Sept. 22, 2022

From Boston Consulting Group to Creating Bulgaria’s First Kids’ Subscription Service

From Boston Consulting Group to Creating Bulgaria’s First Kids’ Subscription Service
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I chatted with Boryana Levterova, co-founder of Infinity Toy Box. Infinity Toy Box is the first subscription service for kids where you can rent games, toys, and books. Prior to launching her startup, Boryana was working as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Chicago. We dive into how she came up with Infinity Toy Box during maternity leave, what challenges they’ve faced because of Covid, and some of her life experiences. 

Time Stamps:

0:35 – Eric tries to speak Bulgarian

1:25 – which city did you like best / work to live or live to work?

4:16 – what kind of projects did you work on at BCG?

6:25 – do you have any embarrassing moments when working with a client?

8:08 – when did you get the idea for Infinity Toy Box?

10:25 – what did your day look like juggling kids and starting Infinity Toy Box?

12:00 – maternity leave benefits in Europe vs USA and daycare discussion     

14:20 – before you started Infinity Toy Box, what is something you wished you had known before?

15:23 – are there any tools or accelerators that have been essential for your growth?

17:13 – what’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?

17:58 – does corn belong on pizza?

18:48 – what is something interesting that people don’t know about you?

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Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


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#50 Vidmantas Šiugždinis - Personalized Approach to Employee Benefits with MELP

#49 Markus and Daniel - The Digital Memory Album for You and Your Family

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Hi today, we're chatting with Bulgarian startup founder Boryana Levterova,  co-founder of infinity toy box. Prior to launching her startup boa was working as a consultant for the Boston consulting group in Chicago. We dive into how she came up with the idea of, for infinity toy box during maternity leave, what challenges they base because of COVID in some of her life experiences.

Let's dive in.

Oh, thank you. Yeah. Yeah. Raba say that. Wow. okay. That's all I know for Bulgarian. So don't ask me anything else in Bulgarian. That's a very good, it's a very good way to start the conversation. So you're on the right time. All right. Fantastic. First question, Bo. You're an Explorer and have worked in many different places.

You've done internships in Moscow, New York city. You've worked in Toronto, in Chicago. And of course, Sophia Bulgaria. First question for you is out of all these places, which one did you like the best and why? Sorry, Eric, I lost the last two words of your sentence. Which one did I, yeah. Out of all these places, which one did you like the best and why?

To be honest with you? I think the answer to this question really depends on the. Stage and the things that happened to me when I was in this place, I for work, I would say it's a very, it's very difficult to choose. So I did like working in north America. I worked for Boston consulting group and I worked in their Chicago and Toronto offices.

And what I did like was that specifically management consulting, everyone is super smart. So you're surrounded by really smart people all the time. What I did not like was that work hours were super long. And, you know, there was a lot of emphasis on working hard and working long hours and that doing a lot of work in a short amount of time, whereas in Europe is I'm sure you are noticing you're familiar.

We believe in, you know, I work to live and I don't live to work. So I would say maybe when. 2022. I was fine for me to, to live to work. And now I'm not 22 and I have two kids and I prefer to, and I prefer to work to live, even though I'm an entrepreneur. And I love what I do still. I think I'm more of the European thought of the school of stuff when it comes to this.

So I would say for work. Still prefer your yeah, no, no, no, you're definitely right. It's been a big change trying to get adjusted to, and just the work ethic is a, is a little bit different comparing the two. Now you said life stages. Okay. Yeah. So now you're, you're a mother, you've got two, a couple of kids, right?

Two. Is it two. Okay. Yeah. Two. Okay. So let's pretend that you don't have kids. And the same question, you know, out of all those cities, Toronto, Chicago, Moscow, New York city. If you were in your twenties, early twenties with no kids, which one would you go back to? I would go to New York. Of course okay. But why tell me more.

Is there like a good ex I mean, how is that experience? Well, I, so I did my university in Chicago and for me going to New York, it was a little more vibrant Chicago. I mean, it's a very multicultural city, but in New York, it's kind of like this on steroids. I loved the professional scene. I loved the going out scene, even though I was just there for the summer.

And you know, at that one, I didn't have any kids. I was free to explore. I. There would be something different to do every night. And I'm not a big foodie, but still there are so many restaurants and museums and places that you could go outside of work and for work, I mean, depends on the industry, but pretty much every industry is represented there unless you're like an actor.

So yeah, I would, I would pick New York. Okay. All right now you mentioned, but not for kids. Yeah, no, I love New York. I was there for about seven years and it just flew by, it was a, I always recommend New York. If you're single, no kids in your twenties. It's a great place. Yeah. To live. Okay. So you mentioned Boston consulting group.

You were working in, in consulting. And kind of projects were you working on at BCG? So I started there, it was my first job after college. And clearly if you're the lowest in the hierarchy, you don't get to pick. So you just get thrown on whatever. I was lucky that I got to work in very many different industries.

So one of our, one of my first project actually was for most cores, the beer company. And we were doing a project on streamlining their portfolio. So at the point, at the time they had, I forget what it was, something crazy, like 85 were more brands and clearly some of these brands were outperforming others.

So they wanted to streamline the portfolio a little bit to focus on the more profitable ones. And so we had a couple of test markets. It was Boston, I think it was Arizona and someplace else where we were doing market research. To figure out what brands to focus on and which ones to eliminate. Then I did in Toronto, I did project in insurance.

We worked for a mobile phone company, so really all across different industries, but also all across different areas of work. It was, it was really interesting. I learned a lot and I'm still applying what I learned. I think the most. Thing you learn is not like a specific skill, but rather to have confidence in yourself that you can go in an industry that you know nothing about, or you can go and analyze a problem that you know nothing about, but you have the capability to obtain the information and to do the analysis.

In order to come up with a good and good idea and a good suggestion, which is it's very different from the way we are taught in Bulgaria where our educational system, for example, is focused on learning facts and memorizing dates and, you know, learning clear end and all of that. And a little bit less on developing sort of your cognitive part of your thinking.

Okay. You know, I had a friend who worked in consulting and she told me this story, that when she went on a visit her first visit with the client, you know, she got there and she went to the coffee room because she was quite early and she accidentally spilled coffee on her blouse. And she didn't have an extra change.

And so she was quite embarrassed because she had to kind of wear that throughout the day. Do you have any, anything like any instances like that where something embarrassing or funny happened to you with the client? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So as I say, it was my first job out of college and, you know, in college people don't always wear professional attire.

And in the beginning, when we transitioned to the workforce and BCG, they did a, they did multiple workshops about, you know, this is. Post to wear, this is what you're not supposed to wear. And I dunno in Romania, what the S style is, but in Bulgar, women tend to have a little bit more of non conservative styles.

I was very much careful to, you know, to be conservative and to be perceived as professional. And they also taught us that if possible, it's better to look older. So that people don't know, you just came out of college. And I remember on the first, my first client, I was flying somewhere with my very first flight.

First of all, I got there something ridiculous, like three and a half hours early. It was like four or five in the morning. and I was dressed I was dressed head to toe in this like black blazer and black. Cur and like a white shirt. Yeah. And I was just walking like super confident to my gate. You know, I was gonna be early.

Everything was gonna be fine. And some people stopped and asked me like fly details. And I was like, call them whatever I knew. And then a second pair of people stopped me and asked me fly details. And at that point I realized, they thought I was an air hostess at the flight. And. You know, a passenger . So I said, okay, maybe, maybe I, you know, put some majority next time or something.

So they don't think I'm a, their coat. all that was missing was like the little the little flight magnet or whatever that they put on their coat. That's a airline. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Okay. Well, let's dive into your startup Infiniti toy box. When did you get the idea for this and when did you start working on it?

So we got the idea sort of progressively our older son is five and a half. Now our daughter is three and as more temp passed by, we started to really get cluttered with a lot of toys and a lot of kids belonging. And we sort of were aware that this concept of renting, you know, products instead of purchasing them.

So sort of like product as a service existed more so in north America than in Europe. And we started looking into it, maybe let's say two years ago, And then did some more research during COVID did some experiments with our kids and started working on the prototype. And then we launched the MVP in the end of last year, so eight months ago.

Okay. So you got this idea while you were on maternity leave or after maternity leave. Absolutely. Yeah. So I, in Bulgaria, maternity leaves are kind of long. So one year you get almost full pay and then the second year you get some pay. And, but you can even take more than this. And it's very usual for people to take one to two years, which I know in American standards, this is like ridiculously wrong.

But I, so my first time I took a year and then the second time I took, you know, all two years and then eventually quit and started doing my. I started full time, but I actually used my well also my babies were kind of well behaved in their earlier years. Not so now. Right. But I had some free time where, you know, they were sleeping and not doing anything that I need to take care of.

And I remember I did so much stuff. I did digital marketing classes. I read about, I pretty much read the business biographies only . So I read a bunch of business biographies and I did a bunch of research on possible startup. And really with our second kid, the idea started to, to materialize. But yeah, I'm a big proponent of women using their math list for thinking about whether maybe they want to start working for themselves or to change career paths, cuz it's really a natural it provides really a natural break where you can think more about your priorities and also used to build up some professional.

That maybe you don't have the time otherwise. Yeah. Yeah. Now it's pretty hard juggling working kids, but you're trying to juggle, you know, creating a startup in managing the kids. Like when were you able to do this? What, what was like your typical day? How did that look? My typical, I'm just thinking about it because I need to optimize it a little bit more.

Cuz now my kids go to different places for daycare. And of course different places are in different areas of the city, which is not optimal. So we are planning to put them in the same place, but the good and the bad thing about my day is that it's very broken apart. So it's not like I go to work at nine.

I stay on my desk until six. And at six I finish and I leave, I do some work, you know, be before my first kid wakes up and then bef between dropping off my first kid and waking up my second kid. And then I have the chunk of my work day now. And then there's also a little bit of work that I do in the evening after I, I take them back, which depends on which school of productivity task you follow.

But I do think that sometimes breaking your day up a little bit gives you, first of all, some physical exercise in between tasks is never bad. But also it allows you to, you know, have a little bit of cooling down of your brain. Think about something. Maybe you're not always sitting on the, so yeah, it's it's pretty dynamic.

No two days are like fortunately or unfortunate. No, that is so true. That is so true. Especially when you work at home and there's other variables that can come into the mix, but yeah, back to the maternity thing here in Romania must be very similar two years off, 80% pay more or less. And my wife has a lot of friends that are having kids and they take advantage of that.

And I think one of them just went back to work like less than a month ago, but is now taking vacation like a week off to go somewhere to go to Greece or vacation. It is just. I'm like scratching my head. I just still can't understand I still can't get my head wrapped around that, but I was telling her I'm like, didn't didn't wasn't she off like two years any, anyway, another thing it's this is a very complicated topic because also, obviously from the point of view of employee employers, it's.

Not the best thing, but then you kind of have to put the whole thing in the perspective of the European continent, where we have, you know, our population is aging and we don't have enough kids, which is not the same as in other areas of the world. And it's a really, really complex question because in, I don't know what is like in Romania, but in Bulgaria, even with this super generous maternity policy, still people are not having enough truth.

True. And we have a, this incentive is not working. Most of the couples we know have one kid, one kid. Yeah. Yeah. And so. It's it's really complex. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you're getting tears off and the bulk of your pay, I, I would think, you know, you would probably have at least a couple because you have that time to bond with your child.

You're still getting your financial, you know, money and everything, but somehow it's just not working. It's so. Yeah, yeah. In Bulgaria, the problem is with, with kindergartens. So you have your, you know, two or three kids, but then once it comes time for kindergarten, this is specifically a socio problem.

There aren't enough kindergartens, so, okay, great. You had the kids, you were with them for two years and now what? Yeah. So you have to pay for private kindergarten, which is expensive and after a while would start to not make financial sense. So it's, it's a really complex system to, to try to understand. I mean, I encourage people, I believe in having more kids, but let's see if I'm able to execute on the, on my, yeah.

And that was a big change too. Cuz the kindergartens in the states, we literally dropped our first kid off, I think after three months because in the states women get three months, if they're lucky. Yeah. And you know, we dropped our first kid off. He was there the entire day from day one. Here. They had a yeah, two or three week immersion for our daughter to enroll into the kindergarten or daycare.

And the first day you come for an hour, you stay with her and you do that like the first week and then the second week, a couple of more hours, but you're still there with her. And then the third week, I think it was like, you know, five or five hours or something. But it's so different, so different.

yeah. Okay. I digress. Next question for you boa, before you started your startup Infiniti toy box, what is something you wish that you had known before? Hmm, very good. Well, I'm already analyzing my mistakes. I've like, I dunno, two, three months ago and thinking like, oh my God, how I was still stupid. I did not start doing this earlier, where I wasted so much time doing this or what I wish I knew.

I wish I knew that there was you know, COVID and the war and recession coming, so I can start fundraising earlier. but I guess, you know, nobody knew, so, yeah. Yeah. So we are trying to fund, well, starting our fundraising process now. And everybody says like, oh, well now is the worst time to fundraise, but don't worry.

Don't worry, guys. There's still some chance. So, I mean, what are you gonna do? And we talk about it. So my husband is my co-founder. And we talk about it and we say, yeah, this is really fucked up, but what are we gonna do two years ago? We didn't have the necessary experience. Both professional and life experience needed to, you know, get to where we are at now.

So it's all kind of, maybe timing was better, but we were not better prepared. So you have to think about it more philosophically. Cuz what are you gonna do? Like just do the best with given the circumstances. Yeah. Okay. Now, are there any tools or resources that, that are essential for, for what you guys you know, are doing right now?

And then also, did anything else help you? Like, were there any accelerators or any classes that have been a big help to you? So we are currently part of an accelerator or run. Actually. I was gonna tell you by a. Which is a Romanian, it's a Romanian accelerator and they have right now an accelerator called Ruby garage.

And it's 22 startups. So as in another 21 from I think, 10 countries. So what they're doing is all of us met in may in pie now. And then since then we've had a bunch of different workshops. So they're basically helping us and all of us have some different stage of MVP. Some companies were just launching.

We had a couple of months under our. But we're all generally kind of at the, at the NDP state, but we're all in different industries. And so they're giving us a lot of different workshops on different parts of business development. So sales product hiring fundraising and it's really, really helpful.

And we're hearing a lot of different perspectives. The challenging thing is you're hearing perspectives from people which are conflicting. So it, it still takes a little bit of mental work to figure out what to. Interesting. But I think for us, it's been really helpful. That's that's very interesting. Yeah.

Cuz you think you go there for advice from people who've been through the trenches have been there before, but then if you're getting advice from experience entrepreneurs, that's conflicting, you just have to maybe what use your best judgment. Just go on your instinct. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. But in any case, it's, it's really helpful.

And for us, I mean, Bulgaria's office is smaller than Romania and our ecosystem is smaller. So it's really useful to Immers ourselves in a little bit more of a varied international environment where we can learn from each other. Okay. Okay. All right. I was gonna ask you, what's one of the hardest obstacles you've had to overcome.

And I think, I think it's the fundraising aspect during this time, or is there something else that you're having a difficult challenge with? No, really it's the fundraising and it, we haven't even started it yet. I really had the writer's blockage when you came to fundraising and I writing our deck and talking to people and I don't have this with, I mean, I BCG I was writing decks all the time and I recently helped a friend write his deck.

You know, it's, I think when it comes to your startup and something that you are really passionate about, and you've been working on for a long time, you have this innate desire for it to be as perfect as possible. And the reality is you can never get it. Perfect. So just get it done. But yeah, it's something that's has been hard to overcome, but I'm working on it.

Definitely. Okay. Okay. Now for some fun questions for you boa. First question. Does corn belong on pizza? Does corn belong on pizza? If you ask my kids? Yes. This is their favorite parts of the pizza. I don't mind it. The one place where I feel that corn doesn't belong is, I don't know what you call it in English, junior.

Kiba it's this thing. That's like a crap. And inside it has meat and veggies. Okay. I'm sure we have it in Romania. It's like. Yeah. I don't think corn belongs there. Okay. We've had, I forget in which country, where they put corn inside and now with the point but on pizza, I don't. Okay. But see pineapple doesn't build up a bit.

okay. Next question for you. What is a favorite TV show that you can watch again and again, I would say sex and the city, except I think I've reached the point where I've seen it so many times that I can't watch it again, but I really like documentaries. I can watch documentaries all the time, but maybe not the same one.

So. All right. Last question for you. What's something interesting that that people probably don't know about you. They're not gonna see this on your LinkedIn profile. It could be a hobby or some other, some other interesting thing that you do. Well, if they follow me on Facebook, they know I've been learn.

I've been trying to learn to kit surf for three years now. Right. And it's been a. Yeah, it's been a constant pain and humiliation, and I got all kinds of injuries from it. Okay. But I don't give up. I I don't give up, I, we are seeing some progress now I can do it, you know, couple hundred, the meters in one direction.

And I'm even learning how to. Third now, which is great, but it's been a, it's been a slow progress and it's, it's kind of been annoying because, you know, I'm building a startup, which is obviously difficult and frustrating and there's lots of challenges. And then we go on vacation and we're doing this thing, which is also super challenging, frustrating, and also cost a lot of money.

So I'm looking forward to the point where I learn how to do it and I don't need classes anymore. And I can just go and, you know, come back in the evening. Yeah, no, that is fascinating. Really, really fascinating. Okay. Very interesting. Okay. Thank you so much, bona. Thank you for being on this show. This has been a pleasure for those listening.

We'll be here next week with mark. Sheer who is building Europe's leading receivables management platform. And if you're a fan of the show, please give us a quick review on apple or Spotify. Tell others about the show. I don't spend any money on ads into your word of mouth would really help the community grow boa.

Where can people connect with you? Is there Instagram? Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, what do you prefer? So I have LinkedIn and the company also has LinkedIn, both me and the company have Instagram. Okay. We have Facebook, Twitter. I never really got into using it for some reason and think TikTok I'm not there yet.

So any of the previous three would be great and I would be very happy to connect. Thank you very much, Eric, for having me. It was great to talk to you and I look forward to hearing the rest of your everyone. Yeah. Okay. I'll put the links to BOA's LinkedIn profile for her and her company and the show notes.

Thanks for listening to everyone. Keep hustling out there. Cheers. Thank you.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it. If you could give us a review in star rating. So don't forget to sign up for the ICO, where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks.