Meet Craig he puts celebrity heads on ducks!

We are on the quest to interview business owners over the age of 60. This week we head to the United States to chat with Craig Wolfe who is owner of CelebriDucks and Cocoa Canard


You seem to be very much an ideas guy. What inspires you to pounce on an idea and make the idea a reality?

 You know, ideas have always been what has sparked me creatively. I have never been interested in making money just for the sake of being wealthy. I need to feel inspired. If I find an idea that I am super passionate about, I have gone out and created successful businesses based on those ideas, those feelings. And it has led to a very emotionally satisfying work life.

One of your businesses Celebriducks is quite interesting, how did you come up with the idea of putting celebrity heads on rubber ducks?

Well, actually, not just putting a head on a duck’s body. It is much more complicated, as we have to blend the duck with the character in a way that works and does not make the duck look odd. And you can see that our new line we call Costume Quakers parody, is our best work ever as they are really just rubber ducks dressed up to give you a feeling of a celebrity.

The truth is, a friend, with a bit too much to drink had this idea of creating rubber ducks that looked like celebrities. I think 99 percent of the people hearing that idea would have ignored it. But I actually felt inspired by the idea and could visualise these ducks in my head. And the rest as they say is history!

What were some of the struggles you faced when you first started?

Well, when you are creating something that did not exist before, there is often no context for it so being unfamiliar, stores would not necessarily want to risk carrying it. But not just that. In the early days we only had a limited amount of characters and until you have a whole line, it’s quite hard to get traction.  Plus we were doing characters that were not the most popular ones out there. So we had some hurdles to overcome.   But eventually people started coming to us to create ducks for their companies, professional sports teams, and universities plus estates wanted us to create ducks of the properties they represented. We started ending up all over the media like The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien, etc. and were even voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learnt in life?

First of all, it’s not about the money or success. That alone will never ultimately satisfy anyone. Its all about what good you can do with your money in creating something that can do a lot more good even after you are gone. Also, as they say, enjoy the journey. If you are not finding a way to enjoy and feel creatively inspired each day in what you are doing, then you are going to feel that something is missing in your life. And most important, treat everyone, your largest and your smallest clients, with equal love, attention, and respect.

What motivates you to keep working after 60?

I really enjoy what I do, its that simple. Yes, it makes money, but its so much fun and creative coming up with all these new ideas and seeing them actually being translated into these fun whimsical products that people love. The creative process is intoxicating for me and I can’t think of any business or doing anything else that I would enjoy more even if I was retired.

What do you like most about having your own business?

Without a doubt it is the creative ability to control my own destiny. I mean if I didn’t own the whole business and had a board of directors, and told them I wanted to return the rubber duck industry back to the USA where it originated, I am pretty sure I would have been fired!, not maximising shareholder value in the short term which is true. But owning my business lets me take risks and do creative things that looks at the long term picture where I can visualise the success over time that others might not see.

What advice would you give to the younger generation?

Ok, here is my best advice to anyone starting out in business:  Its not how much money you make, its how much you keep.

Excessive overhead can bring down any business no matter how much you make. Lean and mean is the key to survival especially in the beginning before business gains traction.  So many companies raise a lot of money and spend a lot of money and don’t have the fiscal discipline to create a very simple business model in the beginning that uses their resources (people, money, etc.) in the most effective way.  They want to be flashy, but better to be frugal and understand the importance of minimising expenses in the early going.

Do not try and be all things to all people or you become nothing to anyone, focus like a laser on your niche and be really clear on what you stand for.  So many companies come into the market without adequately finding a way to communicate who they are, what they do, and why they are different, and most of all, why you need their product.

Reflect your core brand ethics and quality in every marketing communication to the public.  You watch ads these days be it TV, magazines, etc. and you often get these emotional communications, but nothing that adequately describes the benefits in a must have convincing way.  Emotional advertising and social media is fine, more important is convincing facts to wow people as to why they should own your brand.

Compete on the cheap end and someone can always make it for less. I like to say, “Live by the penny, die by the penny, don’t compete on price alone.” Quality is the hardest thing to knock off.  But these days, people think they can compete on being better based on price alone.  It doesn’t work.  You have to have such a unique product that you totally own your niche.

And that’s the final point you have to own your niche.  Everything you do should be about bulletproofing your brand so that if you have a good concept, you can move fast to really get your product out there and lock up the market as quickly as possible.  Failure to do that introduces a good idea that your competition can then bring to market in a bigger and quicker way than you!

If you could jump into a time machine what era would you visit and why?

The 1950’s, I love the music, the innocence, the cars. It was all before the computer and internet age where there was a sense of freedom and optimism after the war ended. I find it to be a time when there was more fun, enjoyment, and hope.

Anything else you would like to add?

Age does not always matter as much as one might think. Start now from wherever you are to create what you love to do that you can carry even into your retirement as perhaps a fun creative outlet. Its never to late to create what inspires you. Age is more an illusion. You can be younger and actually act and think like you are old or you can be older and be full of youthful enthusiasm for projects that inspire you. Age in some sense is a state of mind so as long as you have your health, enjoy the ride!