Have you ever heard someone say “Oooh I love the feel of this cheap, plastic toy!”? Me neither. With fond memories of playing with Charles Eames' House of Cards when I was five years old, combined with difficulty finding work for the first time in my life, I created Slotto, a handmade, wooden construction toy I'd been thinking about for fifty years!
Slotto doesn’t come with a rulebook. It doesn’t have an age limit. And it most certainly does not discourage creativity. Instead of telling you what to build, Slotto stimulates creativity. Imagine what you could do with a 262-piece set of interlocking smooth wooden panels and wheels. There are currently 21 different pieces that all relate to each other in a mathematically correct way.
Three members of the 1st Place team in the 2010 State of Oregon Lego Competition have Slotto sets, two of whom are in the video. One, age 13, commented, “I like Slotto because you’re not limited in what you can create.” Her brother said, “...everything just fits!”
I designed Slotto to have extremely high tolerances, meaning that as the slotted pieces fit together they are neither too loose nor too tight. They have what is called ‘clutch power’. The precision cutting we do on the Slotto pieces is crucial so Slotto creations stay together, yet come apart easily enough for a four-year-old to assemble and disassemble them. Good planning and precision cutting is at the heart of what makes Slotto so special. Even when pieces slide together to form long seams, the fit is tight, without unsightely gaps.
The Back Story
One of my biggest pet peeves has always been things that don't work properly. I knew I had to make Slotto fun to play with, and to do that it had to work. I turned my home garage into a sawdust factory and spent countless hours perfecting each cut of every Slotto piece. I introduced Slotto in 2009 at the Portland Saturday Market and it was an instant hit. Since then Slotto has evolved to a place where I'm very pleased about all aspects of the sets. Much to my family's chagrin, my income was pretty limited as I tweaked this and changed that over the next year and a half. I was like a toy store with one toy! The toy was selling but the store was going broke.
Making Slotto Sets created a lot of sawdust and I built a 10' by 8' shed/tent in my backyard to minimize the mess and the noise. I worked in there with no heat and no door for over two years.
This year started off with a bang when the local paper and KATU TV in Portland both did follow up stories about my journey from job hunting to toy maker. Orders came in faster than ever with the publicity and I was contacted by the CEO of a major US Corporation about mass producing Slotto in plastic and selling it in Walmart and Target! I told them I'd like to keep making them in wood and we agreed to do both. However, making Slotto out of plastic proved an insurmountable task for them and I never saw a penny as I "layed low..." at their suggestion while they worked on making Slotto a household name.
Months later, I appealed to a well known radio talk show personality who talks a lot about getting jobs back in the USA and how we all need to help the entrepreneurs succeed if they have a better service or product. Hearing my plight and seeing what I had invented they offered to help me by having a 48 hour sale on their new website, Markdown.com. I told them I definitely needed sales but I needed an investor or a backer more than the temporary cash flow.
Slotto went on sale on Markdown on September 1st and sold out in the first two hours! They actually sold a number of sets over the agreed number because they couldn't shut down the sale fast enough. By 9 AM my phone started ringing off the hook as people started Googling Slotto after all the sets were sold out. Over the next week or so I doubled the number of orders from the initial sale.
At that point I rented a small shop and bought a couple of used saws in hopes of hiring help and taking Slotto to the next level. The orders dwindled again after the momentary publicity, leaving me unable to hire employoees.
I have a patent pending on the 'magic formula' that makes Slotto so unique and to work the way it does. I was recently awarded a Registered Trademark for the name Slotto from the U.S. Patent Office.
I am hoping to raise enough capital to mount at least a small ad campaign and also produce large Slotto pieces for a Slotto Exhibit at the Portland Children's Museum. Hopefully I can raise enough to finance a spot at The Toy Fair in New York in February and purchase some new equipment to put some people to work here in the USA.
The Current Story
I recently finished my latest edition of Slotto. The new sets have lots of new pieces and the fit and finish is better than ever and they're ready to be in the hands of future Slotto-ers. I work 80-90 hours per week in my shop, fulfilling orders as they come in through my website. There is definitely no shortage of demand for Slotto, but unfortunately, there is a shortage of supply and funds. That brings us to Kickstarter. I need help raising funds to continue manufacturing a high quality, homemade wooden toy that has thus far received nothing but positive feedback. I don’t want to stop, but I need your help to continue.
Where Will The Money Go?
All of the money raised from Kickstarter will go immediately into making and selling Slotto, including paying for shop rent, materials, upgrades in equipment/machinery and money for payroll, advertising and marketing.
My biggest problem is I cannot make sets fast enough, and my hands are getting sore and tired! The additional funds will provide the equipment and help from employees that is so needed.
The Bottom Line
I'm very proud of Slotto and would love to continue getting more and better sets into the hands of kids everywhere. Thanks for taking the time to check out Slotto and Thank You if you decide to be part of what I hope to be another step forward for Slotto and jobs here in the USA.
This truck was made with one of the early sets. The new sets have 8 more pieces than the old sets and that opens up lots of new options.
This is the Original Enigma Puzzle
Before my first show at the Portland, Oregon Saturday Market in 2009, I figured I'd better see what I could make with all these parts so I spent a few hours just playing around. A week later when I found this, I thought it looked pretty cool and decided I should make up some more to sell individually. When I went to take it apart, I couldn't figure out how to do it and I couldn't remember what I did when I made it. It took me about two hours to figure it out. I realized that most people would probably have the same difficulty that I had and a puzzle was born! Assembled, The Enigma measures about 6" x 6" x 6"
This is the Enigma II
I still have yet to take one of these apart...... It also measures about 6" x 6" x 6" when assembled.
The Little Enigma is pictured in the thumbnail for the Slotto Project and is about half the size of the other two or 6" x 6" x 3"
- (59 days)