Entertaining young ones out in public is a constant struggle—one usually solved by handing off a smartphone or tablet. But mother of three Christa Kutnar decided to take a different approach, creating portable, educational activities that kept her kids’ hands and minds occupied.
What started as a hobby turned into a business, Two Pink Balloons. She named the business for her two daughters, then had a son. Kutnar’s advice for other entrepreneurial parents? “Never name your business before you’re done having babies,” she says with a laugh.
Originally, when Kutnar first started playing around with embroidering educational prompts onto felt fabric, she took her products to local craft shows and markets like Charm at the Farm and Ruffles and Rust. Demand took off immediately, prompting her to design, embroider, and cut more than she ever thought she would. But her hunch had been right: More moms like her sought to keep their kids busy without resorting to screen time.
Today, she produces 60–75 subscription boxes full of activities every month. With subscription boxes, Kutnar can control how much product she makes each month while guaranteeing that eager customers will receive brand-new activities. Inside each box, subscribers will find at least one felt board activity, one signature handcrafted item, and two or three “busy bags” that work on fine motor skills for 3- to 6-year-olds. To keep generating these new themes and content, she enlists designers and teachers to help her brainstorm.
“I always say I’m a hustler, I’m a maker,” Kutnar says. “I had the hustle to package it cute, and I had the hustle to make a website. I have the hustle to do the things, [but] finding the activity and leaning on people to help me get it right—that was easy.”
Kutnar pours hours of effort into “doing the things”—cutting as many as 3,000 felt pieces, sorting them, and packaging them into either a preschool or kindergarten box each month. Her attention to detail is acute, going to the effort of putting little “snaps” onto certain items to make them spin—whether they’re the wheels on the bus or the windshield wipers on a car. Kutnar also double-layers her felt pieces, so they’re sturdier. Customers keep coming back because they know that she puts care and thought into the quality of each handmade piece.
She also puts thought into how moms can bond with their children through interaction with her activities. “There’s lots of, ‘Mom, you can help your child by doing this, you can set up this invitation to play and learn by doing a couple of these small things,’ ” Kutnar says. “Not just, ‘Here’s a game to play,’ but, ‘Here’s other ways that you can use it, and oh, by the way, these are the developmental milestones you’re hitting.’ ”
Looking to the future, Kutnar dreams of one day opening a brick and mortar store—if she can increase her efficiency and profitability. But for now, she’ll stick to subscription boxes, focusing on promoting 12-month subscriptions so she can tailor her boxes to contain all her best work.
“My message is changing just a little bit this year from an indefinite subscription to a, ‘You want to subscribe for 12 months, and you want all of these boxes, and I’ll give you a really great deal for that,’ ” Kutnar says. “Once you hit 12 months, [it’s] like, ‘Thank you so much, you have every product that I think is the best product I’ve ever made.’ ”