As a parent, Sandra Oh Lin worked hard to introduce her children to STEAM education. She had a passion for hands-on, fun projects that encourage creativity and curiosity in kids, but found that with her busy lifestyle it was difficult and time consuming to set up enriching projects at home.
That’s when the idea for KiwiCrate was born – a monthly subscription box service that brings the materials and instructions to complete age-appropriate projects to consumers’ doorsteps.
“The idea was around creating a subscription service for parents to receive products in the mail they could do with their children or children could do on their own,” James Kim, Vice President of Operations at KiwiCrate, said.
The company, headquartered in Los Altos, outgrew its Mountain View facility in its first five years of operation, and executives began a search for a new fulfillment warehouse.
The company chose a Lathrop warehouse near Ghiradelli’s that is approximately eight times the size of the previous Mountain View facility and moved in on March 1, fully transitioning operations to the site in April.
The industrial building in Lathrop will be used to complete 100 percent of the e-commerce businesses’ fulfillment services.
“The Central Valley had appeal to us because there are a lot of warehouses there, a lot of fulfillment centers, businesses like ours,” Kim said.
Kim also cited the area’s available workforce and cost for its decision to move to Lathrop.
“We looked everywhere from Hayward to Union City, Tracy to Livermore,” Kim said. “Frankly if I had not had experience with the Central Valley I think it would have been harder for us to make the leap, that extra 30-40 miles.”
“Because of our location on the I-5 freeway, we are pretty conducive to warehouses and logistics,” Rebecca Schmidt, AICP Director of Community Development in Lathrop, said.
While Schmidt said warehouses don’t typically create a lot of jobs in the area, Kim said the company is looking to double its workforce before the holiday season, and almost 100 percent of the employees already hired at the Lathrop facility are Central Valley residents.
In two to four years, Kim estimates that number will quadruple based on year-on-year growth patterns.
Kim said finding qualified employees in the Central Valley has proven easier for KiwiCrate because the area workforce’s specialties are geared toward this line of work. The availability of labor is simply more robust in the Central Valley than the peninsula, even if they do have warehouse competition with large, nearby facilities like Amazon.
However, Kim points out that while the job types may be similar, the companies themselves are vastly different. Amazon sells everything to everybody, and KiwiCrate has a niche market.
The subscription boxes offer five different options (with a sixth option slated to launch soon), the cricket crate for 0-2 year olds, the koala crate for 3-4 year olds, the kiwi crate for 5-8 year olds and the doodle crate or tinker crate for kids 9-16-plus years old.
Prices range from $16.95-$24.95 per month depending on subscription length.
KiwiCrate has multiple active job postings and is looking to hire more employees for the Lathrop facility. All of the positions fit in the warehouse fulfillment-oriented space and include mid-senior level fulfillment center employees as well line personnel/associates.
“We have a fun work environment. Almost all of us are parents … a lot of us have young kids,” Kim said.
In Los Altos, the creative side of the company is growing, too. KiwiCrate has added creative parents who dream up the projects, valued experts who review them and a community of kid testers who keep creators on their toes, ensuring the projects are fun and engaging. It’s come a long way since the early days when Oh Lin, CEO, was using playgroups as a test market for her product.