What happens when your classic businessman/entrepreneur takes his talents for business-to-business models and business shopping robots* to the playpen? Daniel Nissanoff founded Make Meaning, a creative play space for children and adults with two locations in Manhattan, and soon to be hundreds more throughout the country. We talked with him about the concept for Make Meaning, and his life as a working (Jewish!) dad.
*Yes, that’s an actual thing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for Make Meaning?
As a former high tech entrepreneur, I have a great appreciation for the benefits of technology, but one of the side effects is the fact that kids are growing up faster than ever and families are challenged to find environments where they can truly unplug together. When I became a father, I wanted to ensure that the time I spent with them, especially outside the home, was high-quality and meaningful. I knew that they had great enthusiasm for activities that inspired their creativity, but at the same time, I knew that the environments that offered those activities were not equally enticing to adults and often fell short of expectation. The desire to create a world-class destination where kids and adults could come together for meaningful moments having fun with creativity is what inspired my vision for Make Meaning.
The tag line for Make Meaning is “Dirty hands, clean thoughts.” Inquiring minds want to know: what exactly does that mean?
At Make Meaning, we provide all of the tools and inspiration to have the kind of fun that can be messy… and indulging that fun is equally liberating for the mind. Why, what were you thinking?
Were you raised Orthodox, and are you raising your family Orthodox?
Our children attend a modern Orthodox day school and we belong to a modern Orthodox synagogue.
You have a J.D. from New York University, a B.S. in economics, invented something called the “first commercially deployed business shopping robot,” written a book, and are now opening 100 stores across the country. Where do you find all that energy?
I am lucky to have a supportive wife who manages my personal life!
We love the names of your two kids, Asher and Phoebe. How did you choose them?
For Asher, we wanted a strong Jewish name that could be pronounced in a modern way. Notably and after the fact, Asher was listed as a top 20 name for boys in 2015 in Freakonomics. Both my wife and I have always loved the name Phoebe–it’s sweet and unique… just like her.