Brian Semling, founder and CEO of STEM toy company Strictly Briks.

Award-winning toy designer and entrepeneur, Brian Semling, who has been retailing toys since 1994, is reimagining the universe of brick construction. In late 2014, he looked at the brick construction market and saw the potential to innovate and create fun and educational products that didn’t exist. He launched Strictly Briks, a line of construction brik baseplates, brik towers and briks.

In 2017, Brik Buster won the prestigious Oppenheim Platinum Award seal, and Stepanie Oppenheim chose her favourites to feature on the Today show on Black Friday. Most recently, Strictly Briks and Rubik’s Cube has teamed up to create Rubik’s Briks. ‘Imagine taking apart a Rubik’s Cube and using the colourful cubelets to build in the brick universe. That was our inspiration,’ says Brian who looks back at his business journey here.

I came up with the idea when… we decided in late 2014 to launch Strictly Briks. At that time we had 20 years of experience selling toys, including LEGO, and we knew that Creative Play was an underserved part of the market. We decided to lay the foundation of Strictly Briks with 36 different colors in various shapes and sizes of baseplates. We made our baseplates stackable and created vertical brisk, which we call Stackers, to enable quick and easy vertical construction of brik towers.

The biggest challenge is… Taking an idea from concept to successfully selling product that is profitable is one of our greatest and most rewarding challenges. We love creating new products and exploring new ideas. Each of these includes numerous steps with lots of work and investment.

The average day is spent… playing with toys all day! No seriously, while we do get to have a lot of fun creating new products, sharing our creations with kids and parents around the world, and crushing our goals, we have lots of "real" work to do, like any business or job. We spend time ordering and shipping products, taking images, designing packaging and communicating with co-workers, suppliers, customers.

The team consists of... myself, my wife Carina (our photographer) and my children Sonja, 11 and Erik, 8 who are our model and product testers. We have a team of adults who work in sales, product development, customer service, vendor relations, warehouse and logistics and bookkeeping.

My favourite quote is… “Never, never, never give up."

I am where I am today because of… persistence, tenacity, entrepreneurial hard work, a supporting family, and a great team of enthusiastic team members.

I am who I am because of... faith and trust in God.

The best advice I've been given is... Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

In five years I’d like to be… impacting millions of children each year through innovative and creative products that encourage kids to dream, create, and grow by successfully scaling Strictly Briks 10x. I'd love to focus most of my time working with teams to create and design innovative new products, expanding to new product categories and new markets. I want to explore new business opportunities, both within and outside of Strictly Briks, to continue to build a world-class organisation.

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online... at all times you are responsible for representing your brand, your business, your family, your values, and your employees.

The websites I most frequently use are... Amazon, The Wall Street Journal and the worldwide leader in sports that shows up-to-the-minute sports news coverage.

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us… Trusting outside consultants too much can be risky, and at times has cost us a great deal. We've worked with a number of outside consultants to provide advice, introduce new ideas, and help teach and grow our team. Generally, we’ve had very positive results. However, at times you need to put aside their expertise and trust your instincts.

What apps do you use to be more productive... Nothing too crazy, I spend most of my time in Gmail and Excel. Our team uses lots of task-specific apps to boost productivity, but I spend most of my time in the basics.

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April 2019