Monday, January 9, 2017

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: IKO, LLC

My Kickfurther Merchant of the Week is IKO, LLC and I'm interviewing Mike Wong, the founder.

Q:  Can you give me a short conception and birth story of IKOS?

A:  IKOS, which is slang for "Icosahedron on a sphere", was born out of a high school program which gives students hands on experience in the field of their choosing.  In this case, I was the Engineering mentor who promised to show 3 students how to take an idea and make it a real / physical product.  I showed them a design, that was pioneered by one of my mentors, Peter Roberts.  The goal was to spread the idea that spheres are more efficient structures than our current square buildings and storage devices.  We decided to create a "toy" called IKOS to spread this concept through fun and play.

Q: I had to look up "Icosahedron" to see what that meant.  According to Wikipedia, it is a polyhedron with 20 faces, and since it has been a long time since I took geometry, I decided to look up "polyhedron", to confirm that it was a solid in three dimensions with flat polygonal faces, straight edges and sharp corners or vertices.  Are you saying that twenty of your pieces, snapped together make a sphere?

A:  Yes, 20 IKO pieces will form a complete sphere. 

Q: Your website says that you and your two co-founders got together when you want back to your high school to help with their CAPS program.  Can you tell us a little about CAPS?  Do you still work with it?


A:  CAPS, Center for Advance Professional Studies, gives any junior or senior the opportunity to learn about future careers through hands-on experience.  They partner students up with mentors and companies in the community to work on real world projects or learn about aspects of various businesses.  My old physics professor, Charlie Matthews, asked me to come back and be a mentor in the engineering department.

Three students, Mina, Paige, and Gates wanted to work with me on this project.  I walked them through the whole process of setting up an LLC, prototyping, 3D modeling, crowdfunding, filing patents, and then launching IKOS.  All 3 of the co-founders are listed on the patent applications and own a piece of the company.

Q:  That's really neat.  One thing I've heard people say about science people is that they have great ideas but don't know (or they don't  think about) how to protect themselves legally or about marketing.  It sounds like you gave those young people the whole package.

You tout that IKOS is made in the USA.  Where?  How many people do you employ?


A:  IKOS is injection molded in Utah, out of recycled HDPE, #2 plastic. Silicone Plastics is our injection molding partner and they are based in Milville, Utah.  I told the students that the only way we'd bring a new product to market was if it was made in the USA and out of a sustainable or recycled material. 

The main fulfillment and warehouse center is my garage and living room.  We don't have room for employees; technically, I'm the only one.  All three students are in college, but two have chosen to stay very involved through email and I keep them in the loop on what's going on, and solicit their advice and help whenever I can.

We have partnered with the refugee agency in Salt Lake City. These are families who don't have access to transportation, or their English skills are not great. I bring them raw product to package at their own house at their leisure.  We pay them as private contractors and they can make around $20 an hour. I'm really proud that we can provide work that pays well for people.

Q:  I think that's great.  It sounds like a win for you and a win for them, which is what I think any good business deal should be.  What do you see as the advantages to manufacturing in the US versus in China, Mexico or the other places "everyone" is using these days?

A:  The main advantage I see to manufacturing in the USA is that we are providing jobs that benefit people in our community.  We are also keeping our environmental footprint smaller by not having to ship overseas.  By producing in the USA, we have more control over our material stream, and ultimately doing what's best for the planet.



Q:  How hard it is to snap the pieces of IKOS together?  In other words, what is the lowest recommended age for this toy?

A:  We've tested IKOS with a lot of kindergarten classes (ages 5 - 6) and we've found that half of the kids have the dexterity to construct with IKOS.  We recommend ages 6+

Q:  Do you have any plans to make similar systems in different shapes?

A:  Yes, but we are taking it slow until we raise some more funds for the tooling and marketing.  I'm learning more about what it takes to bring another product line to market.

Q:  Tell us about some of the interesting things you've seen made from IKOS.  What's the biggest and how many sets did it take?




A:  Light fixtures, such as chandeliers.  Jewelry holders.  A lot of cool sculptures.  It's been funny, middle school and high school kids make some really interesting creations, but they are hesitant to share on their personal social media sites because they fear they won't get enough "likes" from their peers. Social media can be a double edged sword when it comes to sharing.  

Q:  Does it hurt if you step on an IKOS piece if you aren't wearing shoes?  If I step on one, or one two or three that have been snapped together, am I going to break them?

A:  It depends on which direction they are facing regarding stepping on them.  They are made out of HDPE #2 plastic so they are very durable.  

Q:  How did you hear about Kickfurther, and why did you decide to use them?

A:  My friend has a company called Panda Poles.  He had a great experience and I wanted to test out crowd financing.  I wanted to get a feel for the community and give back to people who were willing to support us.

Q:  Oh, I interviewed Tanner about a year ago.  He successfully finished his first Kickfurther offer, and recently started another.  What has been your impression so far?

A:  Great, a smooth process and very thankful for the support.



Q:  Would you recommend Kickfurther to other businesses?  Why or why not?

A:  Yes.  There are other ways to get financing at a lower interest rate, but typically you are making payments to a larger corporation vs real people who want you to succeed. 

Q:  I don't suppose any bank offered to blog about you.  Have you tried Kickfurther from the investor side?  Why or why not?  Would you recommend it to friends or family?  Why or why not?

A:  I have not tried it from the investor side.  By the time I heard about it,  all my money was tied up in IKOS.  Yes I'd recommend it to friends and family.

Q:  Anything else you'd like to tell us?

A:  Yes, I have two sons, a 3 year old and 11 month old.  I'm half awake, so please pardon spelling, grammar....

Q:  Hopefully I cleaned all that up for you.  I guess in a couple of years you'll find out if IKOS pieces hurt when you step on them barefoot in the dark.

Do you  have a giveaway for us?

A:  Sure.  I'm going to give three of your readers one of our Creator sets, which are valued at $19.99 each.  

 

Thanks.  I enjoyed visiting with you and learning about IKOS.  You can follow them on facebook and Instagram. and learn more about the company on their website.   You can purchase them via Amazon and if you use my link, I get a small commission.

For those who don't know, Kickfurther is a crowdfunding platform where ordinary people can back businesses.  I'm an investor in IKO.  My money and that of other investors will help them manufacture these toys.  When the toys sell, IKO repays us, with a profit.  If IKO is unable to sell the toys Kickfurther can repossess them, but that hopefully won't happen; these look like great fun.  If you would like to back interesting new products and hopefully earn a profit, use this link and you get $5.00 toward your first investment.  If you have a business that sells tangible inventory, Kickfurther may be a source of financing for you.  Use this link and I get referral credit.

Now, on to the giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

57 comments:

  1. I have a 5 and 7 year old and this would be a great educational toy for them!

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  2. My 4 grandchildren love to play with new toys.

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  3. My son loves building toys. I want to win them for him.

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  4. We love building and would love to build with something new. :-)

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  5. I would love to win these for my niece and nephew. They would love these! kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you. Happy 2017!

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  6. I think my youngest daughter would love to play with them. They look fun

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  7. I would love to win for my 4 year old and 18 month old daughters. They love building things together :)

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  8. I think all 4 of my kids would like it

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  9. i think these would be great for my nephew!

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  10. I have two toddlers, but my oldest, my 5 year old is the builder. He loves building EVERYTHING! This would be a new type of building toy for him and I would love that for me! Keep his lil mind growing!

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  11. We have a little one that loves to build things.

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  12. I think my 11 year old would love these.

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  13. My kids would love this brain stimulating toys! They are the only type of toys I buy for my kids. giggle2much2athotmaildotcom

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  14. I want them to play with my kids with, they love these kinds of things, especially my son,

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  15. My nephews would love to play with these when I am babysitting them.

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  16. My son is too young for these. I might put them up for the toys for tots.

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  17. My son who is 5 would LOVE these. He loves building.

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  18. I want to win for my very science minded girl who is 5 yrs old. thanks for the chance

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  19. I would love to win these for my grandson he had a little learning disability and they use these at his school and he loves them. Thanks for a chance

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  20. I want this for my granddaughters, they love to build things.

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  21. I would love this for my grandson and granddaughter. I know they would love to use them.

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  22. I would love to win because my son would enjoy creating with them.

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  23. I have 2 daughters that love to tinker and build stuff with their pet shop toys. They would love these.

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  24. My little girl loves to build things and would love this.

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  25. I would love to win this for our nephews! They would love building with this!

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  26. I would love to win for my daughter. She likes toys where you can build and construct.

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  27. i would like to win so my grandsons can have them

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  28. I thought these were legos for adults, but I guess they are for kids...
    :-P
    (guess that means I'll have to win them for my nephew...and "teach" him how to use them!)

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  29. My guy loves to build and this is really unique

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  30. I think my daughter and her friends would enjoy playing with these.

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  31. I have 4 grands under the age of 6. They are always looking for something to do when they visit.

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  32. Looks interesting... I would like to win this for my granddaughter who loves to build things. Like that it's different and encourages creativity

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  33. I think that my 4 yr old granddaughter would love playing with these and even my 9 yr old grandson, they look like fun and different to play with!

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  34. I love having educational toys for my grandkids when they are at my house. These look like they fit the bill!!

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  35. I have a 4yr old and a 7yr old that i would love to have these toys for i think they would really enjoy them alot.

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  36. My kids would get a kick out of them...thanks!

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  37. I think my daughter would love these! I think I would too. Working creatively like this is calming and fun. I would love to have my daughter build with these and then draw them. I think that would be fun!

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  38. My kids would like this since they like to build things.

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  39. My daughter loves building toys! The possibilities are endless as to what she can make!

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  40. I would love to win IKOS for my son because he loves building toys
    Thank You

    Fiona N

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  41. Love to win for my grandson who loves building stuff

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  42. I want to win because these look really fun to play with and my brother would love it for his birthday.

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  43. I've always thought these are super cool, and I want to win them for my nephew.

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  44. My daughter would love these! I'd love to win them for her :)

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  45. This looks super cool and I love the manufacturing/packaging process. We just happen to have a birthday coming up around the corner...

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  46. I want to win because this toy brings out the kids creativity

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  47. I'd like to win because my son is very creative and really gets a kick out of these types of toys!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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  48. would make great gift for my sisters who homeschool there kids

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  49. My grandchildren would just love to play with any of these Creator sets.

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  50. One of these Creator sets would be the best things my grandchildren have played with in a long time.

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  51. How about that; a great creator set to keep my nieces and nephews busy for hours.

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  52. Wow, these wonderful Creator sets would be really cool for my grandchildren to have.

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  53. I have nieces and nephews that absolutely need these Creator sets to have a good time all day.

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  54. A Creator set could definitely unleash my children's imaginations for a fabulous play time.

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