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MomTalk.com November 24, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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An Ex-Ad-Gal-Turned-Mom Spreads Good Chair: Notable Minnesota Moms

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By Rey Tabborak


Do you happen to be a parent of a crafty kid who spends all their time dreaming up the next project: cutting, pasting, painting, collaging, pretty much anything that creates a mess? Do you often find yourself buying yet another activity kit, with puzzling instructions, that is, at the end of it all, a big exercise in packaging waste, not to mention dismal outcomes?


I happen to be one such parent of a six-year-old, an ex-advertising executive-turned-mom, who never thought I'd seek my chaotic past in marketing, only to find myself as the marketing engine of a new product my husband and I have created, the Elia cardboard mini chair.


Over 14 years ago, my husband Michael Gross (who was then studying architecture at McGill in Montreal, Canada), designed an adult size cardboard chair as part of his course requirements. The chair enjoyed some commercial success, but my husband continued with his studies instead of pursuing furniture design. When we met about 10 years ago, I was asked to sit on the chair which was part of the minimalist furnishings at his bachelor pad in Chicago. When the look on my face displayed my insecurity in doing so (would any woman feel comfortable unloading her entire weight on something made of cardboard?), Michael took a seat on the chair and motioned for me to sit on his lap. Well, in what was definitely a leap of faith and a determining moment in our relationship, I took that chance. The chair withstood both our weights (over 300 lbs) and I never looked back. We married and moved to the US a couple of years later (from Canada), and the chairs served as our dining room chairs in our home. The design is modern and in sync with our minimalist aesthetic, and most of our friends thought they were cool enough to reproduce.


reyschair1.jpgOur inspiration for the redevelopment of the adult chair into a kid's activity kit was sparked primarily by our roles as parents of a crafty kid, and my first hand experience at do-it-yourself (mommy!!!!!!) kits. Add to that, our love of modern furnishings and lack of affordable alternatives for children, and our heightened sense of environmental responsibility, (did I mention my disdain for messy craft projects?), and we had the makings of a great product--one that we're so proud of, we named it after our daughter, Elia.


The Elia cardboard mini chair kit includes the makings of one chair and six, 12"x12" sticker sheets in vibrant colors for children to decorate to their hearts' content. Kids can also use their own decorating materials such as paint, glitter, and markers. We have a few around our house that are covered in Hello Kitty gift wrap and stickers, and I can see a collaged Hannah Montana version in our near future. The chair (and its packaging) is not only made from 80% recycled material, but it's 100% recyclable, AND it's reversible so that there are two chances at decorating your own unique chair. Finally, the chair is actually functional (supports up to 200 lbs), which is a huge relief to any parent who finds him/herself throwing out what fell out of the kit they just spent good money on. You've gotta love the concept of a guilt free activity kit.


Our mini-chair was launched at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this past April to great reception from parents and children alike. The chair has also been an easy sell at specialty toy, furniture, and lifestyle stores both in Minneapolis and LA. We are hoping to broaden our reach in the US and Canada.


This really has been a labor of love for our family, and developing it has been enriching for us not only as parents, but as advocates of responsible consumption in general. Of course, the job of a mommy is never quite done. Our company is still in its infancy, and I find myself nursing its new baby and planning on its expansion. And it helps that the ex-ad-exec-turned-mom is also getting her kicks returning to her passion in marketing.


The chairs are manufactured locally at Liberty Carton in St. Louis Park, and are thus even 'greener' than you'd dream them to be with very little carbon footprint. The chair is being sold for $29.99 at the Walker, Creative Kidstuff, bebe babble, kiddy-wampus, the Children's Theater, and Bachman's.


Please visit our site EliaFun for more information.


Rey and her husband Michael are originally from Toronto, Canada, and currently live in Minneapolis with their daughter Elia. The family considers the inspired new Guthrie Theater, the Yoga Center of Minneapolis, and Bryant Lake Bowl their favorite digs on weekends.



Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, Feature Stories, MomShare,

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New FeatureRelated Articles: Notable Minnesota Moms:Kristi Anderson and Stephanie Nelson, Notable Minnesota Moms: Elisa Knudson,

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