Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spotlight on Dad -- Dave Berglund of Metamorphic Toys / Everythingland™ Mailbox, Silly Signs & Eco-Art U-Stick’ems


Metamorphic Toys designs toys that encourage creative expression and imaginative interactive play while reinforcing environmental responsibility. All Metamorphic Toys are made in the U.S.A. using materials that are kind to the environment, safe for kids and 100% recyclable.

With Father's Day right around the corner, I wanted to spotlight some great dad entrepreneurs this month and their products.  First up is Dave Berglund of Metamorphic Toys.  If you love USA made and 100% recyclable toys for your children, then you will love Dave's toys.  Dave kindly sent me his Everythingland™ Mailbox and Eco-Art U-Stick’ems to review.  Savannah just loves her mailbox.  As a busy parent with two young children, I don't have time to read pages and pages worth of instructions when it comes to putting together toys.  In under 5 minutes, I was able to put this cardboard mailbox together.  And, as soon as Savannah saw it, she ran over to it and began putting mail in the box. Then, she would walk around the room and go back to the mailbox and open it.  It was cute, as she would respond "Oh, oh" as she took out the books, stickers and toys she had put in there.  Here is one photo of Savannah having fun using her Everythingland™ Mailbox.  She covered the mailbox with Toy Story stickers and other colorful stickers.

Head back here on Friday, when I will share more information about Metamorphic Toys, as well as offer a giveaway of his Eco-Art U-Stick’ems.  But, in the meantime, please enjoy my Spotlight on Dad interview with Dave Berglund.

Name:  Dave Berglund
Company Name/Product/Service: Metamorphic Toys / Everythingland™ Mailbox, Silly Signs & Eco-Art U-Stick’ems
Company Location: Minnetonka, MN, U. S. A.
Company Website:  www.metamorphictoys.com
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/Metamorphic.Toy
Twitter Handle: @metamorphictoys
Age of Company: 1½ years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure with great enthusiasm.”
Helen Keller:  “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. . . Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
 Pablo Picasso: “All Children are artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
 William Shakespeare: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
Favorite Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.

Our daughter is eight years old and an only child.  My passion is seeing and making art, especially painted sculpture.  I enjoy building things, landscaping and gardening.

I also enjoy watching and playing sports.  My favorite is basketball and I played on a softball team full of artists and musicians for a long time.  I also played touch football through the winter for years with a group of friends.  The last couple of years it has been harder to maintain this with my schedule.
Instead I coach my daughters’ soccer team in the fall the last three years and began coaching her basketball team this winter.

What did you do in your past work life?

I began college at the University of Minnesota, studying Architecture and quit after two years.  I then got a job with a small engineering and manufacturing company, IDEA, Industrial Design & Engineering Associates, as a mechanical drafter/design apprentice. 

Unexpectedly my boss, mentor and friend passed away and I became engineering manager.  It was a very painful way to get a promotion. Soon after I began taking college classes part time and eventually started taking art classes.  This ignited a passion that I had set aside to engage in more “practical” pursuits. While working as an engineer it became obvious that creativity and research were more valuable to my work than running stress calculations.  Most of the products I was designing relied on experience and intuition to determine material selection, hardware and configuration. I resigned my position as Engineering Manager after four years to return to school to study Art.  I stayed on as a part time mechanical designer and I eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Minor is Psychology.
Shortly after graduating I began designing commercial playground equipment for Landscape Structures, where I successfully generated dozens of new innovative climbers, slides and overhead playground events.

I had begun dating my wife early on in my career with LSI and after five years, in 2000, we were married.  My wife earned her Phd from the University of Minnesota a couple of years later.  When our daughter was born it made more sense for me to stay home and my wife to continue working, as she had more earning power and my disposition was well suited for being at home.

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?

At home with my daughter, I began making toys for her when she was two years old.  After seeing how she and her friends played with these toys I knew that this (Metamorphic Toys) needed to be done.
With these simple toys I realized that children use their creativity and imagination to learn and process the world around them.  This is the natural way children learn which we refer to as “Green Play”.  This is Metamorphic Toys founding principle from which our green toys take root.
Yes all of our toys are made locally in Minnesota, U. S. A. using recycled and natural materials that are also 100% recyclable and biodegradable.  Our Toys are hand assembled and packaged by Opportunity Partners, an organization with a commitment to train adults with disabilities to be employable and self sufficient.  Our commitment to the community and the environment begins and ends with our commitment to the creative, imaginative nature of children, GREEN PLAY.

As my daughter grew I kept designing products and making plans.  The plan was to pursue the business after my daughter started school.  A child becomes increasingly demanding between the ages of two and five and it would have been impossible to do what I do now during that time in our lives. More toys were invented and prototypes made during those preschool years and we had a great time.

What is a typical workday like?

I have learned with a start up company there is no “typical workday”.  There is a lot of research and learning about every part of the business.  The roles I have bounced between include; Designer, Drafter, Prototype Builder, Student, Purchasing Agent, Illustrator, Packaging Designer, Marketing Copy Writer, Sales Administrator, Marketing Researcher, Blogger, Manufacturing Engineer, Graphic Designer, Photographer, Accountant, Business Administrator, Secretary, Truck Driver, Salesman, Spokesman, Technical Writer, Web Designer, Financial Planner, Shipping & Receiving Manager, Quality Control Inspector, Customer Service Representative, Public Speaker, Philanthropist, Trade Show Planner, Legal Writer, Human Resources Director, Business Planner and Company President.

I started out working alone doing market research and product design.  Equipping my office and prototype shop, researching, buying and learning various new software applications was all necessary to get started. I went through the design process of my initial products while learning new CAD software, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  I made 24 prototypes before I was done and wrote my own patent application to save on attorney’s fees.  Finding people to help was a job in itself.  I needed a Business Lawyer and Intellectual Property Lawyer, a Manufacturer and people to help with Marketing. I needed to create my designs for manufacturing and put them on CAD so they could be quoted (cost estimated) and manufactured. I researched competitive products and determined what price points needed to be achieved and what the toy market looked like. I cleared out one of the garage stalls for an area to build prototypes and set up an office in the basement.  Some of my favorite times were building prototypes in the garage.

The people I have found to help me in key areas have been essential in moving the business forward.  I feel fortunate so far with the people that have helped in Marketing, Legal, Retail Sales, Web Design, PR, Manufacturing, Safety Testing, Assembly, Shipping and Sales. 

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

Asking for help is difficult for me, identifying and finding the right resources at the right time to keep things moving forward.

What have been some of your major successes?

I feel successful with my wife in the ongoing adventure of raising my daughter, who is kind, happy, creative, energetic, funny, clever, smart and beautiful. Putting together a fantastic design team early in my career as Engineering Manager at IDEA. Completing my degree in Fine Arts and making the honor roll in two of my final semesters. Generating dozens of innovative fun playground events while at Landscape Structures. Getting Metamorphic Toys to this point and still enjoying life with my family.

What have been some of your major challenges?

People are accustomed to toys that entertain with flashing lights, bells & whistles and “apps”.  Introducing a new kind of toy into that market is difficult.  Getting the message out to parents is a challenge because they haven’t seen what I’ve seen when a child first experiences our toys. There is nothing alluring to an adult about a plain white toy.  Photos and videos don’t have the same impact as first hand experience.  When a child is in a room with one of our toys, it’s magic. Our toys are the opposite of what we as a society have come to expect.  That’s really what I’m fixated on right now.  Changing that paradigm of play to “Green Play” with our toys.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?

My daughter and the faces of all the kids I have seen playing with our toys.  Kids light up like a Christmas tree when they see our toys, it’s beautiful.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?

Priorities, family comes first.  I have the luxury of having a very supportive wife and partner who works very hard herself and is a fantastic mother.  We each have our strengths in parenting and share the load at home. My wife and daughter have played and continue to play a role in the company.  They provide valuable feedback, support and my wife helps with editing copy. With a long career in creative endeavors I know not to panic when things are bad and keep my pride in check when things are going my way.  When things go right it’s good to remember I have a lot of people to be grateful to.  We have also had some things go very badly.  When that happens the character of colleagues, family and friends shine through.  Our manufacturing partners, lawyers, local retailers and marketing consultants are of the highest character.  I have great colleagues, very supportive friends and a loving family.

What is next for your business?

I have dozens of concepts for future products and the best are yet to come.  Before the end of this year I hope we will be selling our first toys in our Curiositoys™ product line in addition to a couple more Everythingland™ products. We have plans beyond that but those are top secret.  Everything we do will be designed to inspire the creative nature of children and be kind to our nature.

Do you have any advice for other mom/dad entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?

You really need to love WHY your doing your business, because WHAT you wind up doing most of the time will not be your favorite things. A college Art professor once told me; “If you can’t do what you like, learn to like what you do.”  Well, when you start your own business it’s impossible to only do what you like. I am passionate about WHY I’m making these toys, because I see how hungry kids are to exercise their imagination and creativity.  Because of that I love my work.

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