Fast Talk: Fast Learners

Dave Domm on creating a toy racing experience that's not just for 12-year-old boys.

Dave Domm

Cofounder and Executive Vice President, Raceline Motorworks
Vernon Hills, Illinois

Domm, 31, along with cofounders Rocky Jones and Blake Harper, set out to create "an American Girl for boys"--a joint where boys design, build, and race remote-control cars. Raceline's early success in suburban Chicago has inspired plans for 100 stores in the next five years. Here, Domm explains how they fashioned an experience so immersive that 12-year-old boys aren't ashamed to play with girls or even their moms.

"We wanted to start a business that had a really engaging, interactive environment for boys--there's a handful of places like that for girls, but not for boys--and what better entry into this market than race cars? So we wrapped a really rich experience around an already successful product.

When designing the store, we very easily could have gone down the path of a Club Libby Lu or a Build-a-Bear that used a lot of younger, brighter, kid-friendly designs and colors. But if you appeal just to the younger kids, the 12-year-olds are not going to come into the store. And besides, younger kids aspire to be like their older brothers. So after looking at everything from Apple stores to NASCAR magazines to the ESPN Zone, we went with a design that's more sophisticated, that brings in the parents, the teenagers, and the 4-year-olds.

We knew that the most alluring aspect of this is the actual racing experience, so we spent a lot of time and money designing the track, making it the focal point of the store. You don't have to be 9 years old to enjoy running a car around a track, trying to beat your buddy. With their parents' okay, we enter kids into our racing club and invite them to compete in weekly races featuring their type of car. As we open more stores, we plan to make each track unique so we can set up a racing circuit.

We've been thrilled with the response. I think the reason that Raceline appeals to more than just the kiddie crowd is that it's an immersive environment. You could have Frankenstein racing next to you, and you wouldn't even know it."

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