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#93: Atomic Toys LLC

How do you make it in the toy biz? It takes a lot of creativity--and even more patience.

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Company:Atomic Toys LLC, a San Diego, toy designer, manufacturer and distributor

Founder: Chance Roth

Began: September 1999

2002 Sales: $3.3 million

When did you know you'd made it?

Chance Roth: When we couldn't physically manufacture enough product to satisfy the demand. Even with last year's dock strike and shaky economy, our product was flying off the shelf. Now we're poised to capitalize on that success.

Atomic ToysWhat's been your biggest challenge?

Roth: [To] change myself from the wild-eyed creative entrepreneur into a street-smart businessman. We all have to grow up sometime, even in toys. And in order for me to take the company where it needs to go, I've got to continually step up to the plate and make it happen. There comes a time when you realize it's not Monopoly money anymore.

Who's your business role model?

Roth: First, I think of Walt Disney for his creativity and ability to turn it into a money-making reality. Of course, Thomas Edison for his sheer genius, business and marketing savvy. Lastly, my mother, a fabric importer, who took me to China on business for the first time. It was that trip that catapulted me into business.

What's your business advice for others?

Roth: The most important thing I've learned is to wait out the storm. It's going to be very, very difficult for at least the first two or three years. Many things can happen along the way, but by just sticking it out and letting the waves crash and pound while steadily making progress will make a person wiser, stronger and more driven to make it work.

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