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Toy company plans product launch
Forsyth-based business offers new ways to play
Kiz Toys 3 es
Ashley Johnson and Chris Moreau with their Kiz Toys logo featuring their mascot Max on top of the world.
All kids will want for Christmas is a Kiz toy - at least that's the hope of Kiz Toys co-founders Chris Moreau and Ashley Johnson.
The Forsyth-based toy company's new line, nearly three years in the making, will launch in time for Christmas, with about 15 new product lines to be released over the next few years.
So what is a Kiz toy?
It starts with a traditional toy.
The KizMoto product line offers toys like cars, planes, trains and other motorized forms of transportation. The toy isn't much at first, but once a unique serial number from the toy, like a car, is entered on a Web site, it becomes an avatar in a virtual world, where a child can customize, upgrade, maintain, test drive and race head-to-head against friends and their customized cars.
As the company's technology continues to grow, children will be able to print their upgrades out as decals, which can be attached to their toy car to reflect changes made to their virtual car.
KizMoto and KizPals, the company's product line of action figures, are both expected to roll out by Christmas.
"The toys have the ability to interact with each other," said Moreau. "If you start buying two or three toys, there is a lot of interaction they can do... the toy has a longer shelf life than other toys."
While video games like the Nintendo Wii or PlayStation are console-based games, the Kiz Toys products begin with a traditional toy "that parents and grandparents are very comfortable with," said Moreau.
"But another fact is when they purchase these toys, it allows them to, at a very low price point, enter into this [gaming] market," he said. "For $19.99, they can buy a toy like this."
Like other gaming systems, kids can compete against their friends online. But through KizSafe technology, there is complete anonymity.
"When we first started, Chris and I felt, both having kids, that there's a definitive need for safety in the toy industry," said Johnson. "It was one of the leading factors for us."
To log in to the interactive Web site, no names are required. No addresses, e-mail addresses or personal information is requested.
The only thing that needs to be entered to begin playing is the serial number from the toy itself.
"They plug it in, it identifies that it's a valid product with Kiz Toys and it allows them to interact with the environment," said Moreau.
"We know it's a valid child and a valid toy, but we don't know who they are or where they're coming from."
Another safety component is from production oversight. Though the toys are conceptualized and designed in Charleston, S.C., they will be manufactured in a Hong Kong branch.
With recent complaints of safety standards in the toy industry, Kiz Toys is establishing a branch in Hong Kong to ensure the manufacturing is completed according to European safety standards, which Moreau called "the highest standards out there."
Products will be evaluated and verified to ensure they meet the strict standard said Johnson.
"When we went to China, we made sure we met with all the manufacturers in order to make sure they're using the European safety standards," he said. "We want to make sure we do everything right."
In addition to safety, education is a key focus for Kiz Toys. With future product lines including KizBand, KizArmy and KizSport, the toys might sound like fun and games to kids, but the goal is to get "them to learn without knowing they're learning," said Moreau.
To fuse education with the toys, a board of advisors was formed, complete with area professionals from National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock Championship winner Warren Johnson to former Braves knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro.
Niekro will help guide the company on the realism of baseball for the KizSport baseball line. Johnson offers in-depth information on how cars perform and how to handle real-life scenarios while driving, for the KizMoto line.
"They have the benefit of the educational side that goes with it, so the kids can learn while they're playing," said Moreau.  "That is our responsibility, to not just have a traditional video game where they play with it and at the end of the day, they really didn't learn anything."
Toys are geared toward boys and girls, ages 6 to 10. All toys will be plugged into KizFit, a program that focuses on the importance of exercise and making sure kids aren't glued to the computer.
Kid-friendly pedometers and other products to help kids garden, learn about the environment and exercise will be launched. By exercising, or going outdoors, kids earn extra KizCash, which are virtual points that will allow kids to "buy" upgrades for their virtual toys.
"These types of things will give them more cash to encourage them to do these types of activities, more than they would on a console type system," said Moreau. "We're making it fun so they'll interact with the computer and keep track of how they're doing on a fitness level."
"It really is family oriented to get kids off the console and off games and back into the environment."
Aside from Forsyth being home for Moreau, the county was chosen because it was an attractive location for corporate employees.
"The people we've hired so far have really loved this area, so it has ended up being a very positive experience," he said.
There are 35 employees currently between Forsyth and Charleston, but over the next three years, the founders expect to expand up to 300 employees.
"It's very exciting," said Johnson. "Every day there's something new, and we get to see it from the ground up in a way that a lot of people don't."
The company is currently working with retailers, to sell their toys. More information on where to purchase toys will be available on their Web site, which will also have products for sale as they become available.