Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. I’m Jaime Tardy and today we have Craig Wolfe on the phone. Craig founded the company CelebriDucks which is rubber ducks that look like celebrities and they’ve been one everything from Fox to CNN, New York Times even Who Wants to be a Millionaire. They’ve been everywhere. This is a really interesting company and I’m so excited to have you on today, Craig. Thanks so much for being here.
CRAIG WOLFE: Well gosh, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
JAIME TARDY: So first, can you tell us a little bit more about what are CelebriDucks because I know it’s sort of hard to sort of just come up with. What are they and how do you sell them? Like in retail stores or how do you distribute them?
CW: Yes. CelebriDucks are basically, they’re rubber ducks, just like a traditional rubber duck but at the same time, they are a caricature of a celebrity. So imagine if you will, and it’s very hard to imagine without seeing a visual, take Mr. T, who I might add is our bestselling duck worldwide. Go figure. So imagine a duck is a rubber duck and also looks like Mr. T and you think about it in your head and you go it’s not possible. It’s going to look like so weird. But then when you see it, the blending of it is where all the artfulness comes in and when we blend the face with the duck, if you do it right, they are extraordinarily cute.
We didn’t know how it would turn out. I mean because my previous incarnation I was a publisher of artwork in television commercials but once we did our first one of Betty Boop and it translated so well, we knew we had something. In answer your question, sure we have the website CelebriDucks.com but we also sell them in stores around the world, gift shops and spa stores, catalogues. We do the Blues Brothers for all the House of Blues. Just all over the place. We do pink flamingos for the Flamingo hotel in Vegas. We segued into other animals as you can tell.
JT: That’s excellent.
CW: We do pink flamingos. We did penguins for SeaWorld. Did an octopus for them too. It’s kind of fun. There’s so many directions you can go in. That’s the fun part of the business. It’s so creative.
JT: Yes. First, where did you get the idea to merge a rubber duck and celebrities?
CW: Drugs. Kids, don’t do drugs if you’re out there. No, I don’t. Really, it’s one of these things, in truth, I mean I was publishing art from television commercials as I mentioned for Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch and M&M Mars and Pillsbury. At the end of the commercial I take the artwork for them and develop it for the art market so people could own a scene of the commercial on their wall. But then at the end of the day, I didn’t invent the Coke bears. I mean I know the guy who did but it wasn’t me. I knew Stan Winston. I had met. He did the Bud frogs. These are the guys who actually came up with it. I was working with their images.
I think every entrepreneur somewhere down deep wants their own brand, their own identity. Their own creative instincts to make a mark in the world. So a friend, and I do believe he actually was inebriated to be honest with you, came up with this idea. At the time he was, I mean it was a party and he said how about rubber ducks that look like celebrities which nobody would have thought twice about except I did think that’s different. That’s different. I don’t know if it could work but it’s different. So I had extra money because I did the publishing. The artwork was really going well with Coke and everybody. I mean we became one of their top selling art pieces so I had the extra time and money so I finally did up one and I called King Features and I said, “Listen.”
Actually before I did up one I called King Features. They own the rights to Betty Boop. I said, “Listen, I want to make a rubber duck that looks like Betty Boop.” You know how it is when you know the person thinks that they’re talking to someone crazy but they’re trying to be polite but they want to just get you off the phone. They go okay, sure, you go ahead and you do one of those and you get back to us thinking they’ll never hear from me again. But again, I had the time and the money. I actually did one and I came back and I got it and I sent it to King Features and one day I came in in the morning and there was a message on the phone and it was the head of licensing for North America for King Features and she said, “We got your Betty Boop rubber duck. It’s really cute. We’d like to talk.” And that was it. Business was born.
I kid her about it to this day. I call her the patron saint of CelebriDucks and Betty Boop was our first and still is one of our top selling little rubber ducks and that’s how it all kind of began. Just on a whim to do something that seemed different and fun and unique and it worked. It’s not one of these things you can contrive. A lot of people go I want the next big thing. I want to create the next big Simpsons, SpongeBob but you know, the funny thing is about these things, if you really study the history of them, they’re usually spontaneous occurrences or based on somebody’s, something they already are enjoying in their own life. It’s really hard to intentionally go out and contrive something to become rich and famous. It just doesn’t really work like that. A lot of times I’d like to say they’re happy accidents based on somebody’s passion.
For some reason, the CelebriDucks concept just took off. I mean it’s not like I was trying to come up with something whimsical that the media and everyone find really catchy and fun and unique. It just did. I was just responding to something I thought was fun myself and it translated fortunately.
JT: That’s great. And it’s funny. I do a lot of millionaire interviews and I hear a lot of people say “took off” like it just took off which sounds so magical and wonderful and happy, you know what I mean. Yea, everything was great.
CW: It’s so funny you mention that. It reminds me when this actress won, I think it was an Emmy or an Academy Award, she must have been in her 60s at the time and she got it and the first thing she goes was “Overnight.”
CW: And I go, you’re right. I mean your point is something really good. A lot of times it really isn’t exactly overnight. It seems like a fast trajectory but a lot of time it takes time for it to take root in the public sight. I don’t read business books, traditional business books as far as theories and stuff. I read stories and I read a lot of them. That’s how I learn, through stories. Books about Starbucks, Coca-Cola. I love the stories. Ben and Jerry’s, you know, Hershey and I love the human interest side of it and it’s really amazing to read about them and what always strikes me is not so much their success, it’s their failure.
That’s what always blows my mind. How long it took. How many failures. You think it’s overnight – Hershey, Coca-Cola. No, there were like years and years and years and they seemed like some of the dumbest ideas you ever could have imagined that these people went through. But eventually it worked. So normally, the trajectory of these things, yes, some people they hit it right off the bat, but you can go to most of these people, even Apple computer in their garage, Microsoft. I mean it was time. Even a lot of the great bands today. My God, the Beatles were told they had nothing and were failures. They couldn’t even get a contract, you know what I mean.
It really is funny when you really study it. Everybody wants that big hit and the instant money. It doesn’t always work that way and just because it doesn’t work that way, entrepreneurs should always know it doesn’t mean they don’t have something great. It just hasn’t found its niche yet.
JT: So good, take me back then to what took off. So you have this idea, you create this duck. You finally have it in your hands which is really cool. What was your plan? I know you sent it to them.
CW: Well, yes, then I go okay well they like Betty Boop but one duck, duck not make a line and so you really can’t traction with just one duck. So you realize and a guy told me this a long time ago in the collectible field. He said, “It really doesn’t become a collectible until you have a line of them.” So just having a one off, you basically have like a low scale pet rock, know what I mean. It’s a flash in the pants, a quick rise and a very quick drop. So I knew we’d have to have a line so I started going out and getting other licenses and at that time I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money in licenses. I was learning. Didn’t know which ones would be popular but I tried to put together things that maybe I wouldn’t put together today but some I liked. Some did well. Some didn’t.
But eventually I had maybe 12, 15. We had the Three Stooges, James Brown and then we added some public domain ones like the Mona Lisa. Then we did Mae West, Charlie Chaplin. We got licensing rights. Nobody was doing licensing for rubber ducks. Nobody. It was unheard of.
JT: Yes, that’s funny.
CW: So we thought that would be what would make us stand apart. So, you know, it kind of creeped along and I was mainly doing the animation part and I got a big book of newspapers and magazines around the country and I would send out press releases to different people and once in awhile somebody would write up a little something and one day I got a phone call from the Atlantic City Press, a reporter. She goes, “I got your press release on these rubber ducks.” She goes, “Why should I write about you?” I go well, “I’m from New Jersey” and I used to go to Atlantic City. She goes, “Okay.”
And that weekend a little story came out and the vice president of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, professional basketball team lived in New Jersey and read it and called and loved it and wanted to know could we do Allen Iverson, one of their top players. Not just do Allen Iverson but can we do the detail witness his cornrows in his hair, could we match the tattoos on his arms on the duck. I said absolutely we can. We’ve never done it. Maybe.
JT: Every entrepreneur says, “Yeah, sure, of course we can do that!”
CW: Everybody just then kind of wing it. But you know what, we flew out, we met and my staff, we were able to do it and they launched and it was all over ESPN and the place was sold out. I swear I always say that that duck when we got done with it, I mean those tattoos on his arm, that little ducky arm matches. That duck looked more like him than he did. I mean that’s how good that thing came out. It was brilliant. And then the Chicago Cubs called. They go we always want to be on the cutting edge of things, we want to do it. The Yankees. And before you knew it, it was just spiraling all from that one little fortuitous little article. So we did have a fast trajectory but, you know, we had a quick rise and I probably in hindsight would have structured the company differently to prepare for it and had I, we probably could have capitalized on it better but as it was, that’s kind of how it all began. It kind of gave us a little jump start into the whole duck collectible market.
JT: So tell me about like the numbers. When you first started, you got that first Betty Boop duck, how many numbers did you start off selling? I know you at least had, I’m assuming you had distribution through that company, right?
CW: No, I had no distribution.
JT: Okay, so zero was the first. Tell us how it evolved.
CW: King Features is just the licensee. They own the rights but they do not do any licensing so I didn’t really have a distributor for my ducks. So I would just put out ads here and there or just little, I don’t know, people would read about us in the media. The media always loved writing about us because it was so different and we still, when people do an event, there’s an industry called the ASI industry and they do a lot of promotional products like when you go to a game or something or you see a giveaway. They giveaway like little squeeze toys or little tiny yellow ducks imprinted with the name of the company. All those little chachki type things. The media really couldn’t care less about that.
But when it’s a CelebriDuck that’s funny. That’s newsworthy. So if they’re going to give away a CelebriDuck somehow one of the players or a mascot the media writes about it. So we realized we had a potential to get publicity and media play for our products that very few products were able to get. Even all the licensees for major celebrities that we do like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and people like that, most of the licensee’s products aren’t going to be written about in the media. An Elvis Presley rubber duck, that’s kind of different. A press release on that, someone is going to be talking about it.
JT: That’s excellent.
CW: So bit by bit we built it up and then we did then bring on a few distributors. We did find some in the gift industry who would deal with it and bit by bit we would just do some researching ourselves and people would hear about us and they would call and just slowly, organically evolve until we start going from maybe selling like maybe a thousand of them. We must have sold now, we probably sold millions of them actually over the years, over the span. I mean one time JC Penney did a test with us. We sold 100,000 of our collegiate mascots in two months. One thing we found out about the college mascots is they translate really well.
I know it’s funny, another animal on a mascot and you go how’s that going to work? But then if you go to our website and you look at the college ducks and if you look at the sold out ducks, Ohio State. What’s Ohio State? It’s a buckeye, a nut. We did it as a duck. Syracuse is an orange. We did an orange duck. I mean they were so cute. The wolverine from Michigan. The Spartan from Michigan State. Bucky Badger for Wisconsin. We just, every school in the country pretty much wanted us to do their mascot.
With us, our Achilles heel to be quite honest with you, is we just never built up the distribution the way it should be with the whole sales rep network in every state really done intelligently. We haven’t even hit that place. We really spent the last period of time developing the brand and just putting the foundation together. And we even spent maybe the last couple of years redesigning every one of our package, well the only people who pretty much do ducks in like really cool packaging are, if you go to our website and you look at some of the new food theme ducks. We just came out with our wine theme duck, coffee, cupcakes, chocolate. Click on it, the boxes are gorgeous and they’re like a work of art.
Now we’re coming out with a barbecue pig this Spring, our holy smoker. That’s right, another animal we segued into and again the box artwork on that, you can see a little bit on the website, it’s just gorgeous. So for us, we spent the time to keep innovating, becoming the best rubber duck in the work. Unlike most of the rubber ducks out there which you throw in the water, water gets inside, they float on their side, ours you throw it in the water it will pop upright. So we really wanted to engineer them so they floated beautifully. The sculpting, the detail couldn’t be mashed in beautiful packaging and we spent the last years really putting together a brand to be ready to go to the next step.
So even though we made a lot of money just with what we’ve done, we haven’t even begun with what’s possible with this. Especially the fact that we know we have one of the best promotional products in the country for doing an event as far as garnering publicity and having a successful promotions. Again, that’s not something you can just fake or try and contrive. It just so happens our kitschy little thing just happens to be that sort of thing.
JT: So win-win situation.
CW: We just flew in 2,000 of them for the launch of Conan O’Brien’s new show on Turner Network. I mean, and they wanted differently, no beak, just Conan’s head on a duck because they did a TV commercial like that and they wanted us to match it exactly like the commercial. So we flew in 2,000 for the launch of the show and made it by about a few days which I’m convinced no other company in the world could have made that deadline. Then they just ordered another 850 of them for another promotion. That’s what we’re really good at. We can turn on a dime. We can, our quality of our work is pretty much unsurpassed and we get PR. We’re good at what we do.
And then from there, I figure to me then the distribution and all the other things come. But first you really, every entrepreneur wants to jump to step two but you really have to have something great. Apple computer really was different. Ben and Jerry’s really created something uniquely different as did Starbucks in the beginning days. Once you have your brand and have what you have, then you go into the expansion phase but so many people, especially younger people, now I sound like an oaf, but they want it all and they want it now. They turn on the TV on MTV, they see all the cribs, they see everybody, they see Justin Bieber. They made all their money, they’re young, they got websites, jewelry lines, Kardashians, why shouldn’t I have it now?
Well, that’s fine but it doesn’t really work that way. It works for some, fine. But most people, you really have spent time and money and years and sweat equity building their brand before it really became something great. And you have to be willing. If you’re just into it for just fame and money, well good luck. That’s never been a motivator for me my entire life. Fame and money, forget it. Creativity, doing something you love every day, doing something that has potential to make enough money that you can then do more good in the world, that’s to me inspiring and fun. But if you’re all just fame and money, I don’t know. I wouldn’t recommend being an entrepreneur if that’s your goal
JT: Yes, that’s great words.
CW: If that’s your goal, go become an actor or something. But an entrepreneur has a chance to do something they love 24/7 so you really want to pick something that you love doing, that stimulus creatively inspires you every waking moment. So even the days you’re not making a lot of money, to me, as far as I can tell, 90 percent of the people are in jobs where they’re not totally enjoying them but at least you’re doing something every day you totally love and keeps you inspired.
JT: You have the best of both worlds that way. Definitely.
CW: Yes, and then when it does take off and if you make money on it, a lot of money to boot, so much the better.
JT: So how long has CelebriDucks been around? What year did you start?
CW: We started around 1998.
JT: Oh wow, so yeah, you guys have been around for quite awhile.
CW: Name that Tune was still going so we’re mainly still doing the animation. We didn’t sell off the animation until early in 2000. We sold off Name that Tune. That was the animation part and then we became all ducks.
JT: How did you come up with that name? Because CelebriDucks, I mean it makes perfect sense, but one day were you just sitting there?
CW: Yes, it was just one of those things. They’re celebrities, celebri, they’re rubber ducks so CelebriDucks. I’m sure I’ll be spelling it the rest of my life but it just seemed like a natural name for the company. It’s a name that actually says exactly what we are.
JT: Yes, definitely. You can totally get it from just your domain name. I remember when you sent me an email and I was like wow, that sounds like duck celebrities but why would there be a multi-million dollar company called duck celebrities.
CW: I know, it’s odd, isn’t it? I know and yet it works. The Hollywood community really likes it too so we do a lot of award shows to give them out as gifts, gift baskets. A lot of celebrities have them, enjoy them, use them, give them to one another which is cool because it is kind of a different sort of thing. In fact, it’s funny, one day my ex mother-in-law, she said, “Oh I saw you on Who Wants to be a Millionaire the other night.” I go, “Oh really?” She said, “Yeah, you were one of the questions with Regis Philbin.” I go really?
Because half the time we’re in the media we don’t even know about it. She goes yeah they asked CelebriDucks is a company in California that makes rubber ducks of celebrities. Which rubber duck do they make that uses numchucks? Bruce Lee, Woody Allen, James Dean, Mr. T. The guy got the question.
JT: That’s great. It’s so funny hearing about it late. I mean you’ve been on like everything. I was looking on your website. You’ve been everywhere. Is that just because the press is…
CW: Pretty much been on every TV network in the country and we’re on TV or radio or written up on the internet almost weekly still to this day.
JT: Wow. That’s really awesome.
CW: With all that publicity, I mean honestly, you didn’t know about us, right? I mean you never heard of us.
JT: Yes, no.
CW: I always say for all our publicity do you know who we are? A lot of people do though. A little surprised. I’ll be talking to Fed Ex and they’ll go, “Oh I’ve heard of you guys.” So it works both ways. I mean a lot of people you wouldn’t think have heard of us have and then a lot of people you thought would have, haven’t heard of us yet.
JT: That’s a really interesting point too because I know a lot of entrepreneurs think that when they go big everybody has to know them. They have to have fame too. But really, in talking to companies it’s not like that.
CW: You’d be amazed how many successful entrepreneurs, you know, you’ve never heard of them, you never will hear of them and they sell and they’re immensely popular in their niche. Which is another thing entrepreneurs really need to take to heart. You don’t need to be all things to all people. You just need to really be good at what you do and you know, like when I did the Coke, the stuff for Coca-Cola, that was just one of my lines. But you know, there’s a lot of people that like Coca-Cola. It’s a big niche. Then there was the Anheuser Busch Budweiser niche.
You start to realize there’s niches for all these people. Just like I do Elvis Presley. Well there’s a lot of people who love Elvis Presley. We do the Wizard of Oz as rubber ducks. They do really well for us. A lot of people who love the Wizard of Oz. So you really, as any entrepreneur should always do, you should always be innovating and tweaking what it is that you do best. So we didn’t just stop with the ones we had, we’re always looking for different ones, different celebrities, different, we came out with the world’s first 100 percent recycled green duck.
Then we thought there were some devil ducks out there. We weren’t really that happy with a lot of them and one of the most popular ones that they sold thousands and thousands and thousands of we heard they weren’t going to be making them anymore. So if you go on our website and you go into our devil ducky section, you can see the new one we’re coming out with in a box that is just, it looks like something out of Fantasia. It’s unbelievable. And I have to say I think it’s maybe the best devil duck ever made and you can look at it. It’s just cute as a button.
JT: I know. I’m like I want to type but I didn’t want to hear the typing of the keyboard trying to look it up but that’s excellent.
CW: Yes, it’s just so cute and the box is amazing. Then, like I said, we did all the food ones but we have a lot of accounts in the south, Midwest and they love barbecue. I love barbecue. So but then we thought well, a duck with a barbecue theme. I mean the coffee one, okay. The wine. The cupcake duck, great, chocolate. Shouldn’t this be a pig? And then one of my accounts said, one of my biggest accounts who just sells only ducks they go, you know, we do these barnyard animals. You know what’s really, really popular? Sells out just like the pigs? Just like the ducks? The pig. I go that’s it, we’re doing the pig. And holy smoker barbecue pig. Pig with wings. Cute. And the holy smoker barbecue pig box, oh man.
And it’s funny because my art department is in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is nicknamed porkopulous because it was the heart of the pork industry forever.
JT: That works out well. So let’s go back too. So you, you’ve been an entrepreneur before just this too. How did you even get into owning your own business or the entrepreneurial spirit? Have you always been like that?
CW: I have. I’d never really was a 9 to 5 guy, office guy. Just couldn’t conceive of that as a path for myself and when I graduated college I had a degree in English and religion. Double major from Hobart College in upstate New York. I had no idea what I was going to do with it honestly. You know I was living down in Santa Cruz. Wasn’t doing much of anything with my life. Just working regularly, just regular simple jobs playing music and then one day I went into the store. I think it was in Los Angeles, I was down there and I saw a picture of Mickey Mouse on the wall. It was an animation drawing.
An animation drawing is the drawings that the animators do before they paint them up and photograph them to make an animated cartoon. And this was from a 1930s Mickey Mouse short and it was all in black and white. The best animators only did the pencil drawings and then their assistants would color them in to make the cells, the animation cells that are the colored pieces. I was dumbstruck. I was totally captivated by the energy of the drawing. I just loved it. That’s for the first time I felt like a direction. I’ve only been able to, I’ve said this in a million interviews, I can only move on something when I feel passionate about something. Until I feel some sort of passion for something, I don’t move. I can’t.
But when I feel passion about something, boom. I just go like lightening. And I started researching. Found out you can actually buy these drawings. There’s these dealers scrolled away in corners of Los Angeles who have these old drawings. I started a business buying and selling these old vintage 1930s animation drawings of Mickey Mouse and the characters from the early films. I loved it. I always say my whole career really started with Disney in an interesting way.
That was the beginning of it and that’s what we did and then a certain point I was watching TV and the California Raisins came on. Loved it. Loved it. The clay animation. Loved it. I just thought it was so cutting edge, so different. Make a long story short, I got in touch with the studio, Weldon Studios where they did the animation and we ended up working on a deal and I ended up marketing all the artwork from the commercials and from the TV show that they did an animated series.
So I was doing the animation drawings and I was doing the California Raisins which I loved and then we went to negotiate with some other people I met to market the The Simpsons, the artwork from The Simpsons cartoons which were becoming very popular. But Fox didn’t go with us. They went with somebody else who threw a lot more money on the table and talked a bigger talk. They’re bankrupt today, the other company. Because a lot of times people throw a lot of money and they’ll talk, you know what I mean, but there’s not always the soundness behind it.
So we lost it. I was kind of bummed out about that because I thought we would have done a fabulous job with it but right after that happened another fortuitous thing happened. I was walking down the street and I was passing a Macy’s window and in the window was a Coca-Cola vending machine, those old time vending machines you would see that you don’t see anymore. You can get glass bottles, you know, not plastic ones, not cans and it had a whole bunch of these glass bottles and different old Coke vending machines from the 40s and 50s and I walked into Macy’s and I bought out their whole window. They said, “Let us finish the display and they sold it all to me” and that’s when I called Coke and I said, “You know what, I want to market artwork for your television commercials. I think it can be done the same just like Disney does with their stuff.” They didn’t know what I was talking about.
JT: How did you get in? I mean just calling up Coke. Did you have any…
CW: Yeah, I got the head of licensing for North America and then finally she said it took a year for her to convince the higher ups what I wanted to do. It didn’t make sense to them. They’d never done it. They understood Disney. They understand what they had that you could do that with. I said trust me, the Coke polar bears, I’m telling you have something here. And we did and they finally let me do it and of course there was another problem. Again, I’m an English religion major. I have no business background again and I have certainly no technical background. The Coca-Cola commercials were computer generated with those polar bears.
How do you get it from the computer onto acetate like a Disney animation cell that’s not hand painted. So I had the license but I really didn’t know how to do it. So that started like, one thing I have to tell you, I have always surrounded myself with people a whole heck of a lot smarter than me. So I would just get in touch with anyone I could find who had printing experience, knew how to work with this medium. I worked a lot with the studio who was doing the actual animation, how we could get it out and put it onto acetate.
At the end of the day we kind of figured it out and right before the Coke catalog was about to go to press I asked if I could put my cell in there, my one Coke polar bear cell and they said no they were filled up and I get a phone call. They go we just had something drop out, come on down. Just turns out the catalog was like 15 minutes from here in California where I was in Marin County. The guy was doing the catalog. So I drove down there with my one sample, they put it in the catalog, walked in the room with it and it became one of their top selling art pieces and then we just rolled. I mean we just rolled, that started.
Then we went to Anheuser Busch and we said what we did for Coke we can do with you with the Bud frogs. Then we went to Pillsbury, M&M Mars with the M&M. I just rolled and that’s how Name That Tune, that company began just based on me moving with just things that inspired me. Iconic advertising art, California Raisins fun whimsical things, Disney drawings that communicated the animators passion and beauty of the design so has led me into business. I wouldn’t have made a lot of money without going by what makes them happy. I’m kind of amused by it because it’s so different from the way that I personally think or operate.
JT: You can even hear the passion in your voice as you’re talking about all these different things that you’re doing which is great. So if we go back to when you first started. I mean I am assuming it was just you when you were selling those vintage drawings, how did you scale up? Because then you went to the Raisins but how did you make that leap from just being a person.
CW: I was living in New York when the California Raisins hit. I had opened up some animation art galleries in Europe because once I started the drawings I kind of expanded, I moved to Europe and I was living in the England at the time and when I saw the Raisins and talked to the studio from England. When I got the rights I moved back from England to Portland where the studio was to do the whole thing. It was a huge I mean risk in a certain way you could say because it’s not like I had any business plan. I’d never had a business plan in my life personally. I don’t recommend it, it’s just me. But I just always figured again, I’d just roll with it and I’d figure it out as I went along. Fortunately, I did and the California Raisins had great popularity and obviously Disney has great popularity and rubber ducks is a humongous market.
So I’m also picking things, if you think about it, that are kind of iconic. So we’re always kind of trading in areas that already have a lot of people who already really love the same things I love.
JT: So how do you deal with failures? Because what I’m hearing from you right now is things took off and I hear that you were saying earlier that you’ve had failures, how do you deal with the failures that you’ve come across?
CW: Oh yes, because like anything, you know, someone said to me, “You never want to get in on the tail end of a fad.” But if you think about it, as good as the California Raisins were that was a rocket to the moon and they really licensed and merchandised it really, really heavy and so when it drops it really dropped down. So that ultimately didn’t last. It had its time. It ultimately didn’t last. The Coke polar bears, there’s only so many animation cells, so many scenes you can do before there’s nothing else to work with. There’s no more imagery to work with. Same with the Budweiser frogs and lizards. At a certain point, you know what I mean, it kind of ends.
The Simpsons, well you know the failure there, we didn’t get the rights to it. So you’re always dealing with things like that that where your trajectory ends and then what are you left with. So then you’re always kind of looking for well what’s my next thing? And eventually, there was always something in the wings so after the Disney animation art there was the California Raisins and there was the commercial animation art which nobody had done before. We were just very fortunate. I always detoured into areas that people hadn’t tended to do before. Then eventually I could tell you no one has done celebrity rubber ducks before.
JT: What makes you know whether or not an idea is good? I mean I know you said you like it but what’s funny is it seems like you have a knack for going “I like it, I think everyone else is going to like it too.” But how do you?
CW: I don’t, you know what’s funny, I mean I just have to look at things like Coca-Cola and look how big it is. You have to be intuitive. You have to, one thing I always tell every entrepreneur is you’re like radar. You’re always walking around and you’re like a sponge. You’re just taking things in. You’re always looking at the pop culture. What’s hot? What’s not? What’s in? What’s out. You’re just feeling it. It’s not a study, it’s more like a frame of mind and most entrepreneurs I think naturally have that. They’re very highly sensitized to what’s going on around them.
So they’re noticing things and so you start to see, I could just see the California Raisins, what was going on with it. I could see the Coke bears how immensely popular commercial and even the Bud frogs, Bud lizards. Nobody ever thought to market the artwork from it which is amazing because I am not the smartest tool in the shed, sharpest tool in the shed, trust me. So if I think of it I’m like always surprised to be honest with you. Nobody else thought to market this? Like did they not see how popular these things are?
But everybody, a lot of times what happens, what entrepreneurs a lot of times are able to do is to literally think outside the box. To give an example, when I was doing the commercial animation, where were all the other big companies and the people who are in the animation field. Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbara. They were opening up galleries. They were selling artwork of Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbara and nobody really even gave a second thought to stuff from TV commercials.
Well I looked at it and I go, “This is cutting edge animation and I think it’s great, people love it. So if I’m inspired by it I have to believe there’s other people out there inspired by it. I didn’t know. You never really know. Once it got in the Coke catalog and I saw the response, I went whoa I was right. I didn’t know. I mean I didn’t know. It’s not like, I don’t know if I’m your best entrepreneur as far as how to do things because I know you’re supposed to do market research and test it and I never do any of it. I just, I’m one of those like if you build it they will come.
Everybody has a different style and I do greatly admire the people who do it the other way. I’m sure they’re fabulously wealthy but you got to work with who you are. I’m not going to become Warren Buffet. My accountants give me the profit and loss statements and when I tell people I don’t even look at them, in 10 years I don’t even look at them.
JT: I’m a business coach, yeah, don’t say that.
CW: I’m sorry, I’m just telling you me. I get them and put them in a drawer but I can tell you to the penny how much money is in the bank, how much is in savings. I can tell you in my head I know exactly where I’m at.
JT: Oh good.
CW: I don’t need a profit and loss statement to tell me, I intuitively I’ve a gut sense of what’s working, what’s not working, where I’m at, what I need to do. And that’s kind of not always in the profit and loss statement.
CW: And you know if I had done market research and I said I want to make a Mr. T duck. I did it. My ex wife I said, “Mr. T is going to be at the mall not far from here. I said what do you think? Maybe I should go meet him, see if he wants to be part of our line.” She said, “I don’t know. Do people really care? I mean it’s so many years.” I don’t know, I just got a feeling, something about it. She goes, “Nah, I don’t think so.” Yeah, right. So I didn’t. Years later, took me forever to track down Mr. T. Not an easy person to find his agent and everything and finally did and I added Mr. T to the line and to this day, I tell you, he’s our top selling thing worldwide as I mentioned.
JT: That’s so funny.
CW: Yes, who knew? They love him oversees. They love him everywhere. He’s an icon.
JT: That’s excellent. I love Mr. T so there must be others.
CW: Research won’t always give you the answers you want. Research, a lot of times, will give you the answers that people think you want to hear. So I don’t know, it’s funny. If you tell someone I make a duck, a rubber ducks of celebrities, half the people would have gone that’s insane. The other half would have gone well that’s kind of fun. Who knows.
JT: Yes, definitely and you would have not done it if.
CW: I would have done it. If I wouldn’t have done those little pencil drawings of Mickey Mouse, what do you mean? It’s a pencil drawing. It’s not in color? Who’s going to want that? But Disney’s top animators from all the great films, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Snow White, all the early Disney. They are the ones who did the pencil drawings. Their assistants did all the coloring as I mentioned so that’s the stuff that inspired me and I felt it, even not knowing a thing about any of that, by just looking at it, I was just captivated.
And it was the same thing with the Raisins and I still think Will Venton, what he pioneered in his animation with those Raisins, I became really good friends. I left out, I also became, because I love clay animation, I became really close friends with the creator of Gumby and my wife and I and he and his wife, we were the closest of friends. I mean we just hang out together all the time. We live near each other and I marketed all the artwork from all the Gumby films and TV series also just like I did with the California Raisins because I love clay animation.
JT: That’s great. This is like a blast from the past to talk about all these.
CW: I loved Gumby as a kid in the past so I hooked up Art, Art Clokey, the creator who sadly passed away a year or so ago and I’m just doing, connecting to the things I love. And to me, if you can do that, makes for a good life. And you can make money at it, become a millionaire, so much the better. But honestly, the only thing for me with my money, I mean the only really good thing about it is I can use it to do good things in the world for other people. Just making money in and of itself, that’s never going to be enough for me. What you can do with it to help.
I’m leaving everything to non profit, everything. Just the way Nolan Hershey did it, who is one of my biggest inspirations. Before he died, he had given away everything, was living in a little one room at the top of his house. The rest of the house was given over to the trust that ran his school and all his non-profits. He just lived in one little room upstairs, gave away everything. He is my hero. People really, oh Hershey chocolates, you know what, Hershey has done a lot of good and that man changed lives. To this day, the Hershey Industrial School, the orphanage is one of the top orphanages in the country. It’s just breathtaking the amount of lives they have changed in the work they have done.
JT: Sounds like you’re following that path, definitely. Wow.
CW: He inspires me. I love it when people do with their money and that’s exactly what I want to do with my money and that’s why I want to make money and that’s why I want to be an entrepreneur. Not for fame and money for money’s sake. It will never be enough for me. I actually don’t feel it’s enough for anybody to be quite honest.
CW: If the heart’s not invested in it, it will never be enough for you. You will never, it’s just like endless sex without love. Yeah, it will go so far but you will never be as fulfilled as when you really feel love and empathy for another person. It’s just not the same.
JT: Yes, that’s a good analogy actually.
CW: It’s deeper, it’s much different. It’s like knowing that there’s really stimulation in true love. It’s just a different feeling.
JT: That’s excellent. A higher calling. Well, great. Thank you so much. I usually leave for the last question is what’s one action that everyone can take this week to move them forward towards their goal of a million?
CW: Well, I would say first and foremost, find what you love. Really feel what it is that turns you on, that really inspires you, that really just gets you, you know opens up your heart in any field, anything. Don’t have any limitations of what it is or how to make a business out of it or anything. Just find out what you love. And then once you do find out what really turns you on, see if there’s a way you can incorporate that into your practical life, your business life, your personal life because if you can, and you already like have a business, let’s say you’re an entrepreneur already, and you go I’ve been doing this but come to think of it, I’m not really emotionally connecting to what I’m doing. How can I change my business so that it’s something emotionally I can connect to. What could make a it different, more fun, more whimsical, more enjoyable, more giving, have more heart in it that would kind of be so I wake up in the morning it’s more fun for me too which means it will be more fun for other people that come into contact with it.
JT: That’s great advice. A lot of people look just towards the money but you’re right, taking some time to step back and look at what you love with no limits and being able to reincorporate that into your life. That’s what makes a good life whether or not you have a million dollars.
CW: You know if the happiest people in the world were the richest and the most famous that would be fine. But as far as I can tell, people in the world are the most compassionate and loving people in the world and it really has nothing to do with money and fame. I’m not against money, obviously I’m not. But that’s kind of a side product. Happiness, compassion, love will always trump the rest of it. And then, creating money from in that disposition, great. You got it all.
JT: Sounds like you do have it all. Well thank you, Craig. Thank you so much for coming here. Where can we find online? Can you give us your website address and if you’re on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that?
CW: Sure. It’s CelebriDucks.com. It’s C-E-L-E-B-R-I-D-U-C-K-S.com. CelebriDucks.com and then they can always call here. You actually get me because I outsource like 95 percent of my business and I make my business so anybody can always talk to me. I know it’s weird in this day and age of email and voicemail and you can’t get to a live person, but I like to go the exact opposite. I want anybody to be able to reach me.
JT: That’s excellent. Then everyone should go check out CelebriDucks the website just to see what these look like because and I’m sure everyone is really curious to know what they look like. I’m looking at the devil duck right now.
CW: Isn’t that cute!
JT: Yes, it’s adorable.
CW: Is that cute? And if you email me I will write you back because I respond to every single email.
CW: If you don’t hear back from me, you know I didn’t get it or your spam filter got it because I write back to everybody.
JT: Wow, that’s is very unusual.
CW: I just believe it’s the way it should be. And you can call. I have a phone number on the website on every page so people can contact us.
JT: Excellent. So thank you so much for coming on today, Craig, and I hope you have a wonderful day.
CW: Oh no, thank you so much for feeling we’re worth talking too. I really appreciate that.
JT: Take care.
CW: You too.
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