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Courtney Peebles Is Supporting Neurodivergent Families and Taking Learning to the Next Level

Meet Courtney Peebles, the Founder and CEO of Solobo, a Montessori-inspired toy company that bridges the gap between simple play and exceptional learning.

Courtney’s journey into entrepreneurship was not planned. In fact, before having kids, she always said that she never wanted to start her own business. However, after her oldest was almost a year old, her priorities shifted. Inspired by her sons, she and her husband worked to create meaningful and educational prototypes to meet each child where they are. Less than six months after their successful launch in 2022, Solobo was recognized by Forbes as one of the best educational toys for toddlers and preschoolers. Looking forward, Courtney is working to broaden her company’s impact through new toys and products, while also increasing their contributions to initiatives supporting neurodivergent families. 

We asked Courtney about the story behind Solobo’s founding, the achievements she’s most proud of thus far, and how she would summarize the journey she’s been on.

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Solobo?

For years, I said I never wanted to start my own business. However, when I had kids, my priorities shifted and my world changed for the better. I had the initial ideas for my toys in 2020 when my oldest was almost a year old. He was racing past his milestones. I found it difficult to find toys that had rich learning opportunities while also being safe for children under three years old. I tried a variety of toys with my son. I found that wooden toys were more durable and lasted longer than plastic ones. Still, some wooden toys were too simplistic. On the flip side, the plastic, overly noisy toys were generally overstimulating. I knew there had to be a middle ground; toys that were simple but also provided rich learning experiences. 

I had so many ideas but abandoned them because I had no clue how to produce them. My youngest son was born in 2021. He has complex medical needs due to complications after his birth. So, in 2022, my husband and I started Solobo. I wanted a way to continue to stay home with my boys and maintain the care for my youngest. Right around that time, I was finishing my master’s in film producing. This conveniently helped me figure out how to produce a physical product. I spent weeks designing, researching, and planning everything for our launch. Solobo turned out to be bigger than I expected. We officially launched our toys on the market in March of 2023. By the end of July, Forbes named my Emotions Coin Drop toy one of the best educational toys for toddlers and preschoolers.

As an entrepreneur, there are so many ways to get to the destination that you want. You just have to get creative and stay true to your goals and intentions. 

Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

My entire life, I felt like I was different. However, I never knew why until I was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and OCD as an adult. Then, I found that it was actually common for women to have a late diagnosis after having children. Everything clicked for me when I was diagnosed, and it truly has been such a blessing to know. One of the parts of me that always made me feel different is that I can teach myself pretty much anything. I have a photographic memory and taught myself everything that I needed to know to design and produce educational children’s toys. I think differently than a lot of people, which is how I’m able to design toys that are fully unique.

What were the most difficult and most impactful lessons you’ve learned starting and running a company? 

I built a business because I wanted to be with my kids. Initially, I worked only when my kids would go to sleep. I worked myself into the ground for several months. I had to learn a lesson in balance. I couldn’t do it all. I began to prioritize my health again. I hired a few contractors to take over some of the things. I knew that I could build a company around my kids, but in order to do that, I had to make sure I was at my best first. My husband is an incredible father; by the end of 2023, he was a full-time stay-at-home dad. His support allowed me more time to get things done. As an entrepreneur, people often think that there’s a certain roadmap to success. In reality, there are so many ways to get to the destination that you want. You just have to get creative and stay true to your goals and intentions. 

Have you felt like giving up? What made you persist?

I joke with people a lot by saying that I want to quit Solobo every two weeks. However, I always come back to the fact that I love the life my husband and I have built, and Solobo is a big part of that. We know that if we want to continue to have the freedom and flexibility to be with our kids, then Solobo is the way. 

We dare you to brag. What achievements are you most proud of?

We have had two fully-funded Kickstarters. Our toys have had numerous media features; Forbes being the most exciting one. We formed a partnership with DonorsChoose, a non-profit that supports teachers and their students. We donate a portion of all sales to initiatives that benefit neurodivergent families. With that we were able to sponsor an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) board at a playground in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Around that time, I wrote, illustrated, and self-published a children’s book about AAC. We started by selling on our website, then expanded to selling on Amazon in the U.S. and in Canada. We are very fortunate to have pediatric therapists help during product development. That helps us ensure that the products we are putting out will benefit child development.

How have you grown as a leader since starting Solobo? What experiences have contributed to this growth?

I have become more decisive over the past few years. I realized a while ago that if I can’t be decisive, then I won’t be able to have things the way I want them. My struggle with being decisive comes from not wanting to hurt people's feelings. However, I know that time and money will be wasted if I don’t make decisions intentionally.

I think an underappreciated leadership trait is the idea that you show up as who you want to be. Oftentimes, we don’t feel like we are who we want to be. We think that we still have a ways to go. However, I subscribe to the idea that if we walk confidently into who we want to be, then that’s who we will become. I don’t wake up every day thinking I’m an incredible CEO of a children’s toy company. However, I do wake up every morning knowing that it’s my choice to decide who I will be.

How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences? Would you do it all over again?

If I were to tell my younger self anything about starting a business, I would say to do it already. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, but it could be the best rollercoaster you’ve ever been on. Starting Solobo has been the most unexpected but incredible journey. I did not think that we would be here, but we are and so excited for the future. In the next year, we are expanding our wholesale side and adding new toys/products to our collections. I know I’m pretty biased because I’m the one who designs the toys, but we have some really cool stuff coming out. Plus, as the sales grow, so do our giving back initiatives. There’s so much excitement for everything to come!

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