February 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 2
Q&A With Dax Logue, Creator of Sqwishland LLC
Entering or leaving a toy store can provide an unbearable temptation for children - there, at the entrance, several small machines dispense candy, stickers, and even small toys, all at kid-friendly prices. For years, Dax Logue worked supplying toys to a variety of vendors, some of whom owned up to 100,000 of these machines.
Tired of shilling out the products of others and recognizing the potential of this lucrative market, Dax assembled a team of artists and designers and formed Sqwishland LLC, creating a line of tiny collectibles to be sold in toy vending machines. Drawing on his experience and knowledge of vending toys, Dax's new line sold over 50 million pieces in just 2 1/2 years - without putting a single dollar toward consumer faced advertising.
The company successfully paired their toys with a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), which now boasts more than 830,000 users who can log in and play with their collected Sqwishlanders and other Sqwishland fans in a virtual world. Below, Dax shares his insights on the importance of online integration, overcoming retailers' perceptions of vending toys, and why he thinks the company's current equity raise could make them the next big thing.
Q. What career path did you originally envision for your self?
A. My father wanted me to become a doctor. He was a hospital administrator and he thought that would be great for me. I wanted to become an airline pilot. I started flying when I was 14 years old. Not following either path, I got involved in sales just after I got out of school. I always looked at the marketing side of the sales process as something that I could offer easily to companies. This led to graphic arts exposure and eventually to designing my own IP (Intellectual Property) and because I was in the kids space it just happened.
Q. Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?
A. Ever anticipate? I have been designing Toy IP for so many years now I can't really remember not anticipating my next project. The Live Internet Game has been the big change for me. I now find myself clearly in the IT Gaming space and I did at one point really anticipate how this move would affect the Sqwishland characters. It has been so enlightening.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?
A. I used to use other companies IP to promote a design. One day after sending out a $175,000 check to the IP holder I said, "I could come up with toys kids would like and keep this expenditure in house." Shortly after that, I formed my own studio and we started studying the market for what was hot. I guess the answer to your question is we studied trends and jumped in!
Q. How long did it take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production?
A. To know me is to know I systemize everything I do. So in the beginning it took forever to get a thought to a workable idea, then on to the next steps. Today we can turn an idea into a sellable item in about 6 months. Of course, nowadays so much time is spent on safety (ingredients) it could be a little longer than that. China is really going through an industrial revolution of sorts and we are seeing new challenges come from there. Lets say 6 to 8 months from idea to shelf ready.
Q. What were the top two or three most significant obstacles you had to overcome to achieve success and how did you do it?
A. Money, money and money. Everything is so costly today that to match price in production to shelf price is a constant obstacle. As you know we are going through an equity raise and we anticipate that our funding will flatten some of our "speed bumps." Sqwishland the game and the toy have such a loyal following; we know that capital and national advertising will take us to the next level. Consider this, we have sold over 100 million Soft ‘n Squishy toys without one dollar of consumer faced advertising. I guess another obstacle is the way stores view things. Without the advertising, no big PO's. I really think we overcame this roadblock in that we have shown that the Internet can really deliver sales. We are having trouble getting buyers to see this. We believe we are on the cutting edge of the future, with the Internet driving retail sales. MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games let the kids have an interactive experience unlike traditional TV.
Q. What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the toy industry?
A. Have deep pockets and don't launch your business model without a strong Internet solution!
Q. What aspect of the toy industry most surprised you when you first started?
A. How many steps it takes to get a concept to the point that it’s ready for the shelf. We design in the USA and build the toys off shore. It really takes “a village” to get it all done, and done right.
Q. What is the most disappointing thing that you have to live with as a business owner?
A. I am a perfectionist working in an imperfect world. Not everyone sees my vision. I have to accept that I am just part of the bigger picture, and when it comes out close to what I originally imagined, that’s OK. I still try to get things to 100%, even after all these years of trying to accept that it’s rarely possible.
Q. What were the top two or three best pieces of advice you’ve received, and from whom?
A. I will start with the most recent and work back in time: As you know I am raising money for Sqwishland the game. I asked a guy who is well established in the crazy world of finance what advice he could give me, and he said, “Don’t quit.” I understand this a little better every day. My mother gave me some good advice many years ago, “You won’t know when the final day comes, so resolve all your issues in the day they were created.” This one is really hard to follow…but I try.
Q. The worst two or three pieces of advice?
A. When I was 18 years old I was told invest in property…that was good advice, it just needed a word or two added…for instance, great property will always be GREAT and crappy property will most likely always be crappy. I have bought my share of both. The other bad advice I got recently was fill your warehouse up and sell off inventory you have…I really think it’s better to create some demand by not filling orders 100% of the time. Like I said, this is really a hard question.
Q. What one unique quality makes your product better than your competition?
A. Our Sqwishland has sold huge numbers with zero dollars invested in marketing. Toys that have big consumer faced marketing plans (and dollars) behind them will sell, and usually as long as the dollars keep flowing to the marketing plan the toy continues to sell. To date, 100 Million Sqwishlanders have sold, and the last time I looked, an hour ago, we had just over 830,000 [832,965 at the time of publication] kids registered on the game, with about 1000 kids a day signing on. We do viral popularity better than anyone.
Sqwishlanders – they are cute, they are collectible, they are fun – a craze every parent can afford to support and you don’t have to go far to find one. Available at those ubiquitous red vending machines found in every supermarket, convenience store, arcade and malls across America, put your quarter in, crank the handle and wait and see what comes out. The surprise of the catch is just part of the fun. Once you open the capsule and see which Sqwishland® character has been dispensed, a fortune cookie style secret code will reveal yet another surprise, an unknown bounty of virtual game cash will be discovered when the code is entered on line.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 31340 (added 12/17/2010)
The SqwishLand Soft `n Squishy Bracelet is a fun new way to bring a child's SqwishLand collection on-the-go. Kids customize the bracelet with their favorite SqwishLanders, and can swap out different animals depending on their mood or outfit. The bracelets are also soft `n Squishy™ and come in four cool colors. Comes with one SqwishLander on the bracelet, as well as a Crazy Rare SqwishLander in a capsule. Launch date: Summer 2011.
Awards: 2011 Fall Seal of Approval from the National Parenting Center
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 32740 (added 8/23/2011)
Kids choose the DIY SqwishLand Parrot or Frog and paint their very own rare SqwishLander. Each box set includes a 5” unpainted Sqwishland character, six acrylic paints and one brush. Kids then use the included code to unlock the online gallery at www.SqwishLand.com/diy to register and post their one-of-a-kind soft ‘n squishy design for all to see. The online community at SqwishLand.com will vote on a favorite DIY design each month. Winning designs could become the next Rare Sqwishlander in the game and on store shelves. An Artist’s Guide and detailed instructions are included. Launch date: Summer 2011.
Awards: 2011 Fall Seal of Approval from the National Parenting Center
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 32739 (added 8/23/2011)
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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