GOOD

GOOD Maker Challenge Winner: Minnesota Toy Store Brings Play to Children and Adults

This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing...



This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support from UPS. We’ve teamed up to bring you the Small Business Collaborative, a series sharing stories about innovative small businesses that are changing business as usual for their communities and beyond. Learn how UPS is helping small businesses work better and more sustainably here.

This June, we announced the GOOD Maker Happy Side of Business challenge, which asked small business owners to tell us why they had the most innovative and outstanding customer service. We received a ton of great submissions, and we are excited to announce the winner of the $10,000 grant as Air Traffic Kites & Games of Burnsville, MN.


Air Traffic Kites & Games is on a mission to enrich people’s lives through play. And, fittingly, the idea for the store all started from a day at the beach. In 1987, owner, founder, and kite enthusiast Jim Henry began teaching curious strangers on the beach how to fly trick kites. And now 24 years later, Henry has gone from selling trick kites out of the back of a van to having six Minnesota-based toy stores that any child or adult can feel at home in.

Company owner and founder Jim Henry flying a kite (a Prism Snapshot 2.5, to be precise) at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. While it looks small in the photo, this kite can lift you off the ground in strong winds.

As you might imagine, the store is filled with items that make play fun. Shoppers will find classics like yo-yos and Frisbees, juggling equipment, and the latest specialty board games lining the walls of the stores top to bottom. But before shoppers get overwhelmed by the jam-packed shelves, Air Traffic’s incredibly helpful staff is ready to step in and offer guidance. “Air Traffic has, from its earliest days, been shaped by the staff members who so lovingly throw themselves into their work, and bring a passion for play to the table,” says Elissa Schufman, communications officer at Air Traffic.

The employees at Air Traffic go through two months of specialized training, including a crash course on European clown techniques. Yes—clowning. “We realized many of the principles of European clown would help employees navigate the chaos of retail, while encouraging them to respect customers, be genuine, and have fun,” says Schufman.


Air Traffic staffers at a kendama (Japanese wooden toy) competition. Left to right: Manager Kris Johnson; Ringmaster (a.k.a. Director of Operations) Jeff Kasper; Ian Tonkinson; Chris Jost; and Connor Neal.

Aside from clowning, employees-in-training learn the FISH! Philosophy, which is an employee training program based on four foundational principles: Play, Be There, Make Their Day, and Choose Your Attitude. The company has found that by empowering employees to be present and authentic during interactions customer smiles will follow. Shufman says, “Employee faces are priceless when they realize, ‘I’m being asked to have fun, play with customers, and make the world a brighter place!’”

After an employee has gone through the two month training course and heads onto the store floor, their job is to make sure every toy that goes into the hands of a child or adult is the best one for them. But don’t think it’s an easy in, easy out at Air Traffic stores. Employees have played and tested every toy in the store, and they want you to, too. The employees will demo anything they have in stock, all you have to do is ask.

Outside of the store, the team connects with the community through free and low-cost events to encourage play for all skill levels. With the $10,000 GOOD Maker Challenge grant, Air Traffic hopes to continue this tradition. “Because so much of our teaching is often physically tied to our stores, we miss out on teaching some of the kids who would most benefit from play role models,” says Shufman.

Air Traffic hopes they can reach more adult and kids from the Twin Cities to show how play can enrich their lives. “Air Traffic has purposefully cultivated an environment of whimsy, play, and expertise. When your story begins as ‘a guy selling kites out of the back of his van,’ how could you not?” says Shufman.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM4EeNxZsQs

Watch the video above to learn more about Air Traffic Kites & Games. View their winning submission here.

Want to learn more about GOOD Maker? Drop us a line at maker@goodinc.com, sign up for our email list, or check out past and current funding opportunities.

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics