A Kidpreneur Shows How Its Done: An Interview with BrickStix’s Greyson MacLean

Headerf BrickStix
Greyson MacLean-49 copyGreyson MacLean is sixteen years old and the inventor of BrickStix. He lives in Hartland, Wisconsin with his parents and two sisters. He is an Honor Student at Arrowhead High School where he is a member of the Lacrosse Team, Robotics Team, Spanish Club, Officer of the Chinese Club and a Tutor. He enjoys reading, especially about Physics and History, researching brick trends, listening to music, finding new comedians, and hanging out with friends.

Richard:

We do from time to time have some child entrepreneurs come along in the toy industry but I am not sure I have seen a child produce anything so polished.  Can you tell me how the idea for adding stickers to construction blocks came into being?  In fact, who came up with the name BrickStix?

Greyson:

I came up with the idea for reusable stix when I was nine. I had been playing with LEGO® bricks for years at that point, and often used tape and marker to “make” the brick something it wasn’t. I never used the stickers that came with sets because once that sticker went on; it was near impossible to take off. The tape didn’t work great either. I am the type of builder who builds something once, and then I tend to salvage it for parts. One brick plays many roles. I wanted a sticker that could be used, removed, and used again. Something that would NOT ruin my bricks. I told my mom about my problem and my solution. The joke is, she was only half listening, but I kept talking. I named my solution BrickStix right then and there. She encouraged me to look into it and do some research. Neither of us thought I was "inventing" something, we figured it had already been done. To our surprise, nothing like it existed. 

Richard:

Though it sounds like you were the motivating factor behind BrickStix, it sounds like it was a family affair.  Can you tell me about who contributed what to bringing BrickStix to market?

Greyson:

BrickStix was absolutely built by a team. My mom was the first to motivate me to start doing some research. She manages the day-to-day activities while I am in school. Her business card reads "Go-To-Gal." She called her college roommate who happens to be in the Toy Business, and we get a lot of advice from her. My dad worked on the provisional patent and set up the business. He deals with making deals. We call him "Business Guy". My uncle is "Chief Stix Maker," he takes all of my ideas and research and brings them to life on the sheets. If we need something designed-he designs it. My Aunt developed the website and handles Social Media, she is rightly called "Web Spinner" and "Social Butterfly." As we grew, I asked another Aunt to join the fun and she helps my Uncle with graphics. I need every single one of them to keep moving forward. I could not do it alone. 

Richard:

I understand that you are making Brickstix in China and the US and that you did most of the sourcing on your own.  That is no easy task.  Can you tell us about your adventure in doing so?

Greyson:

When I came up the idea for BrickStix, I can say with complete honesty, I had no idea what it would take to actually make it happen. I had watched my mom develop an idea, but I wasn’t paying attention to her daily struggles. The first material I used for BrickStix was cling. I figured out the static created between the cling and the plastic worked on my LEGO bricks. It made perfect sense to source a material and print the designs on it. However, finding that perfect material and partner to work with, was not easy. Most companies we called were not interested in working with a startup that was asking for a very small run to test the market. They were willing to run tens of thousands, but we were not willing to store a lifetime supply of BrickStix in our basement if the idea didn’t take off. Not to mention, the cost. I started calling companies, but as a pre-teen, I wasn’t taken seriously. I researched different companies, and my mom would make the calls. We focused on companies in the Midwest so we could easily visit. We found a source close to home and we worked for weeks and weeks getting the art just right. Finally, the files were sent. I went to the press check and everything looked awesome. I learned about proofs, printing and kiss-cuts. We all celebrated our first run…and then…the bad news. The ink didn’t adhere to the material properly, and it could be scratched off. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. We scrapped that run and found another source. Finally, the first set of BrickStix was ready to bring to Toy Fair. That all happened back in 2010-2011. Since then we have added Reusable Stickers to our portfolio, as well as a Stix Storage Book. We also started printing in China to make shipping overseas easier to manage. Our source in China came through contacts in the business. The sales team we work with had worked with them before, everyone met for a meeting, and now we have a source in China. A lot of our growth has happened because we met the right people at the right time.

Richard:

What are your plans for Brickstix?  Greyson, do you have more ideas for toys and do you intend to be a permanent player in the toy industry?

Greyson:

I would like to add some licensed themes to our catalog. I know kids like to see themes they recognize when they shop for toys so adding a few to are already extensive list would be awesome. I think about building my company like building with bricks-it’s a process. Some things are planned and some things happen because an opportunity is presented. I have ideas, and my team has ideas about where we can take the brand. It is expensive to add new products, but we are hoping to broaden the portfolio. I am working so BrickStix can be a brand that lasts and becomes a permanent player in the toy world. I hope it is always part of my story, however, I would like to add to my own personal portfolio. I have a lot of interest in engineering, clearly stemming from my roots in the brick world, and I hope to become a nuclear engineer. 

Richard:

What do you think has surprised you the most about your journey so far?

Greyson:

I have been surprised by different things over the years, so that answer has changed. But overall, the biggest surprise has been how well my idea has been received. At nine, I never imagined what other people would think of it, I really just wanted BrickStix so I could build with them. It feels good to know kids (and adults) around the world like to build with them, too.

 Richard:

Greyson, what is your favorite toy?

Greyson:

My favorite toy is definitely LEGO bricks, no question.

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