By Pam Kragen The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Kristin Del Castillo came up with the idea for "Tooth Fairy's Tale" 17 years ago, when her then-8-year-old son Christopher wanted a special way to celebrate the ritual of tooth loss.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Fallbrook entrepreneur Kristin Del Castillo has an unusual aspiration. She hopes that one day, people all over the world will know her as the "Tooth Fairy."
Over the past two years, the married mother of two has made and sold more than 30,000 Tooth Fairy's Tale keepsake boxes, which people can use to store children's baby teeth.
Customers can also order a weekly checklist game that rewards grade-schoolers with small prizes for brushing and flossing their teeth twice a day.
Del Castillo came up with the idea for Tooth Fairy's Tale 17 years ago, when her then-8-year-old son Christopher wanted a special way to celebrate the ritual of tooth loss.
She took the plastic case from an old Disney film and designed a new wrapper that said "Christopher's Tooth Fairy Book." Inside she drew diagrams of his upper and lower jaws and then, one by one as his teeth fell out, they glued them into the corresponding spaces on the diagram.
"He loved it and it made the whole thing special for him," she said.
But it would take many years and a change in life circumstances before her idea sprouted into a successful home-based business.
Del Castillo and her husband of 27 years, Joe, have two children. Christopher, now 25, lives in San Diego. Nicole, 20, lives at home. She has autism so severe that she needs full-time assistance with eating, bathing, dressing and other tasks. For many years, the Del Castillos juggled their work schedules -- he's in real estate development, she in new home sales -- before they reached a breaking point several years ago.
"My husband had been picking up the slack taking care of her in the afternoons and on the weekends but one day he broke down in tears and said 'I can't handle this on my own. She is our first priority and she needs her mom,' " Del Castillo said.
She quit her job to take care of Nicole, but longed for a way to supplement the family's income from home. Then she remembered how one day, while packing up some boxes of old children's things, her mother saw Christopher's tooth box and thought it would make a unique gift item.
After several years of research and design work and some test marketing (with help from CW Network's "Hatched" business startup reality TV show) Del Castillo formed her company, Tooth Fairy's Tale LLC at the end of 2015.
The main product is the Tooth Fairy's Tale box, which resembles a hardbound book with the diagram inside where parents can glue in each tooth and write the date it fell out ($20).
There's also a hand-sewn chenille pillow pocket that children use to place a tooth under their pillow or hang from a bedroom doorknob ($10), and a tooth-brushing game, where children can win a prize each week. All of the items, plus a tooth fairy or tooth superhero doll, can be purchased together for $40.
Stacey Musser of Palm Harbor, Fla., bought the full kit in October for her 7-year-old son, Jaxson. Musser said she found the Tooth Fairy's Tale website (toothfairystale.com) last fall while searching for a way to encourage her son to be a better brusher and flosser.
Jaxson has a sensory processing disorder so he's sensitive to textures, smells and how things taste and feel, and Musser said she'd had a hard time getting her son in the habit of thorough dental care.
Over the past eight months, Jaxson has lost six teeth, which are now glued into the keepsake box and he's been faithful with brushing and flossing, thanks to the game.
"It has definitely worked. He's been really motivated," said Musser, who has rewarded her son's weekly accomplishments with gifts like a Matchbox car or Pokemon cards.
"He likes checkbox systems that chart his progress and count down the days," she said.
"Every day he colors in the sun and the moon when he's brushed his teeth and at the end of the week the superhero gives him a reward."
Del Castillo said she spends three to four hours a day making, packaging and shipping the items and doing online marketing. The sales -- which have come in from as far away as Canada, Germany and Ireland -- seem to come in waves.
Last year, she had 18,000 orders from LTD Commodities, a global products catalog and website. She's also sold thousands of products on her own website, eBay, Amazon and Zulily.com.
Mallory O'Brien, an associate buyer for Zulily, said she loves working with Del Castillo and customers have "gushed" over the unique Tooth Fairy products.
"They make losing teeth fun for the kids and serve as a sweet memento for parents," O'Brien said.
As she grows her business, Del Castillo said she would like to one day rent some warehouse space and hire some employees to help her fulfill orders. She thinks there's enormous potential for the product.
Last year, "the tooth fairy" left more than $290 million under children's pillows in the U.S., according to an annual survey of parents by Delta Dental, which has tracked the ever-growing amount since 2004.
"I think the Tooth Fairy is a great brand and I want to be known as the Tooth Fairy," she said. "I want to share this with everyone because it's a very special product and something kids remember about one of the most special times of childhood."