Pop Quiz, Monday with Craig Wolfe

Craig Wolfe

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Craig Wolfe

Craig Wolfe
Photo credit: Craig Wolfe

What is your job role?
100% owner of the company

Tell us about your company?
We had this unusual idea to a whole line of celebrity rubber ducks……I know, sounds crazy….but wait….it worked. They were voted one of the top 100 Gifts by Entertainment Weekly, featured on The Tonight Show, Conan, and hundreds and hundreds of media outlet. With their detail and intricacy, they are now considered the finest rubber ducks on the market. Oh and now we are also the top custom duck manufacturer in the world creating ducks for everyone from The New York Yankees to SeaWorld, and Harley-Davidson.

What do you love most about your job?
Spending all day coming up with fun parodies of celebrities and creating some of the coolest rubber ducks on the market is a complete hoot! We really enjoy our time here. Plus owning the company means I can pretty much do whatever inspires me.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
I think it’s the endless creativity that we enjoy every day with each other. People love rubber ducks. And with our innovative and whimsical content of doing celebrity rubber ducks, playtime never ends here.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
My co-workers are the heart and soul of the company. I feel so fortunate to work with some of the funniest and most creative people imaginable. The company would never be where it is today without them…..so smart, so funny and just as important, so enjoyable to be around.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
Well, you know either we are sitting around in the same room or on speaker phone with our remote folks and just throwing one crazy idea out after another. Some “float” so to speak and some don’t, but at the heart of it all is knowing that everything is allowable and there are no wrong answers so spontaneity and having fun is at the heart of all our communications with one another. We are not just co-workers….it feels like one big family where anything goes.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
You would never believe how hard it is to make one duck. I had no idea…much more intricate that one could ever imagine with the sculpting, molds, floating concerns, painting, spray masking, and hand-painting…I could go on and on. We never tried to compete with overseas by making a cheaper product. That was one of our biggest initial concerns. However, we knew the way to succeed would be to make our products intricate and spend so much money on each character that no-one would even attempt to duplicate what we were doing….and it worked! It’s not easy working with your partner’s thousands of miles away, but after over twenty years, it is like one big family.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
Let me give you a project that was the most challenging thing we ever attempted. First, know that the rubber duck was an American icon that was invented here. Then the whole industry went overseas until not one duck is produced here anymore. I had this idea to return the industry back to the USA and be the only one making at least part of our line here once again. It was the most stressful thing I ever went through in my life. I had no idea of the skill sets that were lost here, and no-one had any idea how to make them here anymore.

The level of detail in our ducks was especially demanding. But we did make it work and now are the only ones making any ducks in the USA. But then we went one step further and thought it would be great to make the world’s safest rubber ducks for babies to teethe on out of food and medical grade materials which had never really been done before. Wow, was that hard? The molds alone cost a fortune, and the materials were so hard to work with. But in the end, we are now making them 100% in the USA, and they are PVC Free, Phthalate free, BPA free.

It has been amazing, and babies love them. But it was so much work trying to figure out how to make them correctly and then finding people who could work with us on this project. I am happy that in the end, it was successful, but like with anything, there is always a learning curve…just never realized how hard it would be!

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
I would give this advice to anyone in any business as so often people have a great idea, but in the end, that is never enough. It’s all about execution and surrounding yourself with the right people. Also, it’s so easy to lose your shirt before your idea takes off….which is why I say that it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you keep. Excessive overhead can bring down any business no matter how much you make. Lean and mean is the key to survival especially in the beginning before business gains traction.

Also, it’s really important to refine your concept and not to try and be all things to all people, or you become nothing to anyone……focus like a laser on your niche and be really clear on what you stand for. There are always endless variations you can come up with that are extensions to your core products. But just really focus on your core product first….and spend years doing it if need be….for us it was always about the ducks!

You also have to be sure to reflect your core brand ethics and quality in every marketing communication to the public. Don’t ever forget your uniqueness and what makes you different or you’ll get lost in the crowd. So it’s very important to define what actually makes you unique and make sure that stands out in everything you put out to the public.

Finally, I can tell you this: compete on the cheap end, and someone can always make it for less…..Quality like the tortoise will ultimately win out or as I like to say, “live by the penny, die by the penny. Don’t compete on price alone! Quality is the hardest thing to knock off….and that has led to all our success.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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