Lewis, a Maple Valley resident, created Flipzles, which became available online in early October. Flipzles are an old fashioned puzzle with a twist. Kids can either solve a puzzle using the thick wooden pieces on one side, or flip them over and use the people and objects on the back side to play with.
Lewis first came up with the idea six years ago when her children were playing with a nativity puzzle her mother had made, with the pieces facing out. Due to the confusing nature of the pieces, she said, she decided to paint the scene on the back, which would allow them to still play with the characters. Her first design, a house, was so popular with her children, she said she was encouraged to create more.
Lewis said she also wanted to give her kids a challenge, something she thinks many puzzles lack. It also provides them with entertainment that doesn’t require a battery or screen.
“I feel like so many times there’s plastic toys with batteries, and your kids need to feel like they’re plugged in all the time,” she said. “They’ll use their imagination (with Flipzels) and their brain and they don’t need the bells and whistles.”
Eventually, her friends asked her to make puzzles for their families, which proved to be too much due to the painstaking process. Lewis hand cuts and paints the individual pieces. Typically, it takes her several weeks to create a new puzzle design.
To help with the production, she licensed the puzzles to a toy company, but discontinued it when the company was sold. At that point Lewis and her husband, who has a finance background, decided to convert it from a passion into a business venture.
Although they got the business up and running, one thing Lewis said she found disappointing was the lack of interest from American manufacturers.
“I had a few people interested,” she said. “It was hard to get them to respond and communicate with me and to give me the information. When we went to the person in China they were quick to respond.”
Additionally, they had to come up with a marketing plan, a business model and build a website, as well as learn how to use the ever increasing number of social media outlets.
“If I could just be an artist, I’d be happy,” she said. “But I have to market them in order to afford to make the puzzles.”
Lewis said she does the art work in water color, edits in Photoshop, and then sends the images to a manufacturer in China. Since the business is still young, Lewis said they still fill orders in their garage. Lewis said they are looking to expand into stores as Flipzles gains more publicity.
One last puzzle for her to solve is finding a U.S.-based manufacturer to produce the puzzles.
Flipzles can be purchased online at www.flipzles.com.