BALTIMORE — Andy Musliner was sitting on the floor playing cars with his then-3-year-old son when it occurred to him that the cars needed roads.
“It’s an obvious pairing — toy cars go with toy roads,” Mr. Musliner said. “If you have a toy car, it needs a road to drive on, yet the toy industry had not created an opportunity for kids to make roads.”
That idea more than a decade ago led the Baltimore-area resident on a quest to start a home-based toy company and ultimately create a new category — tape as toy.
Mr. Musliner started InRoad Toys, which makes PlayTape, rolls of tape printed to resemble roads fit for tiny vehicles. The tape sticks to walls, floors, tables, or any flat surface, and is designed for small hands to easily tape down and pull up without damaging surfaces.
It appears to have filled a need, meeting demand from parents who want to encourage creativity and from retailers looking for something new in the toy category. It’s also a twist on the consumer tape industry’s growing decorative and crafting segment.
Since PlayTape was introduced three years ago, distribution has mushroomed from a few small toy stores to 12,000 outlets in 35 countries. Wal-Mart sells it at 3,500 stores and online. It’s also available online at Toys R Us, at international toy retailer Imaginarium, select Target stores, and the 4,900-outlet O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.
This year, the U.S. Small Business Administration chose the company as its Maryland Home-based Business of the Year. InRoad projects sales this year of $2.5 million to $5 million.
“PlayTape is the world’s simplest toy,” and therein lies its appeal, said Mr. Musliner, InRoad’s CEO. “Kids who play with toy cars can make a road anywhere they want. Parents are really interested in enabling their kids to use their imaginations and enabling them to develop their motor skills, to really play and get off the screens.”
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