Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Learning from Mistake: Two moms develop a toy monster that teachers the power of not being perfect

Mistake is a monster who teachers kids a lesson in messing up and learning from the less-than-perfect things that happen in life.

When Mayra Azanza's daughter Karen was younger, she was showing signs of being afraid to make a mistake and afraid to try things. Karen would draw a picture and then crumble it up when it wasn't perfect, Azanza says. 

Karen, who is now 12,  told her mom, that it was "nothing, just a silly mistake." 

As a mom, Azanza found teachable moments in the crumbling up of the paper. As an artist and TV for producer in tech-rich Palo Alto, it became an opportunity to develop Playmagine, a company that teaches lessons through play. She and Round Rock-based Hagit Segal have turned Mistake into a club that offers monthly lessons for kids and their families, all around the joy of making mistakes. 

After moments of crumpled paper, Azanza created an initial Mistake doll, a monster-like stuffed animal with different sized arms and legs, two crazy antennas and an extra-long tail. She wrote Karen a letter from Mistake that talked about why it's OK to make a mistake. The letter finished: "Own me with pride, because making mistakes means that you actually dared to do something. Love, Mistake."

Azanza and Segal met by chance at a gathering for female entrepreneurs. Segal was there to support another friend, but was intrigued by the doll, the story behind it and the chance to expand Mistake beyond just a doll. She has a background in early childhood education and a master's degree in business. 

Hagit Segal, her husband, Ram Segal, and daughter Gal, 3, live in Round Rock. Segal says Mistake is teaching Gal a lot about not being too hard on herself and others.

"I wish I had this doll as a child," Segal says. "There were so many things I avoided. I would be afraid to try."

At the time Segal lived in Sunnyvale, California, and began meeting with Azanza in coffee shops to bring Mistake to life. Then Segal, her husband and their now 3-year-old moved to the Austin area for the better affordability and the music scene. The partnership with Azanza continued. 

Segal says she believes that because Mistake has been a large part of her daughter, Gal's, life, she's "not as critical of things as she would have been. I think my motherhood has improved tremendously." 

Mayra Azanza and her husband, Luis Artola, live in Palo Alto. Daughter Karen, 12, was the inspiration for Mistake, and son Emilio, 6, has been a model for some of the lessons.

Recently, when Gal spilled some milk on the floor, Gal said, "No worries, Mommy. It's just a mistake."

The Mistake monster has developed over time and is now being manufactured in Mexico by a company that is female-run with ethical standards, Azanza says. 

They also have developed a monthly newsletter with activities. "It's not a doll you buy one time and go play. It's constant engagement," Segal says.

Playmagine is using experts in early childhood education to help write the content. Each month, there's a different theme, such as music or bullying. There are online activities such as art, games and digital books. 

"We're creating a whole platform for everybody about mistakes," Azanza says. While they've focused on children, she says, parents will learn from the materials as well.

In Segal's house, they are learning the nuances of making a mistake and learning from them. For example, you can't be rude to a friend and just say sorry to fix it, Segal says. You have to learn from it and try to do better the next time. 

Mistake dolls from Playmagine are made by a female-owned business in Mexico. Playmagine has created content around the doll that gets sent out monthly to help kids, parents and educators do more than just play with the doll.

One thing Mistake has taught Segal is to have more compassion for the people around her and for herself. She believes her daughter is being taught that, too. "It makes the quality of their life so much better," Segal says. 

Mistake is available at makemistakes.club for $50. A monthly subscription for the Mistake Club digital magazine is $10 a month. Or $100 buys the doll and the digital subscription for the year. They are also working on a subscription box that will deliver monthly activities and content. 

Segal and Azanza have started to branch out from parents to market it to schools and to hospitals. A hospital in Israel has ordered 300 dolls for its patients.

The team is also working with a marketing class at the University of Texas, which has taken marketing Mistake as a class project. 

Azanza and Segal hope to grow Mistake digitally as well as have physical stores where kids could gather to do activities around Mistake and parents could get resources. They would like Mistake to be a global name like an Elmo. 

Azanza says that for her daughter and for other children, she hopes Mistake teaches them how to live with and learn from failures.

"The world is tough," she says. We need to help them "to not to create own obstacles in it."