Look where Ryan’s blocks have shipped!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 21st September 2010

Part of the fun in this business for Ryan and I has been to watch where his Easy Builder building block sets actually go. A while back I added a fun map to his website which shows just that, the destinations to which he has shipped the block sets.

Easy Builder building block sets have found their way to locales nationwide!

Easy Builder building block sets have found their way to locales nationwide!

Naturally, most of his orders have been right here in the central New York area. But as you can see his orders have shipped nationwide, and not just to family either!

People have had fun showing us how much they are enjoying the block sets too. So far we have seen some photos of children enjoying the building blocks and even spotted a YouTube video of some kids opening up their Easy Builder building block sets on Christmas morning! I am not sure who had more fun, the kids opening their presents or Ryan watching them do it on YouTube!

If you would like to share your experience with Easy Builder building blocks with us please do. Send Ryan an email and let us know how the blocks are being enjoyed. We love seeing the pictures!

Categories: Easy Builders
21Sep

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’s donation to Toys for Tots, finally!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 18th December 2009
Ryan Steadman and Marine LCpl Danbach

Ryan Steadman and Marine LCpl Danbach

Delayed a bit by some uncooperative weather, Ryan was able to make his second donation of Easy Builder building blocks this week. This donation was to Toys for Tots and was great fun. Toys for Tots representative Marine LCpl Danbach came to Ryan’s 1st grade classroom at Vestal Hills Elementary School, in dress blue uniform no less!

Ryan had a total of 51 complete sets of his building blocks on hand to give to Toys for Tots. In addition to that, his 1st grade teacher Mrs. Finch and the class added some more toys to the donation. The class has been following Ryan’s efforts to support charity and his teacher has used this to help teach about leadership and charitable giving. It’s been great to see Mrs. Finch and her class be so supportive, thank you! The school even added some photos from the day to their web site for all to see.

News 10 Now and WBNG News crews, on hand to capture the event

News 10 Now and WBNG News crews, on hand to capture the event

The school district had contacted local media about the donation so there was also some TV coverage of the event. This added a certain degree of excitement for the class on top of the Marine in uniform. Our cable news channel News 10 Now did a very nice story about the donation that Ryan made which you can view online from their web site.

The 1st grade class enjoyed the visit from LCpl Danbach thoroughly and they all behaved very well throughout. LCpl Danbach took time to talk with the class answering questions about Toys for Tots as well as a few about his experience in the Marines. I have to say he was quite skilled at addressing their inquiries carefully regardless of the nature of each question. It was evident this was not his first experience with kids.

The kids had some time to check out the building block sets as did LCpl Danbach. Then the TV reporters did some interviews with Ryan, LCpl Danbach and myself. Most importantly, Ryan got to make one more donation of his building block sets which made him very happy. With a smile, Ryan mentioned that it was a fun thing to know that on Christmas morning some kids somewhere would be opening a present that he had made. Then they would play with them and have fun. A nice thought indeed.

18Dec

Generous hearts and borrowed tools…

Posted by Ryans Dad on 7th November 2009

Tools of the trade - circular sawHaving the right tools really does make a difference. Up until this point Ryan and I have been doing most all of the work on producing these sets of Easy Builder building blocks by hand. Starting with 2x2x8 white pine boards I have been cutting the wood with a handheld electric circular saw. The cutting is at times a bit imprecise depending on a steady hand. The smallest blocks are the trickiest to cut accurately and consistently. I’ve been getting better at it though.

After the blocks are all cut to size Ryan and I forge ahead with sanding the sharp and slivered cut edges to be sure no one will get hurt. This has been a process of sanding by hand with sanding blocks or sandpaper. By far the least fun of all the steps to the production process. After sanding is completed we paint the blocks with cans of spray paint of various colors depending on the orders we are filling at the time. All in all a labor intensive process but one which yields a nice product in the end.

Enter some friends with generous hearts… Learning about Ryan’s business and our tools of choice to date, my friends the Johnson’s made a generous offer of tools. Today we visited the Johnson’s home and picked up a chop saw and a couple of palm sanders to try out. Niiiiice!! Ohh, these make such a difference! Thank you to the Johnson’s!!!

Ryan and I immediately gave the sanders a go. Ryan is a bit skittish with the noise from these (or any power tool), so he’s not so sure they are for him. That is OK really. I’d be just as happy if he is not trying to much with power tools just yet. But Ryan did very quickly come up with a distribution of duties which allows me to use the sanders on some parts of the work while leaving other parts of the sanding for his doing.

The saw of course is off limits for Ryan and he is perfectly fine with that. I am delighted though in that this will make things much more efficient as well as accurate in the end. These tools are borrowed so this is a temporary solution, but they will be a great help to our production capabilities. A critical need right now with a special event we have in the works. More on that as soon as some details are worked out.

Stay tuned!

Categories: Easy Builders
7Nov

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
14Oct

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
7Oct

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
6Oct

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