Startup toymaker dials up Internet phone system to build credibility

Summary:Each Ooma Office base station, managed in the cloud, can support up to five extensions and 15 virtual extensions.

Like most startups, GiGGo Toys aspires to look bigger than its actual size: it's a perception thing that inspires customer confidence. 

So when "Chief Toy Officer" Diana Brobmann started the company on New York's Long Island about a year ago, she was faced with a choice: pay a professional telephone receptionist $45,000 to $50,000 to manage incoming phone calls or invest in a business phone system that uses a "virtual receptionist" to ensure that they aren't missed. 

Brobmann opted for the latter, in the form of Ooma Office, a solution for small businesses that combines a compact piece of hardware (pictured below) that plugs into an Internet router with a high-speed bandwidth connection and controls a series of wireless phone jacks that act as the phone lines.

The starter version of the kit is priced around $249, including one base station and two Linx jacks that support up to three phone lines; you can expand each base system up to five extensions by buying additional Linx devices. Each system also supports up to 15 virtual extensions (for forwarding to external numbers).

OOMA_Office2Linx-v2

The Ooma hardware works in combination with a cloud service (starting at $19.98 per month for one user and line) that allows your company to turn features on and off. (The charge beyond that is $9.99 per user and $9.99 per phone line.) Here are some of the features:

  • Unlimited long distance and phone calls in the United States or Canada
  • Voicemail and voicemail to email options
  • Call transferring
  • The ability to create ring groups (to make sure a call is picked up or rolls to someone)
  • Conference bridges
  • Personalized hold music
  • Call forwarding
  • Support for attaching a fax machine (or for using an electronic fax service)

GiGGo opted for many of these functions. "We wanted to come across as an established company," Brobmann said. "We put in place a lot of functionality that helped us play with the big boys."

GiGGo sells ride-on toys including Motortycle and L'il Skootah, and it saw investing in a system like Ooma as critical for convincing retailers like Toys "R" Us and Target that the toy maker means business. Aside from creating the impression of a united company (no matter where someone is located), the Ooma Office set-up eliminated GiGGo's need to invest in a third-party conference call service, Brobmann said, and it was also able to program the automated voice that answers incoming calls to play into its branding. The company supports about four people in its central office, the rest of its roughly 15-person team are remote.

Brobmann also stressed Ooma Office's ease of use: her team was able to set it up quickly with minimal support. 

Ooma has been around since 2004, and it started out providing cloud-based telephone service for home users and consumers. Its small-business options are more recent, but the company has already carved out online retail partnerships with Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Staples. 

Topics: SMBs

About

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist specializing in transformative technology and innovation. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News. She started her journalism lif... Full Bio

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