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July 26, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Interview with Kevin Lane, Founder of Create a Castle – 877-728 -7763 Toy of the Year Award Winner

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Welcome to the show. Happy, Happy Friday to you.

Thank you, John. Thank you. Thank you for having us. We appreciate it.

Thanks, we see I see, there's plenty of new viewers scrolling in while they do that, I just want to start real quick and share my screen because I think you've got some amazing pictures on your website that I want to go through. And then of course, we'll get into your bio as well. But folks, welcome to the show. Happy Friday. We're here with Kevin lane, and the inventor of create a castle. And he mo he created molds that make it easy to build elaborate sand castles. And you're wondering what I mean by elaborate, I'll show you a couple of screens at the end. So he's the winner of the prestigious Toy of the Year award in 2020. And it's no surprise when you look at the type of sand castles that that you can build in and do it quickly using his patented invention. And what patent attorney would be, you know, worth their salt, if they don't bring the look up the actual patent that that underlies it. So it's a really broad patent, I love the fact that it's protected. And Kevin's taking the right steps to make sure his intellectual property is protected before going forward. When you think of sand castles, of course, you think of sand. But you can make snow castles with this product as well. So without further delay, let me stop the screen share and introduce our guest of honor today, Kevin, he's what triggered the idea is he's watched too many people struggling to finish a sandcastle a dad with their young son. And sometimes you can imagine, you know, your limited sunlight, you're trying to get this thing done. And it's just takes too long, using a shovel in a five gallon bucket. And if the child that you're helping is young, 567 years old, and if you guys that have kids, their attention span is not that long. So it's only a matter of time before they just give up and they're off doing their own thing. And poor dad and mom are they're finishing the sandcastle by themselves because the kids gotten bored. So with that, let's, let's give our attention to Kevin. Kevin, it's a pleasure to have you here today. I want to start kind of with, like I always do, the invention is critical. But I like to start a little bit with the inventor and his story before the idea came to them. So tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yeah, so my background, believe it or not, it's an attack. And you know, my escape from Tech was going to the beach with my family, having fun, and dreamed this whole concept up when I was actually on vacation with my family at a beach in Laguna Beach, California, back in 2016. Saw that struggling, they flipped the mold over didn't work, they got frustrated. And that's when I was on the beach walking with all these tools that I just purchased from from Agway I think it was and I was like wait a minute, I had this idea. And went home and started doing patent searches, product searches to make sure there was nothing else out there. That would actually compete with the idea. And sure enough, there was really nothing in the marketplace that had not only splitting molds, like I was dreaming up, but also the stackability function. Which really is what's that's what separates us from any other product in the market. We were by far we're probably four to five times bigger than any sin platform on the market, which separates us from the rest plus the detail.

Yeah, oh, yeah. And there's there's incredible detail, which not just as clear from the website, but just looking at some of the patent drawings and how, for example, the pieces are put together, they're really intricate, and the every aspect of it is made to save time. So they split and I'll let you get more into the product later. But um, you said you started as a in technology, so your background in like web design and coding. So this is just a lot of times we hear from inventors that the idea that they have and their concern is what my idea has nothing to do with my technical background or what I've studied or what I've gone to school for. And I just having practiced for as a patent attorney for 25 years, I've gotta say, that is the norm. I mean, it's really the exceptional inventor that invents within their field. And sometimes the invention, like a field does not even exist. I mean, you think about the Wright brothers. There was no aviation industry at the time. So they were bicycle mechanics. And if they looked at it and said, Well, you know, for bicycle mechanics, we should stick to bicycles. Well, that's not how innovation goes. books. I mean, Amazon, for example, is there, like, started as booksellers, you know, now that people don't even think about books because they sell everything. So books are way down on the list of what people think of when they think of Amazon. So that's, that's typical. Did you feel that your background? Was it? Did it help? Or was it in some ways a hindrance to the type of skill set it takes to be an inventor?

No, it absolutely helped because I was on my own. So in a sense, I was always an inventor in the sense of, kind of, I always had to find new customers find new clients. So I was really good at the marketing side of things. And that kind of translated into what I do now with creative Castle, that coupled with the fact that, you know, needed a website needed somebody who had background with doing social media work. Well, I had all that. So all of that, that background that I had applied into everything that I do now. So it was really, really beneficial.

Okay, and as far as the do you have, maybe we'll start have several questions about the obstacles you faced while creating the prototype. But in order before we get to that, let's just have you demonstrate the product. And if you have a prototype, they're like, show us how it comes together.

Yeah, so I mean, I'll get you the big set here. One second. Okay.

Because I know, Kevin has an indoor stat as well, which we're gonna get to see that.

Yeah, so this is, this is not the prototype, this is the actual finished product. But I'm pulling it out of the back here. So you can see the size of it. Oh, wow. Yeah, these are big molds. So, you know, this is really for families that want to engage and get some serious results. And then basically, snap it together, roll it over, and click, you just want to lock these, you always want to hear some type of click or a lock. And now you have a full cylinder. And then when you're ready, instead of lifting anything, you're gonna unbelievable. And you're gonna pull from these bottom tabs right down here. And you can just pull it straight back and apart from each panel. And that's, you know, within two minutes, you could have this filled with close to 50 pounds of sand. And you're gonna have almost a foot tower Castle, just from that moment.

And you would have, like, if it were an actual Castle, you you'd have blocks and then grout in between, because they come apart, I guess you're not pulling upwards on the cylinder. So there's nothing to mess up those those individual lines, like, oh, you know. So that's what was really shocking in those pictures that you've seen. It's, it's so intricate the design. And if you say two minutes, like nobody in the right mind would think that's put together in two minutes, because that you can see each individual block, but it appears to be with grout around it as if it was an actual structure. That's right. Leading helps, and then how quick it comes apart. Like that's, that's great.

Yeah, hyper detailed. And a really cool thing is is like in the snow, you can actually fill them and then transport them and move them and stack them upside down, invert stack on top of each other. It's almost like snow Jenga. So Oh, wow, really, really fun. And then you know, going back to the indoor cat, this is the first time I'm actually showing this. So we scaled everything down. And we have a new provisional patent on this. So basically, it's going to be in stages, you would flip this, you would fill it with sand, roll it over, lift the top off, and then you're gonna have a key here that's going to separate and then we have what's called Living hinges on here. So you're going to unfold it and reveal. Oh, wow. So again, this is going to be the first real true stackable system that will be available in sand. This is the outcome. So it's proprietary sand that we're going to include with the kit, okay, or same type of thing. But in snow too. So basically, anybody can do this. It's gonna be super fun for families and kids all over the world.

So and so what we're looking at now is the finished product. A lot of our viewers are, you know, they hope to get to that stage, but they are not sure about how difficult prototyping is going to be. And I've

Yeah, this is actually a prototype. This is just oh wow, Jean. Painted, it's almost finished, but like the final product is going to be far superior to this.

Okay. And did you find with your first step, I often tell the story about like WD 40, the lubricant spray, the WD 40 stands for water displacement formula 40 They had 39 other formulas that didn't work out until they got to the one that works. Tell us about where you, you know, I've had inventors on our show that just sometimes it's pure luck, the first prototype is perfect. Other times, it's a lot of trial and error. So tell us about your experience. Were you on that spectrum?

Yeah, it was a lot of trial and error. Fortunately, I had inside access to somebody who was working at MakerBot at the time. So I was ripping out prototypes of 3d printers, which saved me 1000s of dollars hours of time. And really, I can almost get them overnight, thanks to the 3d printing technology. I mean, all in all, we probably went through, I'd say more than 50 Total revisions upfront, because the thing about our product is, is we have to have the right pitch when you fill it. So it has like a three degree pitch on it now. Because not all sand is created equal. So there's some beaches where you can't stack there's some beaches where you can we make that all very, very clear. In our instructions, snow is a different animal, you know, but if you're in a dry snow, you have to base it on a way up and add water. So it's definitely our product has science involved. And we try to be very transparent about that. And all the instructions that are included.

Okay, and that's where a lot of it told me about the wind the product concept first came to you were you thinking sand and snow or was somehow the change of seasons led to snow as an accidental improvement, which is often an invention invention.

Great question. So originally was just sand. And you know, the coal I live in Connecticut. So the cold months rolled in. And I couldn't go to the beach anymore, because it's just too cold. It started snowing outside, and I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I think that these molds will work in the snow too. So I went out and tested with a prototype. And sure enough, it was like boom, I split it and it was it formed so beautiful because it was a nice went back a snow the first snow we got and when I split it I was like oh my oh my god. Like this is multi seasonal. Now this takes us to a whole new stratosphere.

Well, and your your website even has the I mean, it's maybe an such an unusual look. I mean, using I think it's LED lights right that you've put on some of yours for early morning or late in the evening. But in the snow, it's just a just like an amazing different look. I unfortunately I didn't I didn't put that picture up on my slides. But give us your website for anybody that wants to check. Check this out. And Jana, you can put it in the chat box as well.

Yeah, it's create a and all of our social media handles are also just create a castle on all the major social media platforms. You'll find everything on our website at Creative

Okay, no, I love that. And that kind of ties in with how you said your your technical background and your coding has helped you because it's certainly in the marketing aspect of it, because that's something that you were able to get the handles that exactly match with the branded name. So it's not you know, somebody doesn't have to try too hard to find you just create a castle and you should come up on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, wherever all the social media channels that where you are.

Yeah, no, it's important. And you know, social media, especially these days. There's actual squatters out there. So if somebody sees that you purchase a domain of a specific type, like create a castle, you also should get your handles very quickly, because there's squatters who will actually try to steal it from you. You know, it's a tough game. But when you do it, do it all as one don't wait, just even if you're not going to do anything with the social media handles up front just acquire them all.

Yeah, terrific advice. I mean, as a, as an intellectual property attorney, I My advice would be to also get the trademarks as well. But sometimes the you know, the technology is moving faster than the law and that's unfortunately the case. So the best advice I think sometimes comes from practical entrepreneurs and Kevin's advice of, you know, trademarking is great and following legal recourse is great, but why not? Before, as soon as you get that have that domain, you see it's available, be prepared, because as soon as you register it, bam, it's out there. It's public, people know about it. And now, if they if you have the domain registered, but not the individual, other social media handles, then they're gonna go very quickly, and especially if they'll go to the domain if they see it's a viable product and in your case, you know, it's there. They know it's something that somebody would want that you would want. And then they just grabbed the handle, maybe you don't want it today, but a year from now, when you want to go on Tik Tok, or, you know, LinkedIn or wherever you want to make sure that that's available. Yep. Were you afraid of something, one downside of creating a new product is that consumers don't know they need it. And that's, you know, one of Steve Jobs a famous quote, by him, I'm probably going to butcher it. But we're, you know, we don't want to create, we're creating products, before consumers even know that it's something they want. And that the obstacle that has is that you not only have to teach them about the need for your product, but almost teach them how to use it. Because there's, it's not like, you know, it's like imagine the first bicycle would have to come with detailed instructions and how to ride this thing. Because how do you balance? Have you learned to pedal and steer at the same time? Did you find that to be an obstacle with with yours?

Definitely still, the issue is, is that there's an age old product that pre exists already to flip phones. So people are really kind of, it's almost like a reconditioning of the human mind with our product, because everybody's used to filling it, flipping it and lifting it. And then that's all you get. And there's no hyper details, there's none of that. So we had to go through the process. And we still do, of putting training videos out there showing people how to use our product up on YouTube and all the social media platforms, I handle video, putting it in the instructions sourcing the right sand. It's a very visual product. And we use everything at our disposal as much as possible to show people it's a show and tell product. Here's how you do it. Here's the most efficient way. Definitely

has the tell us about this award Toy of the Year award. And how did that come about?

Yeah, Toy of the Year was an amazing opportunity. So we were nominated. And that happened in 2019. We were nominated and then 2020 We had to go to the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. It was basically like the Oscars, the toy awards. And we were going up against big players Razor scooter, Hasbro all these big you know, big guns who put r&d into getting that award never anticipated the win. And when they said our name we were just blown away because this is a global award it's across the whole world all the toys in the outdoor space and it changed the game for us because it really it put us on the map we started you know getting contacted by Walmart's we are now getting ready we just got our first purchase order from Sam's Club nationally next season, Costco Canada, all this stuff, just kind of accelerated everything and quite honestly, you know, I wasn't even really ready for it. But I had to I had to adapt and make the changes and the fuck the finances to make all this stuff happen because it's a huge opportunity at that level that it doesn't get much bigger than that.

Yeah, I mean it's funny I just hearing your story is like it's it's so inspiring. And I getting chills just listening to that because I am conjuring up images of in Rocky when Sylvester Stallone is practicing in a meat cellar and in frozen, and he's lifting logs and running uphill. And then they show his opponent like hooked up to all this high tech electronic state of the art equipment. And when we see you know, like Kevin lane, and if there was a video of you creating your original prototypes and making it and have that transposed against video of of Hasbro, Hasbro and these other major toy manufacturers, and them creating their toy designs, like it would be That's exactly it. This is like the rocky of of toys to go into this and come away with the winning award. I mean, that's that's unbelievable.

Yeah, I would compare it to the story from the Bible, David and Goliath as well, right? We were going against all these giant corporations. And fortunately behind that we did have a lot of momentum. So we were on QVC, three times. And we were also on Live with Kelly and Ryan is one of the summers had a story the year before that. So it was a 123 punch that led and we had built all that momentum to kind of I think help us make that award.

So and So tell us about the QVC How did that opportunity come about? Was that before or after the award?

That was actually before they weren't so it gave us a ton of exposure that came about by meeting a another fellow inventor. I was just doing a random build on the beach, I got introduced. And I want to pitch off in front of a shark tank recruiter. And basically what that meant was is I had now had the ability to walk into QVC with my product, do a pitch to a buyer, and showcase. So I brought my table in, filled up with sand and snow, fake snow, and demoed the product from the buyer, and they fell in love with it. And next thing I knew within a couple months, we were on for Christmas and your life is quick.

Wow. So what this was 29 2018 2019 2018

was live for Kelly and Ryan is when we're featured as one of the summertime stories. Okay, wow. Yeah.

I'm looking real quick at the the patent as well. And obviously patents take take time to to, to get issued. So I see your patents filed in 2018. So perfect. That's great timing, really detailed. Application. Is there anything that you want to talk about in terms of the patent process? I know? Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

Yeah, no, it was, you know, again, it was dumb luck, I kind of stumbled into somebody that had a lot of experience doing big corporate patent structure stuff. So the gentleman that I work with did all the patents for Legos for Priceline. So we had a strong digital background, not so much in toys, but he was working with a client of mine doing web work, that this client came up with a kind of a toy product, not really. And he was his patent attorney, and he was raving about how great this guy was. So, you know, I ended up finding him through my old business, that the process itself was amazing, because, you know, this guy really kind of drove us through the whole cycles of what we needed, what he expected from us. And then we ended up doing what was called a fast track. So I paid a little bit of extra, because I knew the momentum that we were getting, with the Live with Kelly and Ryan Show and all these other things, all the talks that I said, You know what, let's, let's pay the extra $1,200, or whatever it was right? to fast track that utility patent, because I really wanted that layer of protection going to public.

Which point? What, what event if there was one event that triggered you to start thinking about patents? Or was it because of your technical coding background? They were always in the back of your mind? You know,

I, I had watched shark tank for years. And I knew the importance of having that protection. Before you announce it publicly. Because anyway, the second you announce it, you start showing and telling you don't have that layer of protection. Anybody can knock you off. So that's why I knew I was super harsh, harsh until at least we had a provisional

Yeah. Especially something that was, you know, amazing about your idea is that and that's probably why it was such a hit on QVC is that you may have to teach people how to use it, but it's very intuitively and the first time I would imagine anybody that sees this, the big, like surprises, but why were we flipping a bowl? Like why was this not done before? Right? It's just like, This just makes perfect sense. Like, because the old even the old system would when you flip a bowl, it's not like no castles had details. They had details, but they were painstakingly done afterwards. So you would you take that off. And then you would basically with a brush or something like carving the grout like it almost makes no sense. Now when you really it I don't think anybody that's used your product can really go back to doing it the old way, especially if there's they're in a time crunch.

Yeah, that's, that's the power of it. And you know, like, the beauty of the molds too is is you could have an upside down castle. In other words, if you're on a good beach that supports it, you can take that cylinder instead of having it this way, flip it upside down and fill it in and you have it that way. There is no right or wrong with this system. It's all about experimenting. It's all open ended play that's the way that we want to engineer it from the get go knowing that there was tons of families out there who really want to have that. I mean people when they build with this product now just regular families, people will come up and want to take photos of the castles that they're building because they look that professional

right oh photos with your castle.

And not with me though like with customers, you know the customers who are out There are people walk up and they're like, oh my god, like, how did you do that? And they'll tell him, we use this this cat. We built it in 1520 minutes. And this is what we did.

Right? Here's the other. I mean, I don't know if this went into your thinking when when you came up with the size and the scale. But typically with you don't find castles anywhere near that size. So if you were going to take a picture, you're forced to choose between you either get the castle showing, or you get your kids and longterm what's going to be more memorable is your children. But then you sacrifice the cat, you barely see it the castles like this little thing, it's tiny. And all you see is the kids that you have to basically remember that sand castle because none of the details are there. With our audience saw with the pictures, that's one of the reason I brought them up the castles bigger than the kids. It's, it looks like one of these things that would take half a day or maybe an entire day to build. And you don't have that time when you're on vacation. I have five kids. So I know. Time is is precious when you're on vacation, you're there. We have like an hour, maybe let's get this castle gun, get pictures taken. In sometimes you're fighting with, you know, with the sunset, so you're trying to get it done before it's too dark.

Yep, absolutely. It's funny because a friend of the family sent me a photo of they bought a kit. It brought it down, I think it was to Myrtle Beach, or one of the beautiful beaches on the East Coast. And they sent me this photo of their three daughters that they had, and it was two of our pro kits with a wall between it but the three girls in between the two towers. And I use that photo ended up on QVC. It's now international across New Zealand, Australia everywhere. Wow. And they're like, oh my gosh, like we just snap the quick family photo didn't realize it was gonna. But that's the power of the product is that anybody can do this. And you can hang a photo in your fridge and you have memories forever.

Yeah, phenomenal. Do you have if there was one piece of advice that that you wish you would have known when you started on this journey? Something that you wish someone would have told you. So think of this as your opportunity to let other inventors know and learn from your experience? Is there something that you would share?

Yeah, you're gonna make mistakes. Be prepared for those mistakes, I've made plenty. Take it slow. My biggest mistake was, for instance, QVC, I had to buy brown boxes to pre pack all the product and ship them on pallets. I bought way too many brown boxes that was like, they're gonna sell through all these, they're gonna ask us back on what didn't happen. So you know, take it slow, one step at a time. Don't get overzealous about things and make minimalize, you know, the mistakes that you can make in the process. And use all the people around you that you know, have different abilities, use those people to your advantage and make them part of the experience because it's exciting. You know, I mean, half the stuff that we've done, my logo was done by my friend, you know, the, all the patent work that's at work, the design work in CAD, was done by another friend. And all these people believe in the product. And I'm burnt, you know, I'm bringing them along for the ride. So make it make it useful. And you know, make it so that your friends can help you build your business to the end.

I love that there's this famous quote by the author of The Alchemist, Paulo clo that says when you when you want something with all of your heart, the entire universe comes together to help make it happen. And it's just it's especially when you're passionate about your idea. People pick up on that, like when I had our for our building for the patent professor, it was just such a long battle with the city to get permits and get the sign approved. And the sign installer I think could pick up with how excited I was when it was when it was finally up. And he had this screen. And he asked me to do you want to you know, I can get in trouble for this. But if you want I can let you up on the screen and you can get a picture. And it was just it was phenomenal. And to me, it's like he could share the joy that I was feeling and wanted to do his part to try to help so I went up there, the crane and we have a wonderful footage. And people are like, Oh, how did you get that picture? Did you rent a crane? Like no, the guy like picked out on whatever vibrations I was giving out like this means a lot to me, and people will come together and do what they can and it's you know, and that's the advantage some people think of the David versus Goliath is, is a disadvantage. The thing is, nobody's gonna go to bat For Hasbro, and they're a way to really help them when you see Kevin lane with his idea and he's passionate about it and you see the prototypes that he's gone through and created themselves. Like, you know, the universe does I feel they come together to help make this happen. Like let's, let's kind of level the playing field and to see you come away from this this award as the winner was phenomenal. So I just want to and I can't thank you enough to come on the show. You're an inspiration, personally to me, but to so many other inventors as well. I just can't. I'm speechless. Four words, in gratitude for you making it here. I wish you the absolute best. And have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend up ahead.

You too. We appreciate your time and thanks for having us. Take care

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