Tools for Tots

Chuck Sword owns DHS Diecast Collectibles, a construction and truck model distributor. But his 11-year-old son Zach got frustrated that he couldn’t play with many of the products sold by the company because they were too fragile — and designed to sit on a shelf. So Sword worked with his son to launch Zach’s Construction Toys.

The new company highlights products personally picked by Zach, who plays with each item and ranks them before his father buys them for the company’s catalog. Zach errs on the side of realism, preferring heavily detailed toys licensed from Caterpillar and Kenworth because they’re similar to the machines he actually sees at construction sites. The catalog also includes reflective orange arm bands and fake dirt produced from recycled tires — adding to the experience even more.

Many companies, including Nickelodeon (no surprise) and Compaq turn their attention to the interests and ideas of children in the pursuit of innovation. But how can you actually build your children’s interests into your existing business? Do you bring them into a family business? Launch a subsidiary reflecting their needs like Sword did? Or just listen to what they have to say about what you do — and what you offer your customers?