A Coast Guard Commander’s Journey to the Toy Industry

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This month we are spotlighting those in the military who have entered the toy industry as entrepreneurs. We are fortunate in the toy and play industry to have people like these adding their creativity, passion and sense of duty to our community.

Brent Bergen is the inventor of Paper Trax; a wall mounted race track for small cars that is not only fun but completely recyclable. You can support Paper Trax by visiting their Indiegogo campaign.

Brent started his journey at the age of 18 went he left home and went straight to the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Ct. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was chosen for flight training and was sent to Naval Air Station Pensacola. His current job is as a Commander who is the Liaison Officer to six Latin American countries for the US Coast Guard's International Port Security Program, where he assess the effectiveness anti-terrorism measures in ports internationally. Brent's wife Julia is an integral part of the business.  They get strong support from their children:  Bailey and 'Wofli' 

Richard:

Tell us about your military career. How did you go from flying Coast Guard Helicopters to designing "wall mounted paper race tracks”?

Brent:

I was at the end of my Spanish training for my Coast Guard Staff tour, and I had the idea for Paper Trax, and built the first set of Trax from a cereal box. I just couldn't let it go, I really thought the idea was cool – take a flat piece of paper, and fold it into a toy. Also, I'm still active duty Coast Guard, but, I'm coming to the end of my career. It would be absolutely fantastic if I could retire and run Paper Trax.

Richard:  

What inspired you to create Paper Trax?

Brent:

The idea for Paper Trax came when my 12 year old neighbor brought over a couple handfuls of matchbox cars for my son, Wolfi, who was 18 months at the time. My son seemed quite interested in the small toy cars, and we didn’t have any tracks in the house. I could come up with, and saw the obvious need for some sort of height to launch the cars. I thought about putting it on the walls. I cut apart my cereal box, and folded it a few times, and stuck it on my wall. Even from the beginning my kids really enjoyed the tracks.

From there I did some research on patents and building the toy itself. Now we’re patent pending, and building the toy to bring to market.

Richard:

Which is harder; flying a copter or making a new toy? 

Brent:

They really couldn't be further apart, but, I suppose at the same time you can definitely find some similarities. Both can be stressful, especially trying to manage a crowdfunding campaign. However, the one thing that does bring the two together is that the success is entirely on you; you're at the controls, it's up to you do the night hoist with big waves on night vision goggles, or it's up to you whether or not you did enough to promote your product, it's up to you if your Indiegogo campaign succeeds or not. 

As we come to the end of our Indiegogo campaign, we're in the process of finalizing an agreement with BE Good Company, in South San Francisco. So, we're really looking forward to seeing where this journey will go from here, and we'll be at the New York Toy Fair February. We can't wait.

Richard:

What is your long term vision for Paper Trax? Do you want to be a toy tycoon?

Brent:

I wish! There's a long way to go to building a successful toy, and hopefully a successful brand. Hopefully we'll expand our offerings, and create more products to keep the matchbox cars racing on your walls.

Richard:

One of the questions we always like to ask is were there toys that you had as children that had an impact on your adult life?

Brent:

Great question! I was fortunate enough to grow up on Lake Washington, in Renton, Wa, in an area that allowed my brothers and I free range. My fondest memories are toys that go – bikes and big wheels. And I distinctly remember a push type truck, that you could rev up and and let it rip. I made jumps from books and anything I could — something I do today with my kids, it's still fun.

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