by Box Blox | 18 Feb 2023
Biographies and Interviews
What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?
Creating & Delivering Excellence. I am by nature a creator, innovator, and now an Inventor, and problem solver! I’m also part time problem maker, you can ask my wife! 😉. Sometimes life goes smoothly, sometimes life gets bumpy, but life is a great adventure if you let it!
What is your claim to fame?
Watching our dollars and cents, my wife and I paid off our home on our 9th wedding anniversary! As our three kids get older (and so do we) we are glad we did it! Life doesn’t get any cheaper, and being debt free opens up doors and options.
What has been your biggest achievement?
‘Catching’ my wife; the catch of a lifetime!
What was your biggest failure?
Struggling through college. 6-1/2 years to get a 4-year degree. Nothing to brag about, but grateful for parents, teachers, and mentors that never gave up on me.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
“Faith, family, fun.” And “Work before play.”
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
Our three kids got me started. Kids minds are amazingly creative, they sparked the ‘problem-solving skills in me to invent Box Blox™.
What are you working on now?
Actively building in value to our product. For example, creating STEM and STEAM teaching guides, tools, and curriculum around our product. That said, we’re building partnerships and sponsorships with corporations, brands, and non-profits. Since we are all about “Building Up Families, Kids, and Communities”. For example, we have recently signed up at the YMCA to support their hand-on Suess Science Day in our hometown of Springfield MO. At the ‘Y’ we are utilizing our company-goodwill moto of “Building the Future Today”. Brands and partnerships are, and will likely be the building blocks of our success for years to come.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
The pure JOY on kids’ faces when they create, build, learn, and explore together! Left to myself, I can get down on myself, yet seeing kids having fun with toys re-ignites my untapped energy inside. We all have untapped talents, finding it is golden!
If you look back at yourself 10 years ago is this where you thought you’d be?
NO! I was a bit lost and bored 10 years ago.
Where did you think you’d be? What changed? What went right?
WOW, what a great question! I was in a technical food-service related industry. I wasn’t all that motivated by it at the time; but when the kid-creator in me was re-ignited, my life took on exciting turn towards entrepreneurship and the toy industry: Now, inventing, creating, growing within the freedoms of owning my own business is such an adventure full of joy!
What was your favorite project to date?
The ‘me’ project. Personal development, hinged to “asking for help” from others. When I took a couple extra risks to make me a better person, things started to happen. Sometimes self-improvement went slowly, sometimes quickly: The result realized in the ‘adventure of life’, never giving up on believing in the ‘creator’ in me. After that, the Invention Process is a close second: discovering talents and hidden talents is propelling me into a wonderful ‘second half’ of life.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
Playing is how kids work. Play is how kids learn, grow, and expand their minds. In our ‘toy world’ we all play a role in this. In particular, skill-building toys are tops! I think Lego® is probably the king of this combination. Their toy blocks develop the creative mind and fine motor skills. They are experts at constantly coming out with new and exciting products. One-n-done toys may or may not thrive, but there sure seems to be no end in sight for most toys, especially creative, fun, brain-building, and skill-building toys!
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Invest some time in trial-and-error testing up front. Test, tune, redesign, repeat: When you hit the sweet spot, you’ll see your potential customers and users engage and their eyes light up! When that happens, move forward and take the plunge to get up in front of more customers and professionals. Lastly, the reality is there is virtually never a get rich quick idea or plan, so stay the course. Have a plan, work the plan. A CPA-accountant advised me “know when and for how much money you are in for; have measurable milestones for when to evaluate staying in the game and for if/when you should get out. Have goals with dates times, and dollars: Without them, he had seen many an entrepreneur spend a boatload of time and money only to regret it later.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Take a very serious look at starting your own business in an area that, (a) you love to do, (b) you can do relatively well and, (c) that people will pay for. Where those three things come together for you, that is a real sweet spot you could be successful in. Working for others or for yourself in that sweet spot makes work a lot easier!
What advice do you have for people starting in the industry?
Get into the toy and game industry if you love creativity, kids, and fun. If so, the money will come.
Do you have a typical workday and how does it play out for you?
My typical workday is ‘atypical’: Overall though, my days tend to rotate around from desk-work days, meetings, play-days, creative days, and then customer interaction ‘sales & marketing’ days. I lean towards one major category a day, so my brain is most ‘alive’ in that area for the whole day.
What’s your workspace setup like?
Computer with orderly papers and to-do lists at my fingertips. Our Box Blox products sit on my desk too, because I am very visual and hand-on and they often come in handy for ‘show-and-tell’.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Meeting new interesting people. Encouraging others. Building teams and business networks. Creating fresh new solutions to problems that come up. Creative problem solving with others is my favorite thing to do.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
My worst job inflicted so much structure, routine, and documentation on me that I felt stifled almost from day one. Others did fine there, but the structure was painful for me. From week two on that job, I knew I made a mistake. I learned never to take any job just because a job is wanted: there’s a better future and adventure in careers and pursuing what you love!
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Still seeking the right business model: We are fine-tuning how to reach more and more kids in groups: The answers are coming as we engage with more and more interactive after school and educational venues. We finding we are leaning and succeeding in developing business-to-business (B2B) sales rather than direct to consumer. Doors for B2B are opening now and it is quite exciting.
What and/or who inspires you?
Big ideas inspire me. Big problems inspire me. Remember Edison and his incandescent light bulb? He failed 10,000 and then succeeded: Thank God, most of us can do better than that, right?
How do you define creativity?
The work of transferring original ideas from our minds into real world. That outcome could be written words, artwork, new processes, tangible products, etc. Our minds were created to create.
How do you define innovation?
Something new. Something virtually never experienced before
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
In solitude often late at night or early morning after coffee! Often my best ideas come when I’m working with tangible materials in my hands to ‘tinker’ with.
What blocks your creativity?
Excessive noise around me… with noise, my brain short-circuits.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Cat naps. Cats know what they’re doing. I don’t need to reinvent that. If I can’t take a cat nap, a walk and fresh air often does just the trick to keep me going.
What words describe how you think or how your brain works?
Randomly. Computer geeks might say ROM (random operating memory). My ROM-brain can take a cloud of dozens of ideas and tie them together to accomplish goals. In many ways, this ROM-brain of mine is both a super-power.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Lincoln Logs, wood blocks, and green army men. My brother and I would setup battle zones and forts, then use rubber bands to shoot down the army men.
Where were you born?
Just outside Chicago, in Norwood Park, IL.
What was your life like growing up?
Exceedingly middle-of-the-road. Standard middle-class. As a teenager, I found trouble and trouble found me. I thank God that I was lifted out of that as the years went by.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I had a paper-route at age twelve, and started working retail and fast food at fifteen. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. The various jobs I had as I grew up gave me a nice diverse set of experiences.
What do you read every day, and why?
A Christ-centered daily devotional like ‘Our Daily Bread’. I found out the hard way there was no future in pursuing things to satisfy the bottomless pit of pleasure-seeking originating from trying to satisfy “me, myself, and I”. I needed, and still need a Solid Rock, a firm foundation.
Who are role models for the work you do?
My dad for teaching me hard work and persistence. My mom for teaching me to take interest in others. Growing up, my mom’s impromptu conversations with strangers used to drive me crazy. “Let’s go” I would whine. The irony is, now I’m the one making small talk with strangers, driving my kids crazy! I hope the find more and more joy in meeting new people as they grow up to adulthood.
What is your favorite gadget, app or software for work?
Hands down, Google is the greatest, followed by YouTube. Having answers and ‘YouTube’ university at my fingertips helps me search and get ideas ad solutions for things I have no clue about! Google is like having a Genie in a bottle at my desk!
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled?
Coffee, or nap and Coffee.
What was the last thing that made you laugh or cry?
Our kids can make the funniest faces and say the funniest things! They crack me up!
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Outdoors, camping, and sunsets on the beach.
Are you named after anyone?
My parents name me after other people with names: They chose not to create a new name just for me. In some ways, I am exceedingly average, in other ways, I am exceedingly unique!
Do you have a nickname?
In high school, my nickname was Pac Man. That’ll date me! Pac Man was all the rage at that time.
Do you have any kiddos?
Yes, three amazing Kiddos; Caleb, Claire, and Rachel: They were my early guinea pigs for product testing:
What do you play with your kids?
We had (and still do) have tons of fun with toys and games of all sizes and shapes. We mostly enjoy card games and monopoly. Ironically, my wife Hazel doesn’t play Monopoly with us because it stresses here out.
Do you have any pets?
No pets. Kids keep us busy enough for now!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Yes, and I have a related super-power: I can turn a bag of potato chips into lunch or dinner! I never could eat ‘just one’ as Lays’ used to say
What is your favorite way to waste time on your phone?
If I’m not careful, I waste a lot of time on YouTube watching comedians and FAA jet airplane flight training videos.
What’s in your fridge?
Veggies, rice, cuties and bottle water as staples. Other foods including Asian food and pizza are also commonly in our fridge.
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
I didn’t really get any artistic talents. Can’t sing, dance, draw, or play any instruments. Thankfully my wife got all those genes and talents! My wife (and business partner!) has all those talents and she’s teaching out kids.
Who are your favorite musicians, singers or musical groups?
Yes! The Beatles, and Amy Grant’s early songs never seem to get old. Madonna and Michael Jackson’s music are also ‘turn up the radio’ favorites. All time favorite is Fiddler on the Roof’s; “If I were a Rich Man”. I like One Direction too. I like upbeat songs; they help keep me positive!
What music are you listening to now?
Nothing now, I like quiet thinking-silence throughout most of the day. Music is for the car these days.
What music will you always dance to?
None! Don’t dance, don’t like to dance.
What’s your favorite cereal?
Now my favorite is good old Quaker Oats Oatmeal. Plain or brown-sugar and cinnamon.
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
I notice what people value in life and eternity. What they are pursuing and where they are headed. I’m a people watcher and love to observe human behavior. My wife is Filipina, it’s interest that at the core, all cultures and people have hopes, dreams, and fears: It just depends on what the hopes dreams and fears revolve around.
What is the last time you did something for the first time?
The last big ‘first time’ thing was moving our family out of state. From Illinois to Missouri. It’s been filled with ups and downs; but overall, it has taught us all to really value and invest in our ‘inner circle’ of friends, and invest in all people more and more.
What are your favorite books?
Pilgrims Progress. The second best-selling book of all time (second only the Holy Bible)
What are your favorite magazines?
Industry magazines and journals is all I have time for today – and that’s really all I want!
What are your favorite websites?
Hard to say; I like to get news and entertainment from various sources.
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
Happy endings where the good guys win. I also like sci-fi, suspense, and documentaries too. Movies that really develop characters and engage the mind. I love the movies “The Sand Lot”, “Inside Out”, “Down and Derby” the soap-box racer movie, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”
What are your favorite TV or streaming shows and what is on your list to watch?
We really don’t do much TV or streaming at all (we must be weird!). We borrow a lot of movies from the local library (they have an amazing collection!) and we also buy some of our favorites.
Who are your favorite (answer one or all):
What are your favorite sports and sports teams?
I love the Chicago Cubs and went to many games while growing up but not so much sports these days: Our kids are my ‘sport’ and pass-time!!
What is your favorite night out?
Classic dinner and a Movie. Sometimes we skip dinner, and it’s Dollar Tree snacks and a movie (yes, we sneak in sugar snacks, and then splurge on the over-priced bucket of popcorn)
Favorite movie of all time?
It’s a wonderful life! It reminds me to take the long view of life!
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
New Zealand. A beautiful country!! The Lord of the Rings was filmed there. I really enjoyed traveling internationally for business years ago.
Do you have any special talents?
Problems solving. Out of the box thinking.
What’s your beverage of choice?
Tell us about your hobbies?
Outdoors, camping, traveling and exploring. I love tinkering and fixing our cars; keeps my mind challenged and saves us money. Also, we recently purchased a zero-turn ride-on lawnmower: So fun to ride, my 11-year-old son now usually cuts the lawn! Cutting the lawn is now like riding a go-cart.
Summer of Winter?
Hugs or Kisses?
What is your eye color?
Everything would have been different if…
I didn’t get help for addictive habits of my youth: I found a higher power, then found God. Now live with purpose. There are two kinds of people in the world I’ve observed: 1) Wandering generalities who don’t think or plan much for tomorrow or eternity, and then there are 2) Meaningful Specifics; these people are on purpose on task almost every day. I prefer the latter.
The toy and game industry clearly has….
Given me new enthusiasm, new career, and new adventures.
I’m lucky that….
I’m lucky that I ‘found’ my wife and we are joined as ‘one’.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to launch my kids well. To give them a solid foundation of faith and hope, to have my ceiling be their floor.
Continuing to have fun in business, AND leaving a legacy. Taking the long view. Living life with 100-year mindset: What will matter 100 years from now, and do those things. I hope to leave the world a happier, funnier, and more playful place that when I arrived.
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