Jon Capriola is taking on a toy Goliath by making a run at Lego with his own line of buildable bricks and construction toys.
The Sarasota entrepreneur’s Laser Pegs toys started as an idea in Capriola’s garage and, a decade later, his company has become one of the fastest-growing toy brands on retail shelves.
The concept — a hybrid of Lego blocks and Lite-Brite pegs — has caught the attention of some of the world’s biggest merchants.
Dovetailing with that growing interest, Capriola is rolling out new product lines with licensing ties to professional sports leagues, and he is also in the early stages of developing a cartoon series based on his toys — intended to further lift his multimillion-dollar business into the kid of prominence enjoyed by Lego’s $4 billion empire.
“The toy business really is not about success, it’s about your significance,” Capriola said from Laser Peg’s 29,000-square-foot headquarters on Fruitville Road in East Sarasota. “How do you stay significant? You have to be accepted by the masses and offer a product that’s pretty unique.”
Laser Pegs are stackable blocks that are compatible with Lego, but unlike the European toy, Laser Pegs are battery-powered and illuminated with low-voltage LED lights. The toy comes in more than 100 kits — ranging in price from $19.99 to $299.99 — and allow children to build everything from helicopters to dinosaurs.
Capriola began developing the concept nearly six years ago in his garage, building the first prototype from a cardboard box and a few stickers.
Less than three years since its official launch, Laser Pegs can now be found in more than 6,000 stores in 33 countries. It’s the No. 1 selling technology toy at Target, where it has a seven-foot section on the toy shelf.
The product also is sold at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Costco, Home Goods, the gift shop at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and on QVC, among outlets.
Laser Pegs uses the same nub patterns as Lego blocks — because the design of the latter are no longer protected by patents — so the two toy brands can be built with interchangeable pieces. Laser Pegs now has several patents of its own.
“At the end of the day, kids love the product,” Capriola said. “You can do or build almost anything with Laser Pegs. You get a very intense play pattern.”
Laser Pegs Ventures LLC is a proud Dr. Toy Alumni member.