- Penny Ekstein-Lieberman
, President/CEO of Toot Sweet Toys, Inc., turned the children's toy and doll market upside down in the 1980s and 1990s with $120 million in sales of her lovable "Pillow People," a collection of large, pillow-shaped, character dolls that delighted children while simultaneously helping them overcome their fear of the dark. This also included over 50 licences with Leisure Concepts, a TV syndicated Christmas Special ("Pillow People Save Christmas") and participation in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Penny Ekstein-Lieberman. (John Wegorzewski)
Now, 30 years and many popular products later, Ekstein-Lieberman is re-visiting bedtime with a new multi-faceted line coming to market in March. The patented "Peek-a-Boo Baby" (manufactured and distributed by Goldberger Toy Company) are interactive, cuddly plush dolls designed to help young children understand that their parents and the larger world don't disappear when they go to sleep. As children hold their hands over the toy's eyes, they hear two familiar refrains: "Peek-a-boo, I see you!" and "Peek-a-boo, I love you!" Peek-a-Boo Baby comes in an assortment of ethnic interpretations. "They're better than a security blanket," she says. The toys range from $10 to $14.99 each and will be available at leading retail outlets nationwide.
Ekstein-Lieberman founded Toot Sweet Toys, Inc. in 1992. It is her third incorporated toy venture and the culmination of her artistic and business mission - to create fun, non-violent toys that comfort, educate and support children (ages one through nine) at the various distinctive developmental stages of their lives. Relying on the tactile pleasure of plush fabric and the whimsy of imaginative creative design, Ekstein-Lieberman and Toot-Sweet are established as leaders in the highly competitive toy market with products that immediately appeal to parents and their children.
"I find that even though we're a computer-driven society, young children and their contemporary parents are drawn to the sweetness, simplicity, and gentle, positive lessons of our products," says Ekstein-Lieberman. She also specializes in toys and dolls that offer a message and a theme, such as exercise and good nutrition, facing fears, fighting obesity, being happy, and saving animals and the environment. "Young children literally absorb information; they learn more, and more quickly, and in more nuanced detail, than at any other stage of life." In the years since "Pillow People," Toot Sweet has frequently partnered with Springs Industries, as well as other companies, offering such top-sellers as "Once Upon a Pillow," "Bed Games," "Pillow Pets," "Pillow Stars," "Snugglies," "Tubbables" and "Heartthrob Pillows."
Well known as a philanthropist as well as a successful businesswoman, Ekstein-Lieberman is currently arranging for a generous shipment of Toot Sweet toys to be sent to Haiti for children in hospitals and orphanages, once the catastrophe-stricken nation reaches the next stage of recovery in the weeks and months to come.