Not all monsters are scary. In fact, Lyla Tov Monsters are here to protect.
Inspired by a gift designed by their young daughter Lyla, Eric and Erin Black make Lyla Tov Monsters — plushy, handmade toys that are the “guardians of a good night’s sleep.”
The husband and wife team, along with their three children, have been making the toys out of their Astoria home since 2009. The family, who has sold 300 Lyla Tov Monsters in the last year, said the response they have gotten from parents and children inspire them to keep growing. They have received stories of Lyla Tov Monsters helping kids get through their first days of school and others of them supporting children during their time at the hospital.
“We heard from a girl who had an appendectomy who told us she only made through it because she had the monsters with her,” said Eric.
The couple brings a collective 30 year experience in children’s media to the business—she is an Emmy-award winning costume designer for her work on Sesame Street; he has worked in children’s television for the Jim
Henson Company and done work for Scholastic Media. Their mission now is to “try and bring a good night’s sleep to as many children as possible.”
A play on Hebrew words, Lyla Tov means “good night.” The couple’s six-year-old daughter Lyla, made the original Lyla Tov when she was three years old as a gift for her father.
“She had the drawing and the concept all planned out. I was surprised by how fleshed out it was from such a young child,” said Erin.
According to Eric, Lyla’s original design, along with the bright colors, long arms and legs and animated facial expressions, is what has made their business a success.
“Having the design made by a child gives the appeal to children,” he said. Children as young as three and as old as 10 have responded enthusiastically to the toys.
“The babies really love it. [Lyla Tov Monsters] are very tactile and visually engaging. The older kids endow them with a personality and a story,” said Erin.
The family describes the business as a labor of love. Even four-year-old Quinn has the very important task of “checking for overall hugability” before each toy is packaged.
“I think it’s important for them to understand that it’s a family project,” said Eric. “We all lend a hand. [We want to teach them] how much a family relies on each other to get things done. We’re all a part of the family. We do what we can for each other.”
Helping children in big ways and small is at the foundation of Lyla Tov Monsters.
“As a continued learning tool, we donate a portion of the proceeds to children’s charities,” said Eric. The family has made donations to a Jewish orphanage in the Ukraine, the United Cerebral Palsy Fund, the Pajama Program and other charities.
“It definitely makes it beyond a business. We’re bringing something to the community. We’re not just making a product. We’re here to help. That’s a big part of the original mission,” said Eric.
The Blacks grew their business through word of mouth, first selling at craft fairs, then opening their online store and now wholesaling to toy stores and gift shops both locally and out-of-state.
Looking back on their journey so far, Eric said, “we’re not in this alone anymore. There’s a community around us. As much as this is a family business, people are so happy to promote us through word of mouth and social media. We’ve gotten so much support from people that we know and it has spread to people we don’t know. The heart of our business is Lyla’s creativity and love just shining through.”
The dolls sell for $40 and are available on www.lylatov.com.