Thomas Taylor, president and CEO of Foxx Life Sciences, holds up the mascots of Lab Rat Gifts, based in Salem. (Eli Okun/Union Leader Correspondent)
Salem's Lab Rat Gifts expands into NH malls
By ELI OKUN
Union Leader Correspondent
— A couple of years ago, Thomas Taylor asked his son, Matthew, if he could create a design for a cute and cuddly rat. Matthew complied, not knowing what it was for.
Then, after he graduated college, Matthew returned to the Salem business where both Taylors work, Foxx Life Sciences — and saw his rat plastered across banners and a website.
“He goes and turns it into a company,” Matthew recalled this week. “It was almost like an Alice-in-Wonderland sort of thing.”
That company was Lab Rat Gifts, a sister company of Foxx, where Thomas Taylor is the president and CEO and Matthew works as marketing manager. Lab Rat Gifts bills itself as the largest science-themed e-store in the world, offering about 3,500 toys, gifts and other products online and at a storefront attached to its Salem headquarters.
Last month, a year after opening its outlet store, Lab Rat Gifts took the next step forward in its expansion, adding three kiosks at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua and the Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem. The kiosks are open Friday to Sunday and will be open daily during the holiday season.
“This is a very niche area. And researchers, scientists, biologists, chemists, you name it, they don’t have a place to go that’s theirs to buy these kinds of things,” Thomas Taylor said. “So we wanted to create a boutique store for those individuals.”
In addition to science professionals, the target audience includes science teachers, kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields — and, of course, all their relatives searching for birthday or holiday gifts.
Lab Rat Gifts decided to create and expand its physical presence after experiencing significant success at trade shows around the country, where they also often get ideas for new products from people who walk up and request them.
It also constitutes part of a bigger strategy at Foxx, which creates laboratory equipment, devices and disposables for pharmaceutical, biotech, research and other uses.
A third sister company, Boston Lab Shop, is run by Thomas Taylor’s daughter, Nicole “Coco” Taylor. It’s an online distribution company that aims to create many boutique websites for different aspects of scientific research — beginning, for example, with solventwaste.com, which distributes thousands of products tied to waste and lab safety.
Foxx has seen major growth lately: It has undergone five expansions in four years, currently standing at 45,000 square feet. And its year-to-year growth so far in 2016 is 60 percent.
Thomas Taylor attributed the company’s success in large part to its culture, which emphasizes teamwork, positive attitudes and a non-bureaucratic setup. Four-fifths of its roughly 30 employees are under age 30.
“A lot of big companies don’t believe in the under-30 group right now. Right? They think they’re entitled, they’re lazy, they’re not ambitious. And I don’t believe in that,” he said. “There’s a lot of smart, intelligent, hard-working, passionate younger people that don’t get the chance.”
The company has also turned to innovative ways to draw attention online, including a series of fun videos featuring their products and employees.
Its roster of websites is only growing. In addition to sites like labratgifts.com and scienceties.com (which includes an Ebola tie), it will soon add sciencemugs.com.
And Lab Rat Gifts has plans for branded expansion in nearly every direction. This fall, it will launch a line of five cuddly lab rat stuffed animals, each with its own name and personality, and start to get into the world of gym rats, too.
Corporations are starting to use the gifts for rewards programs or promotions, an area in which the company wants to build more accounts. Thomas Taylor said he wants to build more ties with schools and science clubs that would enjoy the products. And more kiosks might pop up in the Boston area.
With online sales rising quickly, Matthew Taylor said he just wants to keep the success moving.
“I would really like to help carry the momentum going forward,” he said. “That’s really a huge driver for us going into the holiday season.”