Remember Furby? Marc Rosenberg was the lead marketing mind behind the talking holiday toy craze that brought in more than $400 million in 1998-99. As a toy industry consultant since 2003, the Northbrook native also launched a toy action line for Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” in 2005. Now, working from his Deerfield home, he’s created The Edge Desk, a portable desk. Rosenberg spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Sandra Guy. An edited transcript follows.
Question: How hard is it to change careers?
Answer: You have to build relationships with 10 times more people and be 10 times more creative. It’s all about the kinds of lessons like the 2001-2002 launch of Poo-Chi, a little robotic dog.
I headed marketing for Tiger Electronics, in Vernon Hills, when it was the largest privately held toy company in the world. Tiger was sold to Hasbro for $335 million in 1998. I stayed with Hasbro.
We came up with the craziest ideas. We hired Doug Swingley, who won the Iditarod sled-dog race four times, to promote Poo-Chi, got on the “Today Show.” What are you going to do that gets people’s attention?
Q: How do you get attention now?
A: Kickstarter, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat — you name it on social media.
We’re selling The Edge Desk off of our own website (theedgedesk.com).
It’s a folding desk/kneeling chair/easel. We sold the desk — it costs $350 — in 41 countries on Kickstarter. More than 1,500 backers generated more than $484,000, pushing it into the top 1 percent of Kickstarter campaigns.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
A: I was consulting for Wowwee, the tech toys company in Montreal. We were on a commercial shoot when I noticed a massage chair. I sat down, putting my face down in the doughnut-hole headrest. Someone put a computer in front of me to look at a commercial. I thought, “I wonder if I could work this way.” It’s unbelievably comfortable. I bought it for $180. I called Steve and Jeff Rehkemper, who helped bring the vision to life.
My daughter Jackie was in college at Michigan State. Between MSU and seven other colleges, we asked 1,000 kids how many used dorm-room desks — just 13 out of 1,000. Most sat on their bed with their laptop.
We designed The Edge Desk so it takes one minute to set up.
We decided to put it on Kickstarter.
I had turned 50. I thought, ‘Am I really going to give up my day job and do this?’
We would have had a team of eight people on this project at a major company like when we had Tiger. It would have taken 24 to 36 months to develop. Now, there are four of us, asking friends to help with development, packaging and marketing. We didn’t want venture capital funding that would have required us to give up half the company.
Q: What advice do you give others to start a business on Kickstarter?
A: Find someone to shoot a video and curate the Kickstarter page. If you don’t tell your story right, people aren’t going to support it.
We started our Facebook page two weeks before we launched the Kickstarter campaign.
You’d better make sure you’re set to go the first day. You’re going to be fighting an uphill battle if nothing happens the first day. We did $50,000 in business the first day, largely because Endgadget published a story.
The reporter had bad knees. Our desk isn’t perfect for people with bad knees. Hers ended up being the most honest analysis. She talked about her experience with bad knees. Yet enough people saw the good things the desk offered.
You are begging your friends to go buy it, get on Facebook and say something good about it.
The 50th hour, we hit $165,000. The Kickstarter campaign lasts 30 or 42 days; we chose 42. After the second week, it gets quiet. They call it the trough.
We finished with $412,000 in sales. We got paid $360,000 a couple weeks later. Kickstarter takes 5 percent. Stripe, their payment processor, takes 3 percent. Marketing agencies also get a piece.
Indiegogo has a program — “in demand.” If you’re funded on a platform and raised money, you can continue there. We’ve done another $70,000 in business on “in demand.”
We’re paying people to do patent work, the website, the packaging.
Q: What’s next?
A: An operations person, a finance person, salespeople, etc. Set up a college ambassador program. Ambassadors will buy a desk for a 5 percent discount, show it around campus and get a commission any time someone buys a desk using the ambassador’s promotional code.
We’re just now starting to take salaries — after not taking a penny in two years.