Playful Planet: Open access to healthy choices

Karen and Bryan Duggan — shown with daughter Lily, 7, at Sweet Springs near their Los Osos home — started Playful Planet about five years ago.
Karen and Bryan Duggan — shown with daughter Lily, 7, at Sweet Springs near their Los Osos home — started Playful Planet about five years ago.

Karen Duggan was at a birthday party with her daughter, Lily, about five years ago when she had a “light bulb” moment.

During a discussion about Lily’s yoga class in San Luis Obispo, several mothers said they wished the teacher, Ahmed, could bring the class to their children.

She and her husband, Bryan, a director/cinematographer with a background in business development and marketing, thought, “we can bring this class everywhere ... on film.”

The initial idea morphed into, an online business that promotes children’s well-being and health. The target audience is children ages 3 to 8, and the company’s target market is parents, teachers and caregivers.

“Our mission simply stated is to empower kids and their families to be healthy and live sustainably,” said Duggan.

On the site, parents can find educational material — yoga videos through Playful Planet’s Storyland Activity series, electronic books, cooking videos and eco-friendly yoga gear, among other items.

Right now, Playful Planet sells mostly DVDs, Duggan said, adding that more than 8,000 units have been sold since the company’s inception. With the launch of their rebranded website in May, the Duggans now offer video downloads. As well, they are developing a 13-part “Storyland Yoga” TV series — on track to air in 2013 on PBS stations — and a companion curriculum and interactive mobile app for “Storyland Yoga.”

To start the company, the Duggans invested about $25,000 and had “agreements for deferred monies to get some talented people on board,” Duggan said. The pair launched the company and began selling the first product in March 2010 after another $50,000 was committed.

“We have been continuing to put money in to grow the company, with our current total investment being just below $150,000,” Duggan said, noting that the company has not broke even yet.

The company employs one part-time employee, who does social media and outreach. It also works with consultants who perform specific tasks such as underwriting and curriculum development.

Duggan, who considers herself a “mompreneur,” and promotes the company through personal outreach to press and fellow moms who blog, said the vision is to become the trusted place where parents and caregivers can go for socially responsible products and resources.

With the rise of obesity among children and a planet with increasingly scarce resources, the Duggans believe Playful Planet can be a success. They remain committed to building the business so that their daughter and other children around the world can make “decisions from a place of knowledge and compassion.”

“We know that a major population (of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability group) is out there that will find our materials supportive of the lifestyle and mission they are already promoting,” Duggan said. “It is our vision to expand our reach to provide an opportunity to be healthy to underserved children who live in inner cities and third-world communities, where access to programs like ours may not be available.”