Rent-to-own for the toddler set

Rather than splurging on the latest toys this holiday season, local entrepreneur Shannon McAfee wants you to rent them.

McAfee launched Toyconomy, a website where customers can order a toy for 30 days, in March.

“The idea came to me after the holidays in 2009,” McAfee said. “I have three kids of mine, and I just looked at all the new toys they got for the holidays. Combining that with what they already had, I saw that my house was being taken over by toys.”

While most parents donate old toys to thrift stores or hand them down to a niece or nephew, McAfee brought even more toys into her home as inventory for her startup.

The website features more than 270 items ranging in price from $3.74 to $52.99 for a 30-day rental. Customers can rent as many toys they want and pay shipping. If little Johnny becomes particularly attached to a special toy, don’t worry: There is an option to buy.

McAfee said she started Toyconomy out small, running the business from home with the help of family and friends. But sales have tripled, putting the company into expansion mode. Just before Thanksgiving, Toyconomy leased a 1,250-square-foot office/warehouse on Granite Ridge Road in Goochland.

McAfee also expects to start hunting for employees in the near future.

She said the most popular toy is the Leapfrog learning tablet, which rents for $34.99 a month. That product retails for $99.

“The business idea stemmed from my frustration as a parent realizing how much money you spend on toys, how quickly kids lose interest and how quickly they pile up in your house,” McAfee said. “I think more families are starting to realize the value of paying a fee to try it out first.”

Toyconomy launched a membership program in September for $9.99 a month. Members receive half off the rentals and enjoy free shipping and no due dates.

Most of Toyconomy’s customers are outside of Richmond. The startup has a couple of competitors nationally, including BabyPlays.com and Toygaroo.com.

“Toygaroo was on the Shark Tank [television program] earlier this year and received funding,” McAfee said. “I wish it would have been my company, but I see that as a great sign if there are investors like that.”

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Phoenix
Phoenix
8 years ago

I certainly wish her well. This is not, however, a novel idea. Toygaroo has had the “netflix of toys” model up and running for some time now.

Shannon McAfee
Shannon McAfee
8 years ago

Thank you for your well-wishes! Even though Toygaroo has received the national recognition, TOYconomy actually launched in March 2010 whereas Toygaroo launched in March 2011 as a toy rental service. Toygaroo even rented from us in the Fall of 2010, probably to compare how our service worked as they were getting ready to launch theirs. Aside from that, if you compare our two services, they are very different. We have a different approach to the rental model. We appreciate your thoughts and feedback!