December 01, 2020

How a Former Dancer Pirouetted to Become a Sustainable Toy Design Entrepreneur

ArtCenter Helps Launch Archamelia, The House of a Thousand Stories

Dancer turned designer Charlie Neshbya-Hodges never imagined he’d turn in his tights to become a toy making entrepreneur but fast forward to 2020, and that is exactly what he did with guidance from the entrepreneurship team at ArtCenter College of Design.

As a student, Neshbya-Hodges who earned his Bachelor of Science in 2018 from ArtCenter, developed a deeply empathetic practice for inclusive, human-centered product design. During a course sponsored by Mattel, he and his classmates were challenged to reimagine Barbie’s Dreamhouse.

Neshbya-Hodges’ concept in that class became the seed for ArchameliaTM, The House of a Thousand Stories , a transforming paper toy house with five playsets, more than 20 configurations and 100+ illustrated hide-and-seek games and activities. Designed to accommodate a child’s favorite toys and figurines, the gender-neutral toy expands to ten times its size and folds neatly and beautifully back into a bookshelf, providing hours of screen-free play inspiration for kids of all ages.

Archamelia is currently available for purchase as a special limited edition for the holiday season that includes a first edition chapter book and free shipping. The first customers, “pioneers” as Neshbya-Hodges calls them, have signed up to provide feedback which will be incorporated for the wider product launch at a future date.

“Charlie is a natural inventor with a mile-a-minute creative mind,” said Robbie Nock, ArtCenter's director of Entrepreneurship and Professional Practice. “His original idea was solid and an excellent example of the commitment to sustainability we teach at the College. As a founder, Charlie choreographed a complex product development process with a dedication to his core values of inclusive play and positive environmental impact at every step of the way.”

Neshbya-Hodges was selected to participate in ArtCenter’s Launch Lab, a capstone accelerator program facilitated by Nock, to help students graduate as founders with access to $5k in non-dilutive seed funding and full ownership of IP generated while enrolled. With support from a dynamic team of faculty and industry advisors, Neshbya-Hodges developed a startup roadmap with manufacturing, legal, financial and go-to-market strategy. Nock worked closely with the inventor for several months to build a foundation in order to prepare for the limited-edition product launch.

With sustainability top of mind, Neshbya-Hodges designed the toy house with only two materials: paper and board. With FSC-certified materials sourced from responsibly managed forests in the United States, the house is manufactured and hand-assembled in Los Angeles, California. Archamelia™ engenders a short, direct, and eco-friendly supply chain with minimal CO2 and other greenhouse gases released during production, assembly, storage and distribution. A self-contained playset, carrier and storage device combined, Archamelia™ folds to occupy less than half of a cubic foot of space and weighs less than four pounds.

This sustainably-manufactured, non-plastic toy house offers non-gendered, open-ended and customizable make-believe to any kid, anytime, anywhere…sustainably. Combining artistry, empathy and work ethic from two decades in professional dance with his knowledge of design, Neshbya-Hodges says, “Archamelia is more than a product. It’s a platform for more nutritious play.”

Neshbya-Hodges graduated as valedictorian from ArtCenter with a degree in Product Design and a Designmatters minor in Social Innovation. He is IDSA’s 2018 Western District Student Award Winner. His designs have won two gold medals in international design competitions and earned recognition for sustainability and gender neutrality. He has spoken on the TEDx stage, discussing “Learning from Failure,” and served on a panel of Young Entrepreneurs at the 2018 BOLD Symposium discussing “Leadership in the 21st Century.”

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Social Media:

Instagram: @artcenteredu @designmattersca @archamelia @charliearches @robbienock @artcenterproduct

Twitter: @artcenteredu @designmattersca @robbienock

LinkedIn: @artcenteredu #designmatters @charlieneshybahodges @robbie-nock-a370a14b

Facebook: @artcenteredu @designmattersartcenter @imagistoria @chaswell221 @robbienock @accdpdx

About ArtCenter College of Design Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California,  is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round continuing education programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.

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Teri Bond
ArtCenter College of Design
626 396-2385

Portrait of Charlie Neshbya-Hodges, inventor of Archamelia toy house. Archamelia inventor Charlie Neshbya-Hodges believes it is time that our children are provided the necessary tools to become great storytellers, limitless make-believers and open-ended creators. Photo by Juan Posada.
Photo of Archamelia, the house of a thousand stories invented by Charlie Hodges.
Archamelia was invented by Charlie Neshbya-Hodges while a student and developed as a business with guidance from the entrepreneurship team at ArtCenter College of Design.
Boy plays with Archamelia airplane.
Archamelia is a transforming paper toy house with five playsets, more than 20 configurations and 100+ illustrated hide-and-seek games and activities.
Archamelia’s Topsy Turvey Teatro is one of a thousand stories to engage kids of all ages.