Inventor Q&A: Effortless Art Crayons
by Kinspire Team
The first in a series of interviews with Kinspire partners, we’re learning about Nancy Morris from Two Sparrows Learning Systems, maker of Effortless Art Crayons, an early learning crayon that is accessible for every child.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your professional background?
My background is in elementary and special education. I was a special education teacher for 10 years before I moved into higher education. I have two Masters, one in Educational Administration, and one in Public Administration, as well as my PhD in Organizational Learning and Leadership. My husband, the “other sparrow,” and my partner in the company, has a background in mechanical engineering and product development. I think we make a perfect team that understands the product and the manufacturing aspects of our industry.
What inspired you to start Two Sparrows Marketplace?
I didn’t plan on ever starting a company! I created Effortless Art Crayons based on needs that I saw in my former students when I was an elementary special education teacher. I moved from K-12 to Higher Education in 2012 and in 2016 I finally found the resources to bring my idea to life. When we created our first prototypes of Effortless Art Crayons through a service learning and research and development project through my university, we found that the response was really positive. We thought, wow, we have something here, and decided that we would pursue a patent and incorporate so that we could start selling the crayons.
From there, as we met more and more occupational therapists, we realized that there were a ton of people trying to bring products to light, just as we were. So, it inspired us to then launch design and development services in 2019, and an online marketplace where we sell and drop ship other company’s products. Ultimately, we just want to help others and help get really great products out into the market for others to benefit from using.
Describe what therapists tell you about the impact your products have on their work with children.
Therapists say that our Effortless Art Crayons are unique, inclusive, and accessible. We have had therapists who work with children with autism say that they have seen children color longer and with more purpose than ever before using any other crayon. Other therapists have noted that they love how our crayons help develop a tripod grasp and open the web space in a child’s hand. The dual ends are a triangular shape and are perfect to help allow children who are early on in their coloring skills to be successful no matter how they pick it up.
What’s it been like for you as a care professional to start a product-based business? Do you have advice for therapists and caregivers with product ideas?
It has been a whirlwind for sure, as I mentioned, my background is not product development. It’s all new and exciting. I love to learn new things, so even though it has been challenging to work full time and additionally develop a product, it has been very rewarding. and I would not change anything. I would tell anyone who has an idea for a product to pursue it. Do the work and the research to find out if there is a place in the market for it, and if there is, find the right people to help you get on your feet and get going. Work with any and every local small business development center you can to get help early on with your business and find your network of support people that have walked in your shoes before. We are always happy to share lessons we have learned with anyone who wants to start their own business.
What’s your favorite item in your lineup and why?
I love our basic bundle – its two packs of our crayons, a level 1 and a level 2 and our “My First Masterpieces” coloring book. You basically buy two packs of crayons and get our coloring book for free.
Our crayons are really perfect for art projects that use a lot of shading. Our Level 2 crayons actually can help you do quite a bit of line work and detail. Also, there are multiple ways to hold the crayons, and if it doesn’t feel perfect holding it one way, just flip it around in your fingers and find a way that works for you!