Toy Industry Rebels Build an Invention Studio from Zero to One – Rebel Play

Rebel Play

In a bold move to shake up the toy and game industry, Rebel Play has emerged as a new invention studio that promises to break free from the ordinary. Their mission? To challenge industry norms, defy the predictable, and deliver toys and games that spark imagination. At the heart of Rebel Play’s brand is their enigmatic red blobbish mascot, Rebel. This ghostly figure encapsulates the creative spirit within each of us—a symbol of unbridled imagination.


“In its purest form, imaginative play is an act of rebellion,” declares Laurie Peterson, one of two founders of Rebel Play and toy industry veteran and former TAGIE Rising Star Toy Inventor of the Year. “You are conjuring up ideas that are not present to the senses. We aim to embody rebellious imagination with our new studio Rebel Play. The trick is finding a balance between delivering the unexpected and being on brand for our toy industry partners.”


Laurie Peterson established herself as an innovator and entrepreneur by creating a line of magnetic dollhouses called Build & Imagine. These award-winning construction sets paired building with imaginative play to encourage girls to develop early STEM skills. They were picked up by major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Target, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn Kids, QVC, and Amazon before being acquired by a top tier toy company. Laurie harnessed early-career experience as a producer of educational electronic toys during Leapfrog’s pre-IPO years, and later led marketing for the tech toy startup Sifteo, maker of Sifteo Cubes. With an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and more than twenty highly-awarded products under her belt, including Best Educational Toy of the Year, Most Innovative Toy of the Year, and Toy of the Year from TOTY, Laurie is a testament to the power of blending creativity with business sense.


Following selling her startup Build & Imagine, Laurie consulted at an R&D firm called FS Studio, where she met her Rebel Play invention partner Alvaro Gonzalez. “Alvaro and I teamed up on a strategy presentation and our collaboration just flowed,” gushed Laurie. “We stayed in touch and had a few calls where Alvaro shared with me his toy ideas. I had never worked with someone bubbling over with so much creativity and competence. Each call would end with us saying how great it would be to work together again. Then I helped Mary Couzin with the POP website and decided I had the appetite to re-enter the toy industry, but this time, as an inventor. I reached out to Alvaro and said: Let’s do it! I would not have considered the inventor path without him.”


With a history in video games and technology design, Alvaro Gonzalez bridges technology and play. As the Head of Product at the FS Studio, Alvaro tackled R&D for toy giants like Spin Master and Hasbro. He recently directed the augmented reality mobile game Ghostbusters Afterlife: ScARe. “With my technology design background, people are quick to assume that Rebel Play’s focus will be tech toys. There is some of that, particularly as we embrace AI both as a development tool and as a product feature, but we’re also geeking out in more traditional toy categories,” winked Alvaro. “Don’t be surprised when we pitch you a doll, family game, or collectible.”


The story of Rebel Play began as a series of collaborations. What was at first a few phone calls transformed into a flurry of daily messages exchanged over Slack, bridging the gap between the United States (Laurie) and Uruguay (Alvaro). In just the past few months, they amassed twelve toy and game concepts spanning various categories ready to pitch. With many more in the ideation pipeline. Yet Alvaro acknowledges it’s all fun and games until you get to the pitch: “If you are pursuing the inventor path, get ready to flex your disappointment muscle. A lot of inventor relations people will pass on your ideas, but they are incredibly welcoming as they do it. Maybe the ideas are too similar to other items in development, not differentiated enough, or just too much of a departure from their normal approach. We have to power through it. If you have the talent, failure will only come if you quit.”


Rebel Play’s Tips for Aspiring Inventors:

1. Ideas Galore Nurture a plethora of ideas and be willing to pivot. No idea is sacred. Prototype and test concepts using lean startup methodologies. Get to the pitch as efficiently as possible.

2. Embrace Rejection The path from idea to licensed product is lined with rejections, but resilience is the key. Success comes to those who persist through the setbacks.

3. Feedback is Gold During your pitch process, set your goal as getting an answer and collecting feedback, rather than seeking immediate validation. Each answer, whether a “yes” or a “pass,” is a stepping stone to improvement. 4. Financial Preparedness Acknowledge that turning ideas into market-ready products takes time. Financial stability and alternative income sources are essential during this journey. Best case scenario, you are earning royalties within a year or two. Prepare for the long haul.


“When starting out a new venture, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and have faith that you are headed somewhere meaningful,” shares experienced entrepreneur Laurie. “Working alongside Alvaro, and seeing the ideas we’re outputting, I have that faith.”


“It also helps drive us forward that we are on a mission,” adds Alvaro. “By questioning the status quo, Rebel Play can introduce kids to new play experiences and skills. Unbounded by gender norms and category expectations, we can unlock new play possibilities.” With their resilience and dynamic collaboration, Rebel Play Studio promises to ignite the creative spirit in us all. Join the rebel uprising and request a pitch meeting at (