidebar is a fun reminder of that.

Interview with Jonathan Spier, CEO, PLAE

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
As a tech startup guy, kids shoes were the last thing I thought I’d do. Until I met Ryan. We hit it off quickly, realizing that we shared a passion for play and that adults weren’t getting enough of it. As new dads, our kids were constant reminders of that. Ryan convinced me that tech + retail can totally change the world, and the idea of us carving out this market really lit me up, so that's how I came to PLAE.

What do your kids think about your job?
Max (age 6) calls himself a “partner” in the company and likes to give me pictures of shoes to “help Ryan” create our designs. He has had to be told a few times to stop “selling” PLAE to his friends…he's kind of a high pressure sales kid. And besides, his friends are all in PLAEs already.

Tell us about a total mom + biz fail?
Pre-PLAE. Traveling 150,000 miles when Max was one. Realized I was going to miss his whole childhood if I didn't change something. I needed to be a part of a business that my son could understand and even be a small part of (i.e., a shoe named for him). Now, I'm on a business trip in Tokyo…with Max and his mom. Finding ways to create a company (hard work!) while still protecting my precious time with family. 

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
Seeing our shoes on Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck's kids the first time was pretty fun. So was hearing that we'll be rolling out to our first Nordstrom stores this holiday season. But tops so far was probably BatKid…or those first customer emails.

What’s your relationship with Mamalode?
“Quotable Kids” is great for a quick laugh because it never surprises me what can come out of a kid's mouth; they really do say the darndest things.


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