Bay couple creates unique homemade toys
Since 1999, parents Kenn and Marnie Louis have been hard at work in the basement of their Bay Village home. It is there (as well as in the attic), that the couple design and produce a doll that combines technology with nature, called a GrowBot.
GrowBots are made from fleece, felt and fabric – using locally-sourced and sustainable products whenever possible. Since each doll is made by hand, no two are alike. This connection entices many parents, especially given the mass-produced toy recalls of the last decade. According to Kenn, they “find that people really respond well to the fact that our stuff is not just made in America but made in Bay Village, Ohio.”
Kenn works full-time for a local software development company, and Marnie is a stay-at-home mom. Despite their busy lifestyle, they still manage their GrowBot business. Kenn, with a background in illustration, character design and printmaking, handles much of the initial character design and illustration. He then screen prints them onto fabric. From there, Marnie designs and develops the product and oversees its production. She stays abreast of design, fashion and home decor trends to ensure they're on the right track.
GrowBots is truly a family business. They even have a professional product tester in their four-year-old son, Kai. “If we give it to him, and he doesn’t want to give it back, we have a winner!” Marnie said.
When asked if the recession has hurt their business, Kenn said, “Amazingly, it hasn’t. We credit that to the handmade revival taking place now. People want to know where the things they buy come from.”
The Louis' business continues to grow, as they’re expanding to include home décor items and accessories. GrowBots will appear in BAYarts and other area craft shows for the holidays, and are available online at http://growbots.etsy.com.