Medical Preneur: Mary Mason
Tell us about the medical toys and characters. Did you design them or did you work with a toy manufacturer?
The toys really came up by accident. We were trying to figure out how to have “patients” for our vet and peds classes. So we started with these cute plush dolls, and then parents started to ask where they could buy the toys. I did my research and I found that most of the healthcare based toys were plastic medical instruments with no instruction.
I wanted to design an educational kit where the children actual learned something and featured real medical tools and supplies—as long as they are age appropriate. We based our kits off activities that we knew students loved from our classes. We designed our first set of kits with help from local people here in St. Louis, and won some awards and got a place at the New York Toy Show. At the New York Toy Show, our Vet Kit was featured in the Toy Association’s Hot Toy Trend Press Conference. That’s when we met Hahn Solo Consulting who helped us redesign the line.
These toys seem so engaging for children, have school and hospitals reached out to facilitate your program and/or use your line of products?
We are currently selling the toys at our online store, toy stores and gift shops in museums. We think they would be a great fit for hospital gift shops. I also think they would be a great product for licensing.
What was the response of your medical colleagues about your entrepreneurial endeavor?
My medical colleagues have been so supportive, and gave me ideas for new places to run new classes. I used to be nervous when I would hear that a doctor’s kid was going to be a student in the classes. But the response I get from parents who are doctors is always “thank you for teaching my kid about medicine…they won’t listen to me, but they will pay attention at Little Medical School.” I was also very honored to receive an Alumni Achievement Award this year from Washington University School of Medicine for my efforts around educating children.