Savvy woman sees a need and designs a better
computer tool for children's little hands and limited motor
by Mike Cassidy, Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Detroit
Free Press, December 5, 2002
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What kind of Silicon Valley businesswoman would sit by while
her granddaughter is reduced to tears by a personal computer?
Not Susan Giles. So when 4-year-old Molly was having trouble
controlling her cursor, Susan Giles knew it was time to invent
a better mousetrap. Or a better mouse, anyway.
Why not a mouse, Giles thought, that small hands could squeeze
like a ball instead of click with a finger?
"Children using a computer at 18 months, or 2 years old, or
even 5 years old, their fine motor skills are very different,"
says Giles, who lives and works in San Mateo, Calif.
And why not make the mice cute as a bug or dinosaur or other
Giles didn't mean to start a business. She already had one: a
business consulting outfit. When she started working on the
mouse four years ago, she thought she could sell the idea to
an existing firm, but that didn't work. It became apparent
that "if Susan didn't jump in and do it, the entire product
So with about $500,000 of her own money, some angel investment
and some hired engineering talent she came up with her own
version of a smaller, rounder mouse. She had them painted to
look like fanciful characters and went about finding names for
them. Names like "Colby-T-Rex," for her newest grandson.
That explains the MollyMouse, BenjieBee and MarinaBug models
-- all named for the grandkids.
It's been a year and a half since the company started and five
months since Giles gave up her other pursuits to run KidzMouse
full time from her San Mateo basement.
"We have really grown dramatically," she says. How
dramatically, she won't say. KidzMouse is privately held and
there are certain numbers Giles does not share.
But as retailers move into the holiday selling season, Giles'
products seem to be multiplying like, well, mice. The mice are
www.kidzmouse.com ($23.95) and
at CompUSA, Micro Center, Best Buy and on the Dell Web site to
name a few outlets.
Last month, Giles signed a contract with Nickelodeon -- home
of "Rugrats," "Blues Clues" and "SpongeBob SquarePants" -- to
build mice that resemble the network's characters.