Entrepreneur: Greyson MacLean, 13, creator of BrickStix, static-cling decals and stickers for embellishing plastic building blocks such as Lego and Mega Bloks.
"Aha" moment: MacLean, who has built with Lego since he could "put two bricks together," was frustrated with the stickers that came with the sets. If he pulled one off, gooey residue remained on the plastic; if he left it on, the brick was permanently labeled. "I wanted a way to customize my builds without ruining the bricks," says the Hartland, Wisc.-based entrepreneur.
In 2009, the then 9-year-old found the solution on a pair of sunglasses: a UV label that was stuck on the lens without adhesive. He tested it on his bricks, and the static-cling decal worked perfectly. He dubbed the discovery BrickStix. The company was founded in 2010; the cling decals debuted a year later at Toy Fair, the largest toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere.
Building up: BrickStix decals are removable, reusable and work with most plastic blocks. The decals are available in nine themes, including Space (astronaut gear, spaceship décor and aliens); Shops (signs, money and receipts); and Rescue (flames, emergency equipment and police uniforms). In February the company released Mod Stickers, which stick with an adhesive rather than static cling for use on textured bricks and curved pieces. Like BrickStix, the stickers are removable and reusable and, the company promises, "won't leave ick on your brick."
Structural support: "My mom and I started researching different materials for BrickStix, different printing processes, different packages, just different general possibilities for the company," MacLean says. His family initially invested about $20,000 into the business. They were able to keep startup costs low thanks to the team's diverse skill sets: MacLean's father (now the official "legal guy") worked on the BrickStix patent, while his aunt and uncle developed the company's website and product designs, respectively.
Sticky success: Since releasing its flagship product in February 2011, BrickStix has sold more than 30,000 units. The company was profitable within its first year. MacLean appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and Conan O'Brien's talk show ("Big, big, crazy fun," MacLean says) and has earned a stream of accolades, including Young Inventor of the Year from the 2011 Toy and Game Inventor Awards.
Cost: A set of 84 BrickStix decals or Mod Stickers in varying counts is $5.99. The products are sold at more than 300 stores in the U.S. and Canada and via BrickStix.com. Distribution has just begun abroad, in countries including Australia, Sweden, South Korea and Spain.
Up next: BrickStix recently released three new product designs: Pets, Signs and Home. Licensing is a possibility, as companies have expressed interest in putting their names and trademarks on the decals.