Ryan’s been thinking… maybe a new product?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 3rd February 2010

A new product, a bus.If I have had to do anything proactive throughout the process of assisting Ryan as he has started up his Work Builders company and building block business, it has been to keep the reigns pulled in a bit. You see, building blocks are not his vision for Work Builders. Not by a long shot.

The trick so far has been to keep him focused on a product simple enough that we can reasonably make it by hand, with a somewhat sketchy selection of tools to work with. His plans for product offerings are extensive and in some cases rather involved. But here is one we may be able to work on without too much in the way of retooling, or breaking the bank.

Ryan’s brother Collin has a birthday on January 5. This year he turned 4 years old and boy was he looking forward to that! You see, when you are four years old “everything’s fun!” as he puts it. In any case, Ryan decided to make a present for Collin’s birthday and that is what you see pictured here. Ryan’s bus. Some time ago Ryan had been playing around with some building blocks one day and it struck him that they looked like a bus. He’s been pondering that idea ever since.

The bus is made from materials we already had on hand, Easy Builder building blocks! I admire his resourcefulness using materials we already had. The only thing we had to get specifically for this bus was the wheels. His plan was to glue the blocks together paint them yellow (paint we also already had on hand) and draw on the details that would make the bus look good. Collin’s birthday was a perfect chance to build his prototype and give it a test run. I think he did a great job!

Ryan's busIf he does decide to go ahead with this as a new product for Work Builders there will be some details to work on for sure. As you can see from the second photo, all four wheels don’t sit nicely on the ground and that is a detail not lost on Ryan. So we’ll need to do a better job with that. Also it adds some time and expense to be gluing the blocks together and such. We might find ourselves discussing other options for building materials. But these are things you learn when you build your first prototype, right?

So for now Ryan is pondering this bus as a new product offering. For the future, he has been writing down other ideas in a planning notebook. One he had me get at the store expressly for this purpose. In his planning notebook… All I can say is that he has the book broken down into sections each one containing a list of other products he is considering for production, soon.

As for me? I’m still holding the reigns, a little.

3Feb

Ryan is guest speaker for Entrepreneurship class

Posted by Ryans Dad on 9th November 2009
Ryan introduces Easy Builders to class

Ryan displays Easy Builders for class

Today Ryan was a guest speaker for the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at Broome Community College, a SUNY school here in Binghamton, NY. The course instructor, Laura Knochen-Davis, had learned of Ryan’s start-up business and invited him to speak to the class.

Ryan and I had put together a presentation of visuals for the class which showed a bit of the story of how Ryan came up with the idea for Easy Builders and how he produces them. While the images displayed on the screen Ryan talked to the class and described what was presented. He then showed his Easy Builder building blocks to the class in a variety of colors and fielded questions.

Greg Tally, Dean of Business School, BCC.

Greg Tally, Dean of Business School, BCC.

Ryan was a bit shy to get started which didn’t surprise me but once things got going he did very well. A surprise for both of us was that there was a special guest in the room to see Ryan’s presentation. Mr. Greg Tally, Dean of Business and Public Services, came to see what Ryan had to say and he also presented Ryan with a Certificate of Appreciation and a small gift (always a hit with 6yr olds!).

Thank you Laura for inviting us to speak for your class. They were a very good group and wonderful for Ryan as a first time speaker. Thank you also to Dean Tally for taking the time to come and hear Ryan’s presentation and offering the recognition gifts. We had a great time and another learning opportunity for Ryan was a hit for us at least!

On a side note, it served as reminder to me that Ryan is truly a six year old boy, that his singular focus as we left the building after speaking for the class was that he wanted to go around the corner on campus to the Ice Center (ice rink facility) and play with the “pile of snow” on the ground outside the building. Many snowballs were gleefully tossed into the air before we left for home. Thanks for the fun evening!

Categories: Easy Builders
9Nov

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
19Oct

The six year old entrepreneur taking orders

Posted by Ryans Dad on 1st October 2009

order-bookletWhen Ryan put his own money on the line to buy paint supplies yesterday I knew that he was really serious about this project. It came home though, quite literally, today when he produced a small notebook in which he recorded some purchase orders during his time at after-school. Quite the businessman already.

He had told the kids in his after-school program about what he was doing and a few jumped on board to get some blocks, sight unseen. His teacher requested a set too. I’d like to have those sales/marketing skills! So now he’s got some orders to fill. He was thrilled and anxious to show me the details.

Although I have made a conscious decision not to direct Ryan through this undertaking, I have been trying to think ahead of him so that I might have ideas for him as he comes upon each successive step along the way. I must admit though that I didn’t think we were anywhere near needing an order pad. He beat me to that one!

Categories: Easy Builders
1Oct

Our first business expenses, Ryan steps up!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 29th September 2009

At some point things start to cost money. This is that point. Today Ryan has come up with an idea to make these building blocks even better. We should paint them. Again my thought, is there any reason we cannot make this happen? Not really.

This does create a good learning opportunity, and would be worth it even with some small cost for paint. So we move forward with the idea. We discuss questions like what colors will we use, how many colors should be used, how should we paint (spray or by brush) and most importantly, how much will this cost? We also talked about what other materials we will be needing such as sand paper for smoothing the wood’s cut edges and more lumber since the supply of scrap wood from the garage is dwindling.

Ryan & Collin's lemonade stand, summer 2009

Ryan & Collin's lemonade stand, summer 2009

Seeing that the door is open to painting the blocks he is making, Ryan is anxious to get to the store to buy materials right now! But before we go he surprises me. No, check that, he shocks me. Ryan said to me, “I’ll go get my money Daddy. I think I have enough.” Wow! He didn’t bat an eye. Didn’t even seem to entertain any thought that Dad or Mom would cover the costs. Where did that come from?

As I mentioned in an previous post, earlier in the summer Ryan and his brother Collin had done a lemonade stand at our house. They had a great time and worked together as a team on it. Collin was the greeter and took orders. Ryan handled filling the cups, serving the orders and managed the money. It was a good math lesson and practice at working together. In the end they actually did pretty well considering that our home is a bit off the beaten path. Ryan saved all of the money he got from that experience in a box in his room, the same box he was raiding today for the sake of his paint.

So off to the store we went right away as Ryan wanted to so badly. Before we left we prepared a list of the things we needed and established the spending limit we had to work within. Ryan and I would share the costs 50/50.

This dad is blown away to see his 6 yr old son stepping up with his very own hard earned money to foot the bill. On top of that, it is obvious that Ryan is really serious about this project/idea. I can get behind that.

Categories: Easy Builders
29Sep

Let’s make more building blocks and make it a business!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 27th September 2009

After seeing how much his brother Collin was enjoying the wood blocks he had given him, Ryan decided that lots of kids would have fun playing with these blocks. Plus, we still have some more of that scrap wood in the garage. So…

Collin enjoying the blocks Ryan gave him.

Collin enjoying the blocks Ryan gave him.

What started as a present for his brother has now become a project for more kids. Over the course of maybe 24 hours Ryan decided that it would be fun to make more sets of blocks for other kids. Along with that he has decided he wants to sell them and start a business.

I honestly believe that his motivation for creating a business for himself isn’t really tied to making money. He has said more than once that the best part of this will be helping other kids have fun. He’s excited about making these blocks and seeing others play with them and have fun.

I think his interest in creating a business for himself stems from an experience from earlier this summer where he and Collin set up a lemonade stand at our house. They had a great time with that. We made and posted signs, set up the lemonade stand and took good care of customers. I think he really enjoyed that and sees this as another chance to have that kind of fun.

When new ideas such as this come flowing from either of our boys I try very hard to keep an open mind. Is this idea in any way unreasonable or even dangerous? If not, can we actually make it happen and could we learn from it? This one seems manageable, could be fun and could be a learning experience. So why not?

So with an affirmative response from Dad, Ryan could not get me to cut more wood blocks fast enough! Looks like it is back to the circular saw for me.

Categories: Easy Builders
27Sep