By Van Mitchell
Special to The Sun
Chase Layman, 27, and James Hugo, 30, are friends and business partners who happen to share a passion for something a little unique. They want to create their own toy line.
To help make that dream become a reality, the owners of Wheelhouse, an Edmond graphic design firm at 2300 S. Broadway, Suite 105, launched a Kickstarter.com online campaign to raise $22,000 for its first set of vinyl designer toys called “Rivals.”
Wheelhouse focuses on film, motion graphics and graphic design when not working on its Rivals toy line.
The back story of the toys combines the designers’ love of Steampunk popculture and a nautical theme. Two races, The Nautilus and The Cog, are clashing over a search for mineral resources, thus creating the conflict for the Rivals.
“It’s a fun concept because everyone has their favorite of the two. Even Chase and I are rivals about our favorite. Chase is a Cog and I am a Nautilus. We wanted to have something a little different to bring to the Urban Vinyl market,” Hugo said.
Hugo said they have a 30-day campaign period from Nov. 2 to Dec. 2 to raise the funds and the money will be used to start the production of the first two Rivals characters and hopefully fuel future Rivals projects. The production of these toys includes shipping, customs and all other deliverables.
Hugo said interested supporters can go to www.kickstarter.com and type in Rivals and make a pledge using their credit card.
“We both worked at LifeChurch and several years ago we wanted to pursue making our own vinyl toy that was just for ourselves,” Hugo said. “Fast forward a few years later we had the opportunity to open up Wheelhouse. We have been open since Aug. 1 and business has been good. All the spare time we had started going towards concept and designing and launching our own toy line.”
Layman said they are excited about the prospect of starting their own toy line.
“We are super excited about it and about being the first local company to make vinyl designer toys,” Layman said. “We have only been going for a couple of days and we are already 10 percent funded. The response from the community on the design has been really positive. The projections are looking good but we definitely need more help.”
Justin Kazmark, a Kickstarter spokesman, said Kickstarter is an online funding platform for creative projects which includes everything from films, games and music to art, design and technology. Since its business launch on April 28, 2009, more than $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.
“We are really a funding platform for creative projects,” Kazmark said. “Anybody can launch a project as long that it fits into one of our 13 creative categories. With Kickstarter there is the ability to build an energized community around an idea.”
Kazmark said when a backer decides to make a pledge no money exchanges hands unless the project is fully funded.
“It’s an all or nothing funding platform,” Kazmark said. “At the deadline if a project goal is met or exceeded then everyone who made a pledge will have their credit cards charged simultaneously. If funding for a project falls short then none of the credit cards are charged and everybody walks away without money changing hands.”
Kazmark said when a project is successfully funded Kickstarter applies a 5 percent fee to the funds collected. In the U.S., pledges will be processed by Amazon Payments. These payment processing fees work out to roughly 3-5 percent.
Kazmark said when a backer makes a pledge they do so with the understanding they will receive something in return for the project meeting its goal.
“There is a value exchange on Kickstarter between the creator and the backers,” he said. “You get to help fund the project. You are part of the whole process. It brings the artist and audience closer together.”
Wheelhouse offers a variety of promotional items based upon level of funding provided. Those offers include everything from signed toys to a paid flight from anywhere in the U.S. to hang out with the guys of Wheelhouse for a weekend in Oklahoma City for the donor who gives more than $10,000.
“Kickstarter was a great choice for us because it includes products similar to ours. It’s also a very well-known site,” Hugo said. “Most people in our target market are very familiar with Kickstarter. We also chose KS because we use it ourselves. We just received a product … that was successful.”
Layman said they were able to locate a manufacturer in China that can meet their needs.
“It’s not cheap to make toys here in the U.S.,” Layman said. “We searched a ton of manufacturers in order to find the right one. It took a while but we really did find a really good manufacturer that has been on top of everything and done everything we have asked.”
Layman and Hugo both state they plan to continue their fundraising efforts if their initial campaign falls short.
“I grew up loving toys and anything that made you feel like a kid,” Layman said. “This a dream that we have and we are going to make it happen no matter what. If it fails the first time we are going to try and try again.”
TO LEARN more about Wheelhouse’s Rivals toy line, go online to http://RivalVinyl.com. To see the company’s Kickstarter page, go online to http://kck.st/QbqzR8. To learn more about Wheelhouse’s other interests, see its company page at http://wheelhou.se.