In another post, I talk about my dying business and link to this post on people and organizations with whom I dealt with and either blatantly ripped me off or provided very poor service. Since I don’t have much to lose anymore, I’m going to call them out so that maybe someone doesn’t make the same mistakes. In the end, as the business owner, it was my fault in dealing with them, not doing enough due diligence and trusting too much , but they all took my money and didn’t deliver anywhere near the promised product.
Will it Launch
Will It Launch bills itself as an As Seen on TV scouting company. They say they find ideas, test them in a small ad buy, and if the sales metrics are sufficient, they get the product into large scale product and large ASTOV markets. You can read more on my view of these type of companies here and Will it Launch is no exception. In my mind, they in effect bought a bunch of lottery tickets with my money and promised me 5% if they won. I spent $15,000 with them and although I did get a decent commercial that supposedly aired over 50 times nationwide, it only resulted in one, single sale. If the ad really did air, I imagine the cost of making the commercial and the air time was around $7,500 and they pocketed the rest. So, this was one of those cases where it wasn’t a blatant rip off, but they certainly take advantage of inexperienced inventors and business owners. I dealt with Marty Williams and Earl Pardo.
Design Edge is a development and sourcing company in the toy industry that I used for production of my Double Deckers, Connectors and Storage boxes for my second Kickstarter. I met the owner, Matt Nuccio, at Toy Fair NY in 2016 and got them to quote the production of tooling, manufacturing and shipping of those products. They had a competitive quote, so I got some references to check. Only one of three responded and it was a pretty boilerplate message like “they performed according to the contract” or something like that. But, I had gotten dazzled by their supposed client list and was crunched for time after the Kickstarter, so I went with them. In short, the quality, schedule and communication were terrible. After Matt Nuccio brought me in, I dealt with his son, Chris as my primary POC. The delivery was delayed 9 months, both Matt and Chris lied to me in a number of occasions about the delays (documented in email) and the quality of the final product was subpar. The fit of the pieces was not as specified and the finish was not as specified in our contract. You can see below a simple example of the poor quality and it’s just not that tough to polish up the tooling to take out those blemishes.
So, with the project 9 months delayed and overrun, I just decided to take the products as-is, but Design Edge never made any effort to make anything right with me.
Mars 2000 Plastics has been the producer of my Single Deckers after my initial run was done when the tooling was completed. I had used a sourcing company, United Global Sourcing, to have the tooling and initial run of 10,000 units made in China. Then my contact at UGS left, the price went up dramatically, and I was looking for a way to have the product made in the US. I also met the Mars people at Toy Fair NY 2016, and they pitched me the deal of bringing over my tooling and producing the Card Caddy in their Rhode Island plant for less than I was paying for China production. Once again, I fell victim to inadequate vetting (similar response I got for my DesignEdge reference check) and a time crunch (inventory was running low), so I started the process for moving the tooling. Long story short, that took 3 more months than promised, and $2,000 more than quoted. So, the first couple of runs come in and they are OK and on budget, but after a few more runs, I notice that some of the Card Caddies are seriously warped and the packaging shoddy.
I bring the matter to their attention, they dither about a refund since most of the product is OK, and conclude that their production team has the shrink wrap oven set too high and is melting some of them as they go through. Again, long story short, this issue occurs multiple times, I threaten not to pay invoices, and they threaten to send my bill to collection. I end up paying the invoice, since I can’t afford to pay for a lawyer and they have my tooling. From my stock of inventory produced by this company, I have to end up going through each of them by hand and end up throwing 5% away as unusable.
A toy licensing and distributing company, this company‘s principle, Patti Becker, claims a deep network in the industry. Their pitch is that they have licensed and gotten distributor deals for products like Gumby and Othello to big toy companies and made the product inventor/developer money in royalties (minus their fee, of course). I met Patti at the ASTRA trade show and she seemed enthusiastic about the product. I had pitched the Card Caddy to a number of product agents in the toy industry and none of them ever responded, so when Patti responded after I followed up after the show, I figured I had finally gotten big enough to be noticed. The contract with her company involved up to $500 per month to pay for her to attend trade shows, and she told me that she would only invoice me for shows where she pitched the product, and that the fee would be negligible in a month or two compared to the distributor deals that would come, and then the big licensing deal that would result after a few distributor deals. Immediately, she started invoicing me and it was for shows like the ABC Baby Expo and other totally unrelated events. The only distributors I ever heard about were ones from Australia and Russia who were “interested” but nothing ever came from them. And of course, licensing never happened. At least she agreed to stop invoicing me when I told her that I borrowed money from a college friend to pay her last invoices and there was no more money in company, but she refused to break the contract, I guess just in case someone came out of the blue to license the product?
So, would my business have been successful if I had either avoided these companies and found better providers? Probably not, given my track record in other areas. Maybe I would have held on a little longer, but I likely would have just found some other way to blow the money. Anyway, the morals of the story are: get references, be suspicious if they aren’t overtly positive, don’t let your schedule dictate your decisions and if the promises of success are high, so is the likelihood of a scam. Hopefully someone doesn’t learn some of these lessons the hard way…