Josh Daniels and Caroline Winata pivoted their business strategy in response to California’s shelter-in-place orders. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Winata)

Getting to Know: Caroline Winata and Josh Daniels

Giggle & Riot cofounders reimagine business to bring joy to customers and support to local businesses

Back Web Only Apr 23, 2020 By Vanessa Labi

Scrolling through the Giggle & Riot Instagram is like a nostalgic flipbook of memories in our not-so-distant past, one where we posed snugly in irreverent photo booths as we swapped costume sunglasses and silly hats. Founded in 2013, the photo booth company, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Caroline Winata and Josh Daniels, exists to liven up celebrations, such as weddings, birthday parties and corporate events.

Until recently, Giggle & Riot was providing photo booths for up to 400 events a year, so to plummet to zero events during California’s shelter-in-place orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been dispiriting to say the least. But since creativity is the quality on which their business is based, it’s no surprise that Winata and Daniels have gotten creative and responded with new services. 

Based on their ethos of craftiness and providing the public with “a little more woohoo,” Winata and Daniels have started designing products and services that are all about delight, imagination and gratitude — the perfect antidote to the dullsville of daily life some families are facing. Giggle & Riot Fun is a portal to activity kits for children and adults, as well as Curbside Crawl that promotes local businesses that offer curbside pickup. Here’s how this imaginative duo has reimagined their business in a way that brings joy to their customers and support to local businesses. 

How our business has changed since the coronavirus: Daniels:We already make a lot of our props and do a lot of design in-house, so we already had a ton of supplies in inventory. So we just started thinking about things that we could do that were fun and creative for both us and other people. We came up with the name Giggle & Riot Fun for the products and started putting together these kits with things we already had.

Winata: Yeah, we have activity kits that kids can do and we also have a couple for adults. We’re catering to families who are, to be honest, going crazy because they need to shelter in place and entertain the children. We’re also encouraging educational play and creative, imaginative play. We built an online store for it and we’re either shipping it to you or we’re doing curbside pickup. Each activity kit has a few crafts, a dress up. … There’s a pirate one that has a card that tells the kids how to speak like a pirate. And we have a ninja and chef one coming up. So it’s guaranteed to entertain the kids for hours, if not days. 

How we’re serving local children with a locally made product: Winata: It’s kind of nice because it’s locally made, artisan made, with Josh working with the laser cutter. It’s nice because all the materials we’re sourcing locally. I’m doing the class preparation, and we design it ourselves. We’re still able to retain one of our employees and she actually got her degree in early childhood education, so that goes in line with what we’re doing too.

The program we created to help support businesses during this time: Winata: The other side of Giggle & Riot Fun is Curbside Crawl. We have a lot of businesses that are providing curbside pickup or online shopping with pickup and delivery locally. (It’s a scavenger hunt.) … There are so many local businesses that are still open that really, really need our support and help. Previously, we’ve worked with some of these local businesses that are not restaurants. Restaurants are hurting too, and we understand that there’s different help that they can get, and there’s multiple listings for them. But there isn’t one for, say, the bookstores or gift stores or the little kitchen stores that are still open (for pickup) and in a precarious position. 

How we’re shifting some core elements of our business, even after quarantine is lifted: Winata:We’re changing the way our photo booths will operate when events open up again. We’re going to have no-contact photo booths. Previously, we had people touching or whatever. And so we’ll have no props, have only our attendant doing it, and we’re going to have photo booths for pickup for people so that they can use it for their own events. 

The new element we’re introducing in response to coronavirus: Winata: We’re going to offer live streaming for parties and weddings, because people still want to experience and observe these rites of passage and important traditions. We’re going to live stream personal events to families at home who can’t travel, maybe at-risk populations. We want to still provide that fun experience because that’s what we’re all about, and we want to reach everybody. 

We got experienced in it because there was a friend of ours who was supposed to give a concert in the beginning of the shelter in place, then it got all shut down. So we used our equipment and did an online concert for him. It was just an in-home concert, and it went really well. The highest number of people we had (virtually streaming) at one time was 80. We had the comments projected on a TV screen, and Josh was managing the engagement. 

Daniels: I was communicating back and forth for our friend, so that people felt like they were connected. While he was up there singing, we were interacting. 

Winata: Yeah, so we were thinking, well, why not offer this to people who are having graduations, weddings. And — I hate to see it — but even funerals. There’s a cap of 10, and that’s an important part of people’s mourning. 

How we’re taking care of our mental health during this time: Winata: On top of being business owners, we are partners and we live together, so it’s a lot at one time. And so (what helps us is) staying in our lanes, and trusting each other to do the work. Communicating, when we are overwhelmed, what we can do in one day. Taking time away from each other, so that we’re not on top of each other the time. And then knowing at the end of your work day what you need to do to de-stress has become even more important. 

Daniels: We’re working more now than normal, the first couple weeks were just non-stop. Over the last week, we’ve realized we need to take more walks, spend time with our dogs, go on picnics. I went on almost a 20 kilometer kayak (trip) with a friend the other day.

How I discovered creativity was a muscle you can train and strengthen: Winata: Because I’ve trained myself to always have (the creative juices) on, it’s more so how do I turn them off? (Laughs). I really feel like your creativity is like a muscle. You keep working at it every day in any way that you can. You know, taking pictures with your iPhone can be it. Rearranging your own little vignette on your nightstand can be it. In all of those ways, it’s like a muscle that you develop and train. 

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