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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Ball Gum Machine and Bed Bugs Container (Fleer Chewing Gum 1981) 

In a move to avoid the continued expense of my consultant design service, Fleers had their in-house cartoonist replace my efforts as product designer.  To me it seemed an obviously a lack of knowledge or appreciation of talent.  My abilities were perfectly suited for their needs, offering a combination of creative skills and specialized engineering knowledge of intricate plastic molding.   My recent past experience was extremely unique for their purposes.  Not only instrumental in the development of the recently invented polypropylene hinge but applying that technology to containers for their close competitor, Topps Chewing Gum.

Mr. Tegan, Vice President of New Products, and their cartoonist reviewed my previously submitted and unaccepted ideas and re-selected the Ball Gum Dispenser.  Their final design was poorly executed, it would not function and was impossible to produce.  Once again looking further into my previously submitted and unaccepted ideas, they selected the Bed Bug container.  Rather than chance the design function with their cartoonist, Mr. Tegan placed the design and engineering responsibilities into the hands of an inexperienced custom molding company.  The attempts were costly both in inferior design as well as production capabilities.  Eventually they were forced to put the concepts aside and accept the heavy financial loss.

Apparently, I made my function seem easily performed.  Therefore they incorrectly believed anyone with a little sense could do it.

Finished Bed Bugs
Original Bed bug Idea Submitted to Fleers.  

Light Bulb Container (Toy Pak Corporation 1983)

When our relationship was starting to wear, I submitted third drawing to Fleer and it was turned down.  I retained the rights to produce and sell the LightBulb myself.

Not happy with the antics of the industry, I decided to manufacture the results of my own container creations without the blanket security of a large corporation.  This action of mine was the same mistake Fleers made only in reverse.  In other words, I took on the job of CEO without the slightest idea of what it entailed while Fleer, on the other hand, intended to remove me from the picture in order to save money and have my job performed by someone without the proper experience and knowledge.  At the time, I don’t believe they realized the capability and experience required to perform the job.  They didn’t know or appreciate what went into designing and engineering of new products and I didn’t know the responsibilities of a CEO.  However, while together, we were a good team.

With the aid of willing investors, I incorporated a new company and named it, Toy-Pak Corporation.  A primary partner was an association with a molding company.  A second investor recently retired from his job with a leading bank and came to work as a financial advisor.  Other investors remained in the non-functional background.

Photo Dave and Joe Homer
Our first product was a gumball container, a dimensionally accurate replica of a household lightbulb.  It was accurate enough to be screwed into electrical light socket.  In order to avoid electrical tragedies, a lanyard loop of sufficient length made screwing the container into a light socket difficult.  Of course we never recommend or advertised this fact, but its realism is what gave the product its incredible salability.  The plastic Light Bulb container had a screw cap rather than a hinged closure, much like a standard bottle and cap.  Not having a hinged lid, like the previous products; the screw cap became a second part, causing the need for a second expensive mold.  It was a costly decision, but seemed worthwhile in the market place.  The production Screw Cap mold was six months late in delivery.  This caused havoc in our production because we were working with a limited supply of caps that came from limited prototype molding.  Fortunately, I was able to obtain national distribution of the product because of my reputation derived from previous container designs.  Soon we had big orders coming in from GC Murphy and Woolworth's and other big retailers.  Because of the high demand that the Light Bulb created, we could not fill orders fast enough with our modest production facility.  We needed more production at lower costs, but most of all, a dependable supply of Screw Caps.

Gumballs were everywhere.  We purchased qualities of 2000 pounds at a time.  We became the largest buyer of gum balls in the United States.  Loading the gum balls into the Light Bulb was first done with Plexiglas scoops that were custom made to hold 13 balls of gum.  Later the scoops were made of stainless steel as the Plexiglas tubes began to break.  We had about 15 people on our production line all of them were sight impaired.  They were our best workers.

Photo Dave and Joe Homer
Business was going good.  We decided to invest a large sum into the engineering and construction of an automated loading machine.  This would eliminate dependency on hand labor and speed up production.  My partner at the molding company was the engineering force behind building the machine.  Nine months later we still did not have the machine because my partner was too busy with other matters.  We turned our attention to a commercially available machine.  This machine was originally made to automatically dispense aspirins into bottles.  My son drove to Long Island, NY to pick it up.  It was an efficient machine, but not as reliable as loading by the hand.  It should have been re-sold, but business was moving rapidly and we did not have time.  There was no eBay back then.

The investors did not abide by the pre-incorporating understanding to pledge a specific infusion of cash.  Had I known they were going to do this, I would have conserved more cash and not invest in loading machines and other expenses.  At the same time, our sales reps were now promising greater sales from the west coast and wanted more product faster.

Lack of cash caused long deadly delays, but worst of all the lack of future new products ideas as outlined in our business plan.  Part of that plan was to sell our product with cost incentives in order to gain market recognition.  In other words, we were losing money with each Light Bulb sold.  But that was a part of the plan that we all agreed upon in order to get our name out there.  Inexplicably, some of the investors began complaining about not having more products in production and were adamant about not extending their promise of funding.  This lack of action and understanding on their part would eventually result in the company’s failure.  Being desperate for cash, I started designing new products for other companies.  These very successful products will be discussed in future post.  But for now it can be said a hand shake deal was no longer a valid way of doing business and Toy Pak was forced to close the doors for business.

The market lost a new exciting source of fun-candy supply and I learned to respect qualified corporate decisions.


Photo Dave and Joe Homer