Laurel Wider is a psychotherapist with a speciality in gender, relationships and identity development. She’s also a mom and Founder of Wonder Crew, toys that bring emotional intelligence and creativity to boys’ play.
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Can you tell us a little about your career as a Psychotherapist? What led you to this career and would you consider it creative in any way?
I’ve been in private practice for over 10 years. My specialties include: gender, identity development and relationships. I’ve always been interested in understanding how people tick. I remember back in grade school, my first paper was on dreams. This is just part of who I am. I love being a therapist; it’s rich and rewarding. And yes, it’s certainly creative — I get to help people explore many ways to see and approach challenges.
How did your background as a psychotherapist give you the inspiration to develop your own product?
As a psychotherapist, I’ve seen many of my male clients struggle to let themselves be vulnerable and connect emotionally. Culturally, boys are raised to prioritize toughness and self-reliance, from my work with clients I’ve seen this lead to anxiety, depression and sometimes aggression.
Even though I was aware of these cultural expectations, I was floored when my own son came home from preschool one day and announced that “boys aren’t supposed to cry.”
Research shows that relationships and the ability to connect emotionally are key to happiness, health and even career success. Studies also show that toys have the power to influence the way kids see themselves and the world around them. But right now toys that encourage connection and empathy are only marketed to girls — sending the message to many boys that this kind of play is not for them.
Frustrated by many of the messages boys were (and weren’t) receiving from the “blue aisle” and inspired by the way play influences child development, I created Wonder Crew to encourage kids to be their full selves.
What problems does Wonder Crew solve? How does it solve them?
Many of the toys marketed to boys are heavy on muscles and aggression – none offer the opportunity to connect, nurture or build emotional intelligence. Wonder Crew addresses the developmental needs of the whole child. We are a line of Crewmates (aka dolls) that offer the adventure of an action figure along with the emotional connection of the favorite stuffed animal – the best friend that’s small enough to take care of but large enough to be part of any adventure.
What were the steps you took to start a business in an industry that’s not your primary expertise? I joined a local entrepreneurship program called Valley Venture Mentors, where I received a great amount of support and guidance – their accelerator program truly helped get Wonder Crew off the ground. I also connected with some rock star toy companies that shared the mission of wanting to create change — I’m so grateful for the advice that I’ve received from Roominate and I Am Elemental.
What were the challenges you faced when create Wonder Crew? How did you overcome them?
Prototype development, finding the right factory, launching a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund first production. Wonder Crew is not just a toy company, it’s part of a larger movement to expand play – I found many people with whom our mission resonated– it was a team effort!
Are you still a practicing psychotherapist? If so, how do you balance your career and your creative projects?
Yes, I’m still practicing psychotherapy. It is a balancing act, but each career uniquely brings balance and new perspectives to the other.
What was your favorite toy as a child, and why?
She-ra princess warrior – I admired her strength!
Has becoming a mom changed your career perspective? If so, how?
Absolutely, my son was a large part of the inspiration behind Wonder Crew – being a mom has cued me in to how susceptible kids are to various messages out there. Being a parent has inspired me to create change.
Our tag line is “Go anywhere. Be anything” and my goal is to inspire this in children.
If you had to give the single most important piece of advice to mom entrepreneurs (for business success and work life balance), what would it be?
Make time to play, not just for your kids, but also to ignite your own creativity! Yes, I know you asked for just one, but this second one is equally as important: bring in support – delegate, ask for help, talk to friends regularly, make sure you’re not living in a vacuum both for your own sanity and to make sure that your concept is working!
Fill in the blank
If I had a super power it would be to teleport.
If I weren’t a psychotherapist, I’d be a toy inventor — but I prefer to be both.
My biggest source of inspiration is my family.
If I had an extra 2 hours in the day I would get outdoors more.
Wonder Crew is now available for pre-order.