Could Ryan’s good idea spawn others?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 1st December 2009

Spray paint productionDuring the course of the Work Builders Block Party I had the opportunity to meet and speak with so many people I would not have otherwise ever met. There were lots of interesting people in attendance from many different demographics.

One of these people presented what sounded to me like a great idea as he viewed our volunteer project from his own perspective. I wish I had made note of his name to give him proper credit but unfortunately I did not. The person I am speaking of is a Binghamton University student who mentioned that home for him is in Brooklyn, NY. This young man took a moment to tell me how impressed he was with our charity project and that he was enjoying being there with us very much.

We were talking outside where the spray painting was going on as he was spray painting a set of blocks he had just finished sanding. I commented that at the days start I was concerned with the idea of bringing spray paint onto University property and had hoped that we would not somehow wind up responsible for graffiti on school property. The last thing I wanted to see happen was to be the catalyst for mischief. Thankfully, no such mischief happened.

Then he came up with an interesting idea. Mentioning how it was fun to see all these people using the spray paint for a good cause, he thought of all the graffiti artists and “taggers” in the areas surrounding his hometown. He said, “Wouldn’t it be great to invite all of those people to get together and use their spray paint for something positive like this!” Cool idea! As he thought of it more he seemed to think that would be pretty great.

It struck me how Ryan’s great idea was now generating a new idea from this enthusiastic BU student. I can not guess whether this student will ever try to follow through with that idea or not, but just knowing that Ryan’s idea might lead to others was a cool feeling.

Graffiti for Good… Somebody run with that!

1Dec

Work Builders Block Party, YOU are invited!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 12th November 2009

Early on in the process of building his start-up business, Ryan told us that he wishes to support charity and he has remained steadfast in that mission ever since. Since then he has identified three charities to support in various ways, two of which he wishes to support by making a direct donation of his building blocks.

After contacting these charity organizations to learn if they will accept hand-made toys and if so how many, we learned that the answer to those questions in both cases Work Builders Block Party bannerwas a solid yes and “as many as you can provide”. This begged the question, “How many can we provide?”

Between the two of us we had an idea of what we could produce but we wondered if there might be a way to do more. So we talked and brainstormed together to try and figure out how we could make more, lots more. The result of that brainstorming is our “Work Builders Block Party”, and YOU are invited!

The Work Builders Block Party will take place on Saturday November 21, just over one week from now! This will be a volunteer effort to make as many sets of Easy Builder building blocks as we can in one day. Everything produced on that day will go directly to charity! So mark you calendar for November 21 and please plan to come. We need all the help we can get!

Between now and that date I will be cutting at least 500 wood blocks to have on hand for the project. The task for the day will be to sand the sharp/frayed edges so children will not get slivers and to spray paint them different colors that kids will enjoy. It is an easy task really, so bring a friend and spend a little time with us helping charity.

Our plan on Saturday Nov. 21 is to have a large window of time where you are invited to come and participate. You are welcome and encouraged to come for as much time as you can share whether that is 20 minutes or 3 hours. The final details of location and exact hours for the project are being finalized currently and I hope to have all of that information available to you very soon.

A lot of people have expressed interest in helping Ryan and I along with this project for charity. Now is the time so please plan to come to our Block Party, help us make some building blocks to go to kids this holiday season!

If you are planning to help us on Nov. 21st please drop us a note via email and let us know you are coming. If you have a group that might be interested in getting involved then please let us know as soon as possible. We’d love to have you there with us!

If the turnout seems good I may have to cut more blocks for the day. That would be a great problem to have! So continue to watch this blog and Ryan’s Web site for more details as our plans are finalized.

One other way someone may be able to help…

If you know of anyone who might be in a position to help with providing materials for this growing charity project, I would be grateful for help of that nature. As the scale of this seems to be growing so too does that side of the equation. The spray paint and the sanding tools (sanding blocks, sand paper) are the greatest expected expense. Please email me if you have any leads in this regard. Thank you!

12Nov

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!

28Oct

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
4Oct

Other people’s money – an epiphany!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 30th September 2009

Last night Ryan and I went on a shopping trip to get some materials he will need for this project. We went with a shopping list and a budget to keep within. It was to be a $20.00 shopping spree. That would be a “spree” for a six year old at least. So the challenge was to get everything we could within that spending limit.

This would be a great exercise in a number of areas.

  1. Setting priorities
  2. Mathematics
  3. Making compromises
  4. Working with a budget

paint-cansWe decided that the most important thing to focus on was the paint, since we still had some of the other items on the list on hand at home (although dwindling). So we headed to the paint department and started reviewing the spray paint options. Ryan made some color choices and we studied the different paint finishes and their respective pricing differences. Based on our budget Ryan found that his original six choices of paint would have to be trimmed to four. After some pondering, his final choices were made.

During the course of deciding on the paint colors Ryan had what I found to be an interesting dilemma to ponder. From the colors he wanted, he would be able to buy 6 cans of various colored paints. However, he was interested in two other colors which were more expensive. So he had two options. Buy the six to get more cans, or buy only four but include the two that were more expensive. In the end he decided on the four including two metallic finishes that he really liked. He prioritized the colors over the quantity.

With the paint selections eating up the evenings budget it was time to head for the cashier. Checking out at the register Ryan was very proud to pull his own money out of his pocket and make the purchase. The total at checkout? $20.30. Pretty good in terms of sticking to the budget.

It was on the way home that Ryan had his epiphany about “other people’s money”. As we were driving home Ryan was disappointed that we were not able to get all of the materials that were on our list. He knew at some point this was going to be something we had to get worked out. Then it hit him, and he presented it to me like this…

“Daddy, I’ve got it figured out! I know how we can get all of the other things we needed on our list! We just take the materials we already have and make all of the building block sets that we can and sell them for money. Then we take that money to go and buy all the materials we need to make more!” He summed up by saying, “You see Daddy? We use other people’s money to get the things we need!”

It’s hard to argue with that thinking!

Categories: Easy Builders
30Sep

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