Elephant Chat as seen on the Today Show
A tool to help relationships. Elephant Chat reminds you to talk, creates ways to bring up topics, and is a helper during conversations.
A gift of love, a promise to communicate, the tool to help.
A wise friend told us that a relationship is a gift of love and a promise to communicate.
Elephant Chat is a gift of love. It symbolizes a promise to communicate and is a tool that helps teach the principles of good communication.
We have received great advice and key support. With your help we will make adjustments to the tooling molds and process. These adjustments will allow us to enhance our product options including the ability to choose cube material and/or exterior finishes and create custom elephants.
Your support will make it possible to bring this tool to market.
"This tool has made all the difference in the world for Amanda and me."
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Amanda and I met later in life. We both had children from previous relationships and completely opposite careers; in spite of the obstacles, we fell in love. In fact, we each fell in love on our first date but said nothing to each other about it. Separately we told our friends after that first date, "I met the person I am going to marry." This led to our first "we need to talk" conversation.
I wanted to bring up the conversation, "How soon is too soon to talk about marriage?" Not knowing how to approach that conversation, I bought a stuffed elephant and placed it in Amanda's room. It broke the ice in a light-hearted way and we were able to have that important discussion.
We married six weeks later.
This began what we affectionately call our "Elephant Chats". As you can imagine, blending families creates many "we need to talk" situations. We find that by using the elephant we save a lot of heartache. The Elephant Chat cube helps break the ice as we bring up topics because it simply lets the other know, "I have something important to say so let's find a time to talk." The best thing is that it helps us follow a few rules when we do talk so that we both get a chance to hear as well as be heard. (Passing a stuffed elephant back and forth really makes a difference.) We learned quickly that although many conversations can be hard, talking about them allows us to begin to deal with them.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Difficulty with communication is a common problem in every relationship. We learned that while there is a lot of advice in the form of books, websites, and cds on the best methods of communication, but not one single tool on the market. We also learned that the method we were using was inline with and supported by the advice given on the principles of good communication:
1. It is important to share what is important to you.
2. Find a soft way to let your partner know you have something to share.
3. Give time and space for your partner to respond and then find the right time to talk.
3. Set a few rules on how you will handle conversations before they start. Then follow them.
4. Acknowledge one another's feelings, efforts and actions then come to a resolution. (This does not mean you always agree. Sometimes it just means each of you get a chance to express how you feel and the issue is no longer being ignored.)
We want the Elephant Chat cube to help teach the principles of good communication.
ELEPHANT CHAT CUBE METHOD
1. Place the cube in a noticeable spot, to remind you to talk.
2. When you want to discuss something simply remove the cover to reveal the elephant in the room. If you want to give your partner a clue, we provide a space under the elephant to write a message.
3. Now that the elephant is in the room and noticeable...wait for your partner to be ready to talk.
4. When you are ready to talk, take the Elephant out and who ever is holding the elephant is the one who is talking. Or create your own fun rules and rewards.
5. Once it has been discussed, replace the cover to show your communication is solid once again.
Reminder: This is your tool. We encourage you to create your own rules and rewards. The elephant is not always as big as it seems, and every conversation is possible to get through if approached with the right heart. Remember this is only a tool. Like any tool, it won't do the work it will only help you in doing the work.
ELEPHANT CHAT CUBE OPTIONS
We have created a product that has a quality base model that would merit a place on the mantel but still has the flexibility to upgrade and make a premium wedding gift.
Found in every Elephant Chat Cube:
The base material found in the lid and platform is a specialized heavy duty plastic that can handle numerous types of finishes and coatings including all kinds of different metals.
Every lid will be lined with fitted quality felt.
Nano magnets are found in every Elephant Chat cube. It helps create a closing between lid and base and provides a unique feel.
And of course there is our Elephant. This is a quality material stuffed elephant that provides the unique look while inside the housing and takes a different shape as it comes out. We are in the process of creating our own customizable elephant. If we reach our goal we will look to open up a new pledge focused on creating customizable elephants.
- Elephant Chat Cube with soft touch finish - this is our foundation cube. It has a special warm aluminum paint color and a dupont soft touch finish which feels amazing to the touch. The lid's interior is felt lined and the exterior has a recessed chrome Elephant Chat logo (one of our newly added features). The clear acrylic elephant housing has reinforced release tabs. The base feels solid with nano magnets in the corners. ($49 early release price)
- Elephant Chat Cube - Special Gift - this is our special moments cube. It makes a great wedding gift. The lid has a dark gray (elephant color) matte finish with the soft touch coating. You have the option to include a small custom engraving that is adhered to the clear acrylic interior housing. The lid's interior is felt lined and the exterior has a recessed chrome Elephant Chat logo (one of our newly added features). The clear acrylic elephant housing has reinforced release tabs. The base feels solid with nano magnets in the corners and a white or black writable surface (great for leaving messages) where the elephant stands. ($125 early release price)
- Elephant Chat Cube with nickel plated finish - this our upgraded mantel cube. It comes with all the options of the special gift cube. The entire exterior is put through a process that covers it in copper then adheres a coat of nickel. The whole unit has an amazing look and unique feel. This Elephant Chat cube is an art piece with significance, function, and is also our favorite. ($250 early release price)
- Koa & Tungsten Elephant Chat cube - Special Limited Edition - Koa means brave, strong, warrior, and is the name we chose for our new baby boy. The Koa wood, native to Hawaii, is amazing and beautiful. This would be a custom material Elephant Chat Cube. We are very excited about making this cube a reality because of its meaning and beauty. ($1,000 custom piece)
- Personal Thank you on Website - Amanda and I are very thankful and grateful for every effort of support. We want to recognize and thank you for your support by listing you as part of the team that made Elephant Chat possible. ($5 pledge)
- Lori the Listening Elephant - this is a special elephant that comes without the cube and is slightly larger. This is very similar to the original elephant that I gave Amanda the very first time to help us start our Elephant Chat conversations. We believe the listening elephant puts a different twist on the talking stick principle. Here, the person holding the elephant is focused on listening while the other talks. This helps balance conversation so that the one talking can be signaled when the other has gotten to the point when they are done listening or is ready to say something. ($25 pledge)
- Special Event or workshop - Amanda and I have both had lots of experience being in front of crowds and we are excited to share our experiences and what we have learned. We hope that we could be a great compliment to a seminar or workshop that someone is already having. We have only offered one of these, but If we hear that this is something that others would want us to open up as a way for us to reach our goals then we will be happy to do so.
The Elephant Journey
From Concept to your Room - Elephant Chat product journey
I am still surprised that it has been over a year since we decided to try and take an idea that worked for Amanda and me and turn it into a tool that could be used by everyone.
It has come a long way from the stuffed Elephant I put in her room to signal we needed to talk.
Here is the original elephant getting ready for its kickstarter video debut:
After our friends and family said they loved our "elephant chats," we decided to figure out how we create a product for everyone to use. So we circled with one of our good friends who is a top graphic designer/illustrator and a brilliant guy. He has worked with all the major brands from Disney, Hasboro, and Mattel, to the Words with Friends team. With much conversation, it was decided that the tool needed to be a functional art piece with a significant visual action to signal the elephant was in the room. After lots of ideas we decided that the answer was a sleek designed cube where you could take action to unveil the elephant, and it would also allow you to create the feeling of resolve by having closure when you put the top back on. This led us to a very basic cube mock up and design.
Knowing this would not suffice, we set out to build a true piece of art that would be worthy of a wedding gift. We built a design that would give us a functional cube and could be made out of different types of metals.
And we had one made out of aluminum with custom acrylic and nano magnets pressed into the lid. This was an incredible process.
This product was exactly what we wanted it to be - a beautiful and functional art piece that represented and reflected the attributes of a meaningful relationship. This became our foundation product. It had all the product principles we wanted and gave us a look and feel we desired. This is the reason that we are confident that we can build out the custom Elephant Chat cubes on a limited bases. The Cube design has been engineered and can be used to build cubes in any material. However, our hope is to be able to make Elephant Chat cubes available to everyone and this custom process does not allow that.
Now that we felt we had landed on the right product, it was time to run it by a few professional counselors. When we got a chance to show the cube to a few Marriage Counselors, we learned we were missing one step in the principles of good communication: the conversation facilitator. Brenton Evans from Marriage today explained to us that it would be incredibly helpful if the Elephant in the room could be used to help manage the conversation by passing it back and forth. This led us to a design change in the interior enclosure that houses the elephant. We put tabs on it so you could release the elephant.
Finding someone that knows
The next big step came when we were introduced to Chris Norman of Kraftwurx. He has had 20 plus years with Dell assisting in the manufacturing of laptops. This is where it got fun. We have been working diligently with him making all kinds of adjustments. Adjustments to help the over all function and feel. Adjustments for manufacturing. Adjustments for assembly. Here are a few pictures below with captions added to explain.
Completing all these adjustments and design changes allowed us to go ahead and start the process of having our injection mold tools made. We had 3 injection mold tools made. These tools were made out of German steel and produced in China.
The 3 injection mold tools are the base, the lid, the acrylic clear elephant housing.
- 1. Base mold tooling design (H13 tool steel) was $4,800
- 2. Cover mold with logo (H13 tool steel) was $4,500
- 3. Clear case mold (H13 tool steel) was $3,820
These tools were designed to produce up to a minimum of 1 million units.
Here are the first test products we received back.
Metalized the exterior
While we were waiting for the first test product to get back we moved forward on finding exterior finishes. To keep true to the metal feel, we decided to try a nickel finish. It turned out beautifully and the process is unbelievable. The unit we had nickel plated was a 3D printed unit because we had not received our first test batch yet. Here are some pictures.
We were not finished with the adjustments.
We found we needed to make a few more adjustments.
1. Reinforce our interior tabs
2. Raise the lid seat platform and add a bevel so closure feels solid and secure.
3. Increase depth of mold for greater material density and adjust the glass ratio in the injection material.
All of which led us to this product.
Where we are today
We love where we are. What we wanted to improve was a few options and aesthetic enhancements. We are currently having one more 4-cavity tool made. This is to allow us to place the Elephant Chat logo as a separate chrome inlay. This will allow for an enhanced look but will also afford us the ability to use multiple exterior finishes.
Our Kickstarter campaign will allow us to make the final adjustments and run our first production order at a high enough volume to get our costs down.
Enhancing our Elephant
We have also been working on the enhancement of our Elephant. We have been working with a few key people that are helping us line up our custom designed elephants. We will have a standard elephant and our Listening Elephant. With the money raised from Kickstarter we will be able to pull the trigger on the production of these elephants. Since the design will be complete we will have the flexibility to produce different or customized elephants.
So here is where the rubber meets the road. Like all good relationships you want to know not only are we committed but do we have the ability to follow through on that commitment? The answer is yes and here is why.
Our Support System
I co-founded an entrepreneur center with the city of McKinney, TX. There are over 18 start-up companies there currently and we launched in July. Ideas are great but execution is what makes those ideas come true. I am deeply involved in many aspects of the entrepreneurial eco-system. I have found that surrounding yourself with great people is the way to make sure you can accomplish anything that comes your way. We have a vast array of uniquely equipped talent in all aspects in our small circle. People with deep experience in manufacturing, logistics, product packaging and design, and operations. We have worked diligently to put all these people and plans in place and we are ready.
We have 3 injection tools made that can handle up to a minimum of 1 million pieces. We are ready to finish our last mold and begin production. All pieces will be produced then shipped to the USA for assembly.
Kraftwurx's Chris Norman who I mentioned earlier, had 20 plus years with Dell. He helped design the product and will be assembling the products. This includes coordinating with local US companies to apply the exterior finishes to the product.
Kraftwurx will also be handling shipping logistics on all our Kickstarter orders. They are ready and equipped to provide complete assembly and fulfillment.
I mentioned our good friend, Jeff Simpson, who has provided services for Disney, Hasboro, Mattel, and many others. He is also designing the packaging. We are excited for everyone to receive their Elephant Chat tool and see our amazing packaging.
Coordinating and execution is an area that I thrive in, but more importantly I understand that surrounding myself with the right people is the key to success, and we no doubt have a top notch, talented team for this project.
So we are ready for your support, and we are eager to give you an amazing experience in getting an Elephant into your Room.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE TAKES A LOT OF EFFORT:
This idea was born out of love. Our relationship and the start of this project continues to grow stronger with hard work, support and advice from the right people, and relentless commitment.
It may be a cliche, but it is true that "Great things take time and effort." This adventure has been no different. It took over a year of working through design concepts that made sense as a product while supporting the methods and principles of good communication. Although the design of the cube has come a long way from my first and simple approach of putting a stuffed elephant in Amanda's room to let her know I had something to talk about, the principles, philosophy, and intent remains.
After all the effort to land on a finalized concept, we have set out to get an "Elephant in the Room" into every home.
HOW WE ARE ABLE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
We have been blessed with amazing friends, great business partners, and wonderful relationships that have all come together to make this happen. Our efforts have culminated in a final design that accomplishes what we set out to achieve, including overall functionality, look and feel, and production.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU
We wabt to build a relationship with you, and so we are committed to communicating with you.
We will continue to provide updates as we progress.
If there is something that you would like to know about us or Elephant Chat, please feel free to ask and we will do our best to post the answers.
We are incredibly grateful for your support. We understand that in all relationships each partner shares in both the efforts and successes, and we are excited to share this journey with you.
Again we can not thank you enough for your time, effort, and support. We hope and believe this product will make a difference for you and many others.
Renderings of benefits / rewards
Risks and challenges
Like all journeys, you are guaranteed to hit a few bumps along the way. Understanding and acknowledging this fact makes it less of a shock when it does happen, which allows you to respond with speed and clarity.
With that said, it is also important to be diligent in planning, to be preemptive and predictive when possible, and to be surrounded with great people. This is exactly what we have done with Elephant Chat.
A reason to have confidence we can make this happen:
Being an entrepreneur is not just my passion it is my calling. I have been blessed with the opportunity be an advisor, leader and founder to many companies.
I currently advise over 19 start-up companies inside the Collide Center in Mckinney. The space, formerly occupied by Zynga Words With Friends, is now an Entrepreneur center that provides co-work space along with mentoring and entrepreneur opportunities. I co-founded the space with the City of McKinney where together we grew to 18 companies within 90 days of launch.
Curious Marketplaces is a tech start-up that I founded 2 years ago. It recently raised almost 1MM dollars and is currently generating revenue. We provide a unique buying and selling environment for niche enthusiasts. More importantly we find and support niche entrepreneurs to run curious marketplaces in their area of interest.
Over the past 15 years I have had the chance to consult for major brands, industries, and associations. During that time, I was able to be part of and independently lead products and companies from concept to market, including an Equine supplement company I founded called 522 Health.
We thank you for your support, your trust, and your faith.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)