Editor’s Note: Rachael Classi is the founder and CEO of Tiny Earth Toys, who recently announced a $1.5 million seed round led by Bull City Venture Partners.  This post is one portion of a WRAL TechWire series on gratitude, published in November 2021.  

DURHAM – At Tiny Earth Toys, we’re thankful for a whole heck of a lot.  As a seed-stage company, we rarely take time to revel in the small wins that add up to huge strides.

We’re thankful, and incredibly proud, to be based in Durham.  And I write that with absolute sincerity, because our location in the Triangle has allowed us to connect with some of the most incredible investors, customers, and collaborators and this directly contributed to our early success.

Some of our earliest adopters and most loyal customers are based in this area—from right down the street from our downtown Durham office, to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.  These are families that—amidst a global pandemic—decided to change the way that they bring toys into their home.  They’ve trusted us to take care of sourcing, sanitizing, and shipping some of the most important items for their littlest loves.  The response we’ve seen to our rental model locally has been such an inspiration, from day one.

Because of our local following, we’ve had the opportunity to meet several of our customers in-person.  We’ve met stay-at-home parents who have, well, stayed at home a lot more in the past two years, and assumed a bigger role in their child’s education through play. We have handled toy exchanges for more than a few local foster parent superheroes who love having an option for age-appropriate toys as they open their homes to different children.  And we’ve heard from dozens of families who are simply looking for sustainable swaps at home and are glad to cut down on plastic and clutter.

Durham startup Tiny Earth Toys raises $1.5 million to keep plastic out of landfills

We’re thankful for the supportive startup ecosystem here.  The team at American Underground has accommodated every phase of our growth—from converting a 500 sq. ft. office into our warehouse filled with toy excitement, to allowing us to expand right next door when we brought on new hires.  It’s no coincidence that the AU community also fostered our relationship with Bull City Venture Partners who led our seed round in October.

Jason and David from BCVP also initiated our relationship with the founding team at Spoonflower.

Being able to connect with—and now be backed by!—seasoned startup veterans with extensive experience growing businesses in this area is something we don’t take lightly. It is alongside these advisors that we’ll be able to reach our next phase of growth.

Finally, I am—we are—thankful beyond measure for the team we’ve built.  I am so thankful we’ve found and hired the top-tier talent here in the Triangle.  It really is a special place, and there’s nowhere else we’d rather be headquartered.

I started this project in a spare bedroom.  Quite literally, that was our first warehouse.

In February, we packed up all of our kits on our back porch and lugged them to American Underground for move-in day a month later.

We launched Tiny Earth Toys in March of 2021 to a group of 300+ families, many of whom are local to the Triangle.  We’d never have the momentum we do today without the support of this community.  We’re so thankful to be a Triangle company and for all the support we’ve received over the last year.

Editor’s Note: Capitol Broadcasting Company owns American Underground.