Geoffrey Wasserman, co-founder, and CEO of the American Bubble Company grew up spending weekends with his grandfather, Seymour Unterman owner of Admiration Foods /Supreme Oil Company, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors along the eastern seaboard of dressings, mayonnaise, and cooking oils that serves the restaurant community.While in grade school, Geoff spent time working in the family business, and his passion to learn the business led him to dedicate all of his free time outside of school to spending time at the factory.
After receiving a degree from the University of Miami, School of Business in Marketing and International Finance, Geoff returned to Admiration Foods /Supreme Oil Company and was deeply involved in manufacturing, production, and the logistical side of the business. After meeting his now-wife, Susan Kort, Geoff moved to the west coast and joined her at Imperial Toys after her father, Fred Kort passed away. At Imperial Toys, Geoff ran Operations until the company was sold in 2007. Geoffrey’s biggest joy is spending time with his family, teaching them the importance of sustainability and finding ways to be more sustainable in their daily lives. Creating the American Bubble Company with his wife was simply a dream come true.
Within its first year, Geoff, Susan, and the team at Bubble Tree have increased their retail distribution, have won awards for its refillable bubble solutions and aluminum bottles, and are now known as a sustainable toy company.
Richard: When and why did you decide to go into the bubble business?
Geoffrey: In 2020, my wife Susan and I started to think about the state of our world and what our kids could be doing that didn’t involve any screen time. Susan’s dad, Fred Kort, founded Imperial Toys and taught her a lot about bubbles and their role in the toy industry. There was an opportunity in the marketplace to not only make American-made bubble products but a more sustainable bubble. So, as we were spending time at home, we spoke about how many millions of plastic bubble bottles are not recyclable and trashed each year and how we could change that.
Our first product, the Bubble Tree Refillable Bubble System, is truly bubbles in a box! When we created the Bubble Tree Refillable Bubble System, our goal was to create a more sustainable product that helped reduce the use of one-time-use plastic bubble bottles that currently saturate the current market. Bubble Tree is the first patent-pending, eco-friendly, and sustainable bubble system made in the USA. Our original refillable bubble system features the first and only manufactured aluminum bubble bottle and a refill box made of corrugated, entirely recyclable. Use the spout to refill all our bubble bottles and other bubble toys.
Richard: Starting a business is hard, but that can be a challenge when the co-founders are married. What is it like working together?
Geoffrey:: Susan and I worked together at Imperial Toys so understanding each other’s work style was not an issue. The key to our success so far is that we know our strengths and with them. Susan and Bobby Ivanic, our COO, created the packaging. From logo to packaging, this is their baby. I focused on manufacturing, operations, etc. Thankfully, we see the importance of each other’s strengths, and Bubble Tree is growing because of it.
Richard: You try to be ecologically sensitive with aluminum, refillable containers. Do you find that parents and children are responding?
Geoffrey: Yes, especially the generation we are targeting. Parents today are more aware of the need for more earth-friendly and sustainable products. In the past two years, 2 of the largest retailers have already launched their more green campaigns. We believe this is the response to what customers are looking for. More than 300 million one-time-use plastic bubble bottles are imported to the United States each year. Many will contain bubble solutions from foreign countries with formulas and ingredients that often fall below the safety, sustainability, and quality levels that modern American consumers demand.
When we thought about our first product and what we wanted to accomplish, it was more than just creating a new bubble product. Susan and I wanted to change the mindset around a product that has not changed in over 70 years. We aim to enhance bubble safety and solve plastic pollution, waste, and the overuse of one-time-use plastic bottles.
Bubble Tree’s packaging is made from 100% recyclable corrugated, and the bubble bottles are made from aluminum, the most recyclable and sustainable material on earth. By eliminating single-use plastic, we are helping the environment reduce plastic pollution.
We love to watch how a person’s face changes when they first hold our aluminum bottle. It’s so great to see the consumers enjoying our bubbles and retailers in the industry partnering with us.
Richard: Why do you feel you have a better bubble and a better bottle? What advantages do you have over your competition?
Geoffrey: We are proud to be the only 100% U.S. manufacturer of bubbles that focuses on quality and sustainability. Though some companies mark their products as made in America, we have learned that in reality, they are only assembled in the U.S. That, even though some of its parts are made in other foreign countries. And that is how we are different. We are proud that all our resources, material, and packaging are made in the U.S. Our bubble took over five years to develop, and we don’t plan to improve our bubble solution because we believe it can’t get better than what it is. Our wand has over 160 serrations and gives the user more bubbles that have to be dipped in the solution less frequently. We just make a better bubble that lasts longer, floats better, and has a beautiful iridescence.
After decades of producing toys and other products overseas, we felt the only option was to be a 100% Made in the USA company. We knew if we were able to control production at our site, we would have more control of the quality of how our product is made. All of our suppliers are established US-based businesses that can work with us to negotiate supply agreements that enable us to always be in stock and have consistent materials.
As I mentioned before, our bottles are made from aluminum, the most recyclable and sustainable material on earth. By eliminating single-use plastic, we are helping the environment reduce plastic pollution. Our refill system, created from recycled corrugated materials, looks like a wine box so that the aluminum bottles can be refilled with our toxic-free bubble solution many times. This helps create less waste because our refillable bubble system allows you to get only the amount of bubble solution you need. Unlike the large plastic bubble bottles on the market today, our bubble in a box system is less messy and allows for less waste.
In addition to helping the environment, the bottles look and feel good. I can’t’ tell you how challenging it was to put the wand in the aluminum bottle, but we did it! Over the last year, we have won design awards for our packaging. I believe the packaging is such an essential feature for our product and am proud of what we were able to offer at launch. If you like blowing bubbles, you will love Bubble Tree.
A significant element in your desire to differentiate your products from the competition involves your packaging. Tell us about it.
To be successful in the sustainability market, you need packaging that will look good and stand the test of time. Bubble Tree is not a one-and-done product. We want our customers to reuse and refill the bottle for hours of fun. Every aspect of our product has been designed for sustainability, from the materials we use to the design and color of the packaging to how a consumer touches the refillable bubble system. We were very purposeful in our approach to Bubble tree. In addition to helping the environment, the bottles look and feel good. I can’t’ tell you how challenging it was to put the wand in the aluminum bottle, but we did it! Over the last year, we have won design awards for our packaging. I am very proud of Susan and Bobby for their hard work in this area. It’s no small feat.
Richard: You have seen strong revenue growth and brand awareness. How did you achieve that with the trade and consumers?
Geoffrey: As I mentioned before, we created Bubble Tree during COVID, so the traditional in-person sales meetings were not always possible. The pandemic caused us to become creative. With Toy Fair canceling its in-person event for two years, we needed a different way to get to retailers and consumers. We traveled and met with retailers and attended trade shows; we partnered with toy rep groups that understood our vision; we leveraged online markets, digital advertising, and social media and rolled up our sleeves. In the end, when people see our bubbles and touch the product, whether it’s the bottle or refillable bubble system, they immediately see the Bubble Tree difference.
Richard: I note that you make your products in the United States. What advantages and disadvantages are you seeing from domestic manufacturing?
Geoffrey: We are proud to be the only 100% U.S. manufacturer of bubbles that focuses on quality and sustainability. Besides that, our bubbles are the best on the planet. Our bubble took over 40 years to develop. We don’t plan to improve our bubble solution because we believe it can’t get better than what it is.
We knew if we were able to control production at our site, we would have more control of the quality of how our product is made. We traveled all over the country to meet different raw material manufacturers that were established U.S. businesses (over 50 years in business), were leaders in their space and were able to work with us to negotiate supply agreements that enable us to always be in stock. Our partners were also able to develop specifications that provided us with the consistency of our products. Being a premium brand, you have to have a premium product that stands out and performs significantly better. Our production equipment and water treatment systems are made in the USA. We built our 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in California, hired a team of employees, and hit the market running. Every bottle that comes off our line is inspected. We test every batch of bubbles we make. When creating bubbles overseas, we needed more people to put wants in the bottles. We automated so much of this process.
Right now, with overseas manufacturing having its challenge, I don’t see any disadvantages to knowing we can make product and ship it out within 24 hours to our retailers.
Richard: I have a mechanical squawking chicken on my desk (batteries removed). Do you have any toys on your desk?
We have bubbles.
Lots of bubbles. We are constantly testing and blowing bubbles.