An immersive, multi-sensory, all family experience with a huge, inclusive heart, Sloomoo Institute, is expanding nationwide

I’d walked past the Sloomoo Institute on Broadway in the SOHO District of Manhattan many times over the past few years, wondered what was inside, but had never ventured in.

Several weeks ago, I was scouting for a corporate retail safari, that sends teams of global execs from different industries to find what’s new and engaging in the hottest retail concepts in Manhattan. SOHO, in my mind, is the best place in the country to see cutting edge, omni-channel, in-store tech, sustainability innovation, merchandising, and “experiential” retail concepts. I finally went inside Sloomoo Institute and asked to speak with someone who could briefly explain what it was all about. I was introduced to Jerry Sadutto, one of the kindest, proudest, and most enthusiastic store managers I’ve ever met. His brief tour and the story behind Sloomoo blew me away.

The Sloomoo Institute was conceived in late 2018 by Karen Robinovitz, formerly the co-founder of the first influencer talent agency, and Sara Schiller, founder of a meeting room-sharing platform. Both women, in their late 40’s at the time, had been friends for years with a deep bond over a shared love for contemporary art. More recently, both suffered devastating family tragedies. One day, a family friend was visiting Karen with her 10-year-old daughter, who brought along slime to play with. Karen joined in the play and found the sensory, tactile experience of manipulating slime mesmerizing and surprisingly therapeutic. It triggered the idea that people of all ages could benefit from playing with the unique material. She ran that thought past Sara and the two decided to join forces.

Slime History And Culture

Slime was first introduced as a play substance by Mattel in 1976. By the time Karen and Sara became obsessed, it had grown to have a huge following, with people making their own slime at home, experimenting, and sharing their inventions on social media, YouTube videos, and at conventions and Meetups around the country.

In October 2019, after an exhaustive, cross-country exploration of everything slime, and intense brainstorming sessions about creating a multi-faceted, multi-sensory experience around slime, Karen and Sara launched a 6-month slime experience pop-up in Manhattan. It was instantly successful and the concept clearly warranted becoming a full-time business with a permanent home.

The Sloomoo name captures naming conventions in slime culture, where people add “oo” after each consonant in their names. My Slime name, for example, is Mooshool. Everyone who enters the 1 1/2 hour experience starts by getting a name tag with their Sloomoo name. The “Institute” part of the name reflects that slime is based on science and is about learning while playing. There are SlooScience facts about polymers throughout the space and the dozens of slime textures, each require precise ingredient blends – STEM at its core. There’s also science behind play and the brain. Play creates opportunities for connections, social emotional development, coordination, and more.

Inclusivity And Multi-Sensory Aspects Are Baked Into Everything

From its inception, Sloomoo Institute has been focused on multi-sensory experiences, to a degree I hadn’t seen before, as well as genuine inclusivity. Every possible touchpoint includes one or the other. The mission is to be a place of joy and acceptance for both customers and employees. The brand’s character icons are intentionally gender neutral, and the substance itself is neither solid, nor liquid. The use of bright, vibrant colors throughout, is based on color therapy, a form of therapy that uses color and light to treat some mental and physical health conditions. Activities include physical things you could never do at home, like aiming a giant wad of slime at someone with an oversized slingshot, or being drenched by a slime waterfall.

Sloomoo is at the intersection of art and commerce. The overall aesthetic was designed to appeal to both kids and adults, like the giant egg-shaped, sculptural vessels spread throughout. Guests can sink their hands into all of them to explore the different textures and scents (alcohol wipes are available throughout). There’s a VIBES wall (Very Intensely Beneficial Scents) on which 60 different fragrances are buried in decorative flowers (a subliminal message to stop and smell the flowers; scent is also closely tied to memory, so as you explore, old memories surface and new ones are created). Kids pick the scent they want to incorporate into the personalized slime they’ll be taking home.

Multi-Sensory Stimulation

The main activity is creating your own slime at the DIY bar, where there are over 4 million unique combinations. Each guest customizes their own by picking from:

  • 8 different Slime textures like butter, cloud, cloud creme, clear, icee, jelly, snow fizz, and thick and glossy.
  • 60 different (many unusual) scents, like lychee, lavender, birthday cake, cotton candy, and new baby.
  • 18 colors
  • 140 different charms with QR codes that connect to a Sloomoo AR experience

Other multi-sensory stimulation guests experience include:

  • Sloomoo Falls, a slime waterfall of slime that rains down on visitors (Sloomoo provides protective garb)
  • An ASMR sonic journey room with booths and furry walls; each one projects a different custom track of soothing sounds (finger nail tapping, cooking, whispers, and, of course, slime farts)
  • A room where kids move, and slime characters mimic their motion
  • A quiet room with a relaxing 8.5 minute CGI slime video series of the Sloomooverse
  • A play area where kids squeeze squishy toys, jump barefoot onto thick bright-colored slime, climb through a tunnel, and navigate criss-crossing ropes
  • An Inclusive Environment For Employees

Approximately 10% of the employees are on the autism spectrum and another 15% consider themselves neurodiverse or physically diverse. I interviewed Kaitlin Olsen who is on the spectrum and works in the new Houston store making slime. She found the position through an organization called Center for Pursuit. Kaitlin was thrilled to be working at Sloomoo and was extremely grateful to have found a position where she felt so comfortable, happy, and creative, and where she could work in the slime kitchen, away from the noise and all the guests upstairs. Equally impressive was Production Manager, Nick Carruyo, who is not on the spectrum, and came from the original Manhattan location. Nick puts a great deal of care and thought into ensuring his employees felt welcome, comfortable, happy and appreciated, in what he described as a family feeling environment. It was impressive how the company’s values of respect for every individual were so entrenched in the outlooks and behaviors of all the employees I met.

An Unusual Head of R&D

Karen and Sara met Chase Kellebrew, a then 15-year-old DIY Slime inventor at a slime convention in 2018. Since he was 13, Chase had been making and selling his creations on ETSY, marketing them on Instagram, and attending slime conventions throughout the U.S. in search of more ideas. At 15, Chase won 1st place at a slime convention for his unique, thick and glossy slime.

Impressed by Chase, Karen and Sara contacted him to come on board when the Manhattan store opened, to work as a “slimemaker”. 18 months later, Chase was promoted to be the company’s “Chief Slimeologist,” aka Head of R&D, responsible for developing new slime products with novel textures (like sushi rice, slushee slime, or full of recyclable beads that make the texture crunchy), mix-ins (like sparkles and mini marbles), unique scents, colors (like the latest “color-shifting metallic”), packaging “recipes” (Unicorn Waffle Slime has stripes that are visible through the transparent case), and slime toppers (creations of clay made to look like hamburgers, s’mores, cupcakes, or sushi that can be dried as decorations, or mixed in to transform the slime’s texture and color).

Creation Of A Very Extendable Brand

Sara and Karen have created a multi-faceted brand that’s ripe for expansion in many directions. Stores are in operation in New York, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles opens late summer 2024. They’re planning for more in the next few years but are not yet revealing the locations. Each location includes the best aspects of the New York operation, but also experiments with new activities. Houston, for example, added a wall of textures that’s accessible for people in wheelchairs who can reach inside to feel surfaces like hard rocks, faux fur, and other surprising tactile sensations (guests wear masks to shut one sense in order to heighten their sense of touch).

Upon exiting the experience, a fun shop offers merchandise including slime-making kits, slime add-ins, “TSA Approved” slime (in small enough containers to pack in carry-on bags), clothing items, and collaborations like the one with Hi-Chew candies, Black Tap (the cult NYC shake and burger cafe), and more. Different cities offer hyper local “insider” collab slimes too.

As a former Disney SVP of Marketing, I couldn’t help but envision more opportunities involving storytelling around the characters, development of a Sloomoo world, and books and entertainment in the future.

Extensive Partnerships

The strong science, chemistry, and STEM aspects to making slime, and Sloomoo Institute’s positive learning and storytelling around diversity and inclusion and mental health have led to a range of wonderful partnerships including The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, The Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Centers for Civil and Human Rights, local schools and STEM programs, the Pratt Institute in New York, and Goldie Hawn’s Mindup Foundation for mental fitness for children. Sloomoo is also starting to be embraced by companies like Google, for corporate events, as a fun material for execs to play, relax and unwind with during creative sessions.

Take-Aways For Marketers

The Sloomoo Institute is succeeding for many reasons that are more relevant today than ever:

1) It’s a fun, happy, cheerful, physical, educational, and creative experience

2) For customers, it’s welcoming and inclusive for all ages, abilities and personal expressions to enjoy together, and it fills a void

3) For employees, inclusivity is authentically woven into staffing and operations. The company finds and appreciates talent in individuals that others have not, spanning a wide spectrum of ages and diverse abilities

4) The brand, with its heart, values, intelligence, and story, has a solid base to expand in terms of geographic markets, experiences, accompanying products, learning opportunities, storytelling, characters, and additional entertainment

5) The win/win strategic partnerships are a huge help in building support and awareness for Sloomoo Institute among all the targets it wants to reach

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