What would you pay for Easy Builder building blocks?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 28th October 2009

What would you expect to pay for a set of Easy Builder building blocks? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

As the date approaches for Ryan’s story to air on WICZ FOX 40 TV I’ve had a growing concern, pricing. As things currently stand, we are simply not able to make any money. There just isn’t any profit margin. Maybe this is another learning opportunity with Ryan. So far I have truly left all final decisions throughout this endeavor to Ryan. The question of product pricing has been one he’s expressed strong opinions on from the start.

Ryan’s preference has been to keep the pricing of his blocks as low as possible, very low. His thinking? If the price is too high no one will buy the blocks. NO ONE. However, the pricing he started with was excessively low. $1.15 per set to be exact. At that time he was selling only through personal arrangements with his grade school friends who simply do not have any money to begin with. Even at pricing below $2.00 per set, the vast majority of those original sales were never paid for. It makes sense and it is something Ryan has learned from.

Easy Builders muslin carrying bagSo, a week or two ago Ryan and I did a little math to figure out what it really costs for us to produce these sets of blocks. The results were eye opening for both of us. For Ryan it was a big surprise to see how much it really costs to make his product. For me the eye opener was in learning which of the materials represented the greatest expense. It was the paint, followed by the nice muslin bags we are using as packaging.

So now with an accurate picture of what our costs were the discussion moved to what we should really be pricing the Easy Builder building block sets at. Ryan’s initial answer was… the exact cost we had just arrived at. So, Dad continues with the discussion in hopes of a better answer. Ryan’s final decision on the matter left us with less than $.50 “profit” on each set of building blocks sold which is where our pricing currently stands.

Now I worry that should we get a surge of sales (even a small surge would be significant) by virtue of good publicity with the upcoming tv news story broadcast, will we find ourselves spinning our wheels? Without any appreciable profit margin we create no income for Work Builders and we also are not able to support charity as Ryan intends.

Easy Builders building block set - 12 blocks with carrying bagSo the question I would pose to you here is simple. What would you expect to pay for a set of Easy Builder building blocks? Each set contains 12 blocks of varying sizes, they are sanded smooth and painted as you see here. The blocks are sold with a nice muslin carrying bag and there are a number of color choices you can choose from. Please leave your comments right here in this blog post. I appreciate any feedback you might be willing to offer. Keep in mind, Ryan will be giving some of this money to charity. More info on that coming soon!


A reporter, a video camera and Ryan’s story…

Posted by Ryans Dad on 25th October 2009

Update: Ryan’s story is scheduled to air on Thurs. Nov. 19, 10:00pm news broadcast.

Today we had a special visitor at our house, Chris Whalen a reporter for FOX 40 WICZ TV here in Binghamton, NY. Chris was here this morning to capture some more video and get some interview footage with both Ryan and I. Fox 40 is planning a story which will run sometime in early November about Ryan and his Easy Builder building block business.

Ryan was excited to have the reporter here and to have a chance to tell people about his business. Chris captured video of Ryan and I working on some building block sets, cutting wood, sanding and painting the blocks and finally putting them into their muslin bags for delivery. Then he spent a little time interviewing me followed by Ryan.

I’ve been second guessing everything I said in the course of that interview ever since, but I think it went ok. Ryan did great with his interview answering questions and showing his excitement for the whole project. It’s a difficult thing for a 6 year old to handle something like that and I felt good about how well he did.

Now I am left with an odd feeling not knowing how their story will come across after they have edited the footage and put their spin on the story. I am used to being on the other side of the camera and being in control of that side of the equation. It is a daunting feeling to have the presentation of Ryan’s story now out of my hands or control. I am sure they will do a great job, but I have to concede that I will not be comfortable with it until I’ve seen the final result. (fingers are crossed…)

Around the house, I always joke with my wife about who gets the most media notice. Her work puts her in that position from time to time and I have had my moments occasionally in the past. But now Ryan is on track to muddy the waters in that regard. Why not. Go Ryan, go!

As soon as we know when Ryan’s story will air on Fox 40 WICZ I will mention it here so you can catch it if you are interested.

Categories: Easy Builders,Media

Some money rolls in… A little bit anyway.

Posted by Ryans Dad on 23rd October 2009

Today was a good day for Ryan and his building block business. Today he received real payments and more than one! I had been concerned that over time his enthusiasm would fade since up until now he had not received any actual payments for his delivered Easy Builder building blocks. His till of funds from the Lemonade Stand earlier this year was dry and closing the financial end of his dealings wasn’t happening for reasons previously mentioned here.

Finally, Ryan has seen some money come in and he was delighted! He received a check in the mail from an out of town order, some cash from two local sales and even an online order through his WorkBuilders.com Web site. His face lit up when he got home and learned of these developments through the day.

What I found interesting though, was that after he took some time to do the math and add up the cash received, his next move was to go straight to his cash box and deposit it there. Once again as earlier, he isn’t saying a thing about how he might want to use the money. No requests to buy toys, or candy or games. Maybe he is a money “saver” and that’s the way it is. Time will tell I suppose.

Today’s receipts are not enough to pull us out of the red numbers if you are looking at the books, but they do at least demonstrate for Ryan that this is not a one sided deal. I have not decided yet if or when I might talk with him more about the two sides of the ledger and where we stand in that regard. I think he does have a feeling for the reality of that, but this is no time to dampen his spirits. It was a good day for Work Builders (Ryan’s company name).

Categories: Easy Builders

When is a sale really a sale?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 19th October 2009
Ryan with Easy Builders ready for delivery!

Ryan with Easy Builders ready for delivery!

To date, we have been using the term “sales” somewhat loosely when discussing Ryan’s business deals. I say this because truth be told Ryan is yet to actually be paid for any of his filled orders. I guess you might say that there is a flaw in the business model.

It has been an interesting dynamic to watch actually and one not lost on Ryan either. You see, the process so far has been one of Ryan making sales orders with his friends at school and after-school (4-8yr olds inĀ  most cases). As Ryan will tell you the problem with this is, “The kids don’t have money, so I can’t get paid from them.” This is not to suggest that this has been troublesome for him however. He is clearly aware of the lack of any closure on his sales, but what to do?

Today brought with it some degree of hope though since Ryan was to deliver on an order of four sets of his blocks, to an adult! There is promise here. He made it a priority over the weekend to get this order (his largest to date) ready for a Monday morning delivery.

Getting his Easy Builder sets ready for delivery

Getting his Easy Builder sets ready for delivery

He even got up a bit early this morning to put the final touches on it slipping the sets into their carrying bags.

The delivery went well this morning with his buyer quite surprised at the speed of his production and delivery. Caught off guard not expecting the delivery so quickly his customer did not have the money available for him this morning, but there is a promised date coming soon which seemed enough for him. I have to say I was pleased with his reaction since I am sure he was looking forward to getting payment for this order, but he really took it in stride.

I’ve been waiting to see how long Ryan will go before his interest in this project/business fades. So far he has surprised me here too. I’ve been concerned that with every delivered “order” that lacks any reciprocal payment his interest would eventually vanish. But it doesn’t really seem to be about the money. At least that doesn’t seem to be his priority anyway. As evidence, this weekend while we worked together on this latest order Ryan turned to me at one point and said, “Daddy, this business is really fun!”

I get the feeling that for Ryan this is really not about the money. It is about the next project that the money can make possible. And that sort of scares me a little, sort of…

Categories: Easy Builders

Ryan’s 15 minutes of fame starts today

Posted by Ryans Dad on 14th October 2009

Ryan delivers more blocksToday was another delivery day for Ryan, bringing two full sets of Easy Builder building blocks to friends in his after-school program. This delivery had a bit of a twist to it though. This delivery would have media coverage!

Earlier in the week our local Fox network station (FOX 40 News WICZ-TV) contacted me having heard about Ryan’s project. They wanted to tell his story. After some discussion with Dawnie (Ryan’s mom) and with Ryan himself, we decided that it sounded like fun.

I made a point of being at Ryan’s after-school to see how it all went. Right from the start all of the kids were excited. Yesterday they had heard that this would be happening so when they arrived and saw the Fox News van in front of the building they were anxious to get on with things. Once all of the kids were assembled in their room, with the camera rolling Ryan gathered the two sets of building blocks and delivered them to his two “buyers”. There was a bit of camera shyness but I think all of the kids really got a kick out of having the news camera there and especially with the idea that they might all be on TV sometime soon!

They took just a bit of footage of Ryan making his deliveries today. My understanding is that they are planning to come to the house this weekend to get some more video and more of an interview with Ryan and either his mother or I. We are yet to have those details firmed up, but Ryan is looking forward to that just the same.

Here comes at least part of Ryan’s “15 minutes of fame”.

Categories: Easy Builders

Waiting… waiting… waiting… they are here!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 13th October 2009
Ryan receives his FedEx package, finally.

Ryan receives his FedEx package, finally.

Sometimes it seems like an eternity when you are waiting for something you are excited about. Even more so for a six year old! Ryan has been waiting for a week now for this delivery. This would be the cloth (muslin) bags that we ordered to use for packaging his Easy Builder building blocks. The same bags Ryan insisted on paying for with his lemonade stand money from earlier this summer.

As luck would have it, the FedEx delivery man arrived this morning at the very moment we were going outside to wait for Ryan’s school bus to arrive. Ryan’s face lit up when he realized that the package was for him and that the long awaited bags were finally here. Oh happy day! I grabbed a quick photo (I always have a camera somewhere nearby).

For the last few days he had been anxious to deliver his two most recent orders to friends at school but we didn’t have anything to package them in. ryan-fills-bagsProblem solved. The only down side was that he now had to wait till he got back home to put everything together. His bus arrived just a few minutes after the package.

As soon as Ryan got home from school he couldn’t get that package open fast enough and begin putting the building blocks inside for his friends. So now there are two packages of new Easy Builder building blocks ready and waiting for him to take them to school with him and make his deliveries. He’ll have fun doing that for sure.

Oh, and while he worked his school day away, he accumulated three more sales.

Categories: Easy Builders

Let’s give money to the needy

Posted by Ryans Dad on 9th October 2009

It seems a daily routine lately that Ryan’s Easy Builders project is a topic of discussion around the house. He’s already got me working on a web page for his project because as he puts it, “Everyone has to know about my blocks and what they can get.” But tonight he came back to a subject he mentioned once or twice earlier in the week, giving to the needy.

It might have been a week or so ago that he mentioned the idea of giving some of the money he makes to the needy. I was pleased to hear him thinking of others in this way, but at the same time I didn’t really pursue the subject much being unsure if it was something he was serious about or just a passing thought. Tonight being possibly the third or fourth time he has brought the idea up, it seemed time to give it more attention.

Tonight’s mention of giving to charity came during the course of Ryan’s dictating to me some things he would like to say on his Web site pages. This time, unlike the earlier mentions, he was more specific on the idea, saying he wants to “split half of the money and put it into a section where we will give it to the needy and the other section we will put in our account.” Pretty clear thinking there I would say.

This was a golden opportunity for us to talk about how you might give to charity. One of his initial thoughts was that he would take his money for the needy to McDonalds and put it into those boxes they have on the counters for helping poor people. We talked about the fact that there are various organizations that help those in need, charitable organizations. Ryan asked questions and we discussed different needs people might have and how supporting these charities in turn helps those people in need.

Ryan hasn’t decided yet on any specific charity to support from his Easy Builder sales (I suppose we have to actually make some paid sales first), but I love that he is even considering it. Both of my boys seem to amaze me in unpredictable ways day after day. This was another of those days.


Finally, a delivery of Easy Builders building blocks!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 7th October 2009

Today was the day. Ryan finally got to make his first delivery. He was enthusiastic this morning and anxious to get going with the knowledge that in his backpack he would be carrying two complete sets of his “Easy Builder” blocks. One set was painted yellow and red, the other gold and copper metallic.

It is interesting to see how his enthusiasm for this continues to be strong. In most cases I would expect that his interest would fade and other things would take the place of this or any other project, and that may still happen. But so far, not yet.

I was a little anxious myself to see him and find out how his deliveries were received. So when I picked him up at the end of the day it was all I could do to keep from hammering him with questions. Piece by piece the details of his deliveries did come forth however.

He had to wait all day long to deliver the goods, and he seemed fine with that. Apparently both of the sets of blocks were well received although one with a bit less excitement than he might have hoped. But there was a reason for that which I soon learned.

The delivery to his friend was turned into a bit of a learning opportunity with the entire group of kids. Apparently the teacher asked Ryan to deliver his Easy Builders in front of the whole group. She then took that chance to open a discussion about what he was doing in creating a product then producing it and selling it. Cool. I wish I could have been there to see that. I got the sense that both Ryan and his friend were a bit shy with the limelight, but I would think it was a good lesson just the same.

I have to say that this project has certainly generated a lot of great discussions for Ryan and I which are packed with good learning opportunities. He’s had to prioritize how to spend his money for materials, consider his product safety, think about quantities and pricing. Heck, he’s even brought up the idea of giving some of his income to the poor.

So, the very first deliveries have been made and the Easy Builders have been a hit. It was a good day!

Categories: Easy Builders

We need packaging, but that costs money. What do we do?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 6th October 2009

Now that we have two sets of Easy Builder building blocks ready for delivery, we need to figure out how to package them. It’d be a little tough to carry a dozen building blocks around without something to put them in. So, Ryan had some thinking to do. What would work best?

We discussed a variety of options and Ryan decided that some muslin tie top bags would work really well. They would be sturdy enough to hold the wood blocks while not adding a lot of weight or bulk. Plus it helped that we were able to find a resource online where they could be bought very inexpensively, less than a dollar a bag. But that also brought up the question of paying for them. You see, we haven’t actually sold anything yet, so there isn’t any money in the till for Ryan’s business endeavor.

From my perspective I was working on the assumption that I would take care of paying for these bags. It isn’t a heavy load to bear and it’s a small price to pay for this ongoing string of learning opportunities that Ryan’s Easy Builders business project is offering. Truth be told, I didn’t expect that Ryan would even be cognizant of the fact that there was a cost to bear. That is where I was wrong, again.

Just as we made a final choice on the muslin bags we thought would be perfect Ryan volunteered, “I think I have enough money Daddy”. That caught me by surprise, really, and tugged at my heartstrings to be honest. He’s six years old. Why would he even think of the costs much less try to take care of it?

After telling him he should not be concerned with it Ryan informed me that “This is MY project Daddy. I should pay for these.” He still had some money left from the lemonade stand he and his brother had done earlier this summer. So, he raided his stash and gave me the cash and wouldn’t be denied.

For what ever it’s worth, any money Ryan has given me throughout this project is being held for him. It just blows me away though, that he insists on paying costs. It’s not normal!

Categories: Easy Builders

Production begins but is the paint safe?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 4th October 2009

Ryan sanding blocksSo now that Ryan has some orders in the till, it is time to begin some production. I did my part to help by going back to the old circular saw and cutting the blocks for him. From there it was teamwork starting with some sanding.

Attentive to details, Ryan noticed right away that the cut edges of these blocks were not going to be acceptable at all. They didn’t look good with tiny splinters hanging off of them and more importantly, those splinters would be dangerous for little hands. So with a couple of sanding blocks as our weapons, we went to work smoothing down those edges so there would be no worries of hurting little fingers.

With the subject of safety on his mind Ryan popped out with what I thought was an incredibly insightful question, “What about the paint Daddy? Does it have any of that lead in it?”

Ryan painting blocksExcellent question! So we inspected the cans of paint for an answer but the answer wasn’t there. I suppose by now it is just a foregone conclusion that paint no longer contains lead but when you are planning a product for toddlers or even babies you have got to be sure. Not finding any answers on the paint cans themselves Ryans next suggestion was, “Maybe the internet can tell us!” He loves Google searches.

So we tried the internet and went right to the source, the manufacturers Web site. In spite of finding some very detailed product safety documents there, I was surprised to find that again there was actually no mention of lead at all. Again, maybe this is such an old safety concern that it is assumed at this point. What their Web site did offer however was a contact form where I was able to ask our specific question. Now we’ll just wait a day or two to get their response. [We did hear back a few days later and learned that the paint was entirely safe from any concerns of lead]

I am impressed at Ryan’s attention to various safety concerns. Again, not what I might expect from a six year old. With those questions resolved, production moves on!

Categories: Easy Builders