A Little Wild Idea (or How We Opened A Little Toy Store And Followed A Seemingly Crazy Dream)

10 years or so ago, my spouse and I developed this weird vacation habit. We’d spend a fair chunk of our vacation time coming up with lists of business ideas. And we’d do this vacation after vacation.

We had all kinds of wackadoo ideas. Like hipster “Up North” t-shirts, a restaurant that just sold fancy toast, and a coffee shop called Happy Matt’s.

Clearly we both had an urge to create something new and share it with our community.

But the timing was never right. I had a consuming day job, we had a little daughter, and our little daughter didn’t like to sleep much.

Then, she entered kindergarten. We got our energy back. I enrolled in a poetry class. My spouse started theatrical performance again. And after about 6 months, we looked at each other and our creative outlets and said “The time to create something new is NOW!”

We could have continued the poetry/theater trajectories. But the idea of starting something together, a local business, grabbed me first, and then it grabbed him, too — it was time to cook or get out of the kitchen, so to speak.

We revisited the vacation lists and started going down the toast restaurant path in earnest until I found a community and marketing study that had been conducted a few years back for North Avenue in East Wauwatosa.

And there, in that study, a hobby/toy store was identified as a good fit for the neighborhood. And I thought, “YES, THIS IS IT!” It just clicked. North Avenue needed a place for kids, and a toy store would be a perfect fit. I knew it in my bones. And then my next thought was, “THIS IS A WILD IDEA!”

A toy store. We had no experience running a store, we had no background buying and selling toys except toys for our daughter, and we knew nothing about the toy industry. What were we thinking?

So we tried to shake off the toy store idea by exposing ourselves to the toy industry — the old “learn enough about something so that we know it’s not right for us but also so that we can say we didn’t give up without making a valiant effort first” tactic. We joined a trade association for independent toy store owners, I spent a few hours one day at a toy trade show, and we visited every independent toy store we could.

The tactic backfired. Each step we took towards this wild idea we had the urge to take another one. And then another and another. Some parts were nerve-wracking, like financing the start-up,  deciding on the scale of what we wanted to do, and explaining what we were doing to our parents. Some parts were amazing, like attending a toy trade show in earnest and meeting the people behind the toys we sell.

We talked and planned pretty much every one of our non-working non-family-time waking moments for 12 months, and then we signed a lease, and then we opened 4 months later.

In short, we took a little wild idea, treated it with respect, and heard it out.

What is your little wild idea?

Like what you’re reading here? Join our E-Mail Club and get monthly newsletters with links to new blog posts and news about happenings at Ruckus & Glee.