Entrepreneur to Rubber Duck: You're the One

FOXBusiness.com regularly features profiles of people doing business from home, and making it work.

Who: Craig Wolfe, president CelebriDucksWhat: CelebriDucks is a company that creates rubber ducks of the greatest icons of film, music, history and athletics, which have been voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly.

Where: Wolfe’s main office is on the ground floor of his three-story home, just down the hall from the bedroom. He works 100% out of his home, with clients and film crews coming by to conduct business.

“I enjoy it and they seem to always enjoy seeing hundreds of ducks,” Wolfe said.

When: He said he tries to work a 9-to-5 day, but evenings and weekends are also used to catch up on work and keep tabs on the business.

“It hardly seems like work after hours, as I'm just walking by the room and it's hardly any hassle to knock off a few e-mails or finish something up,” Wolfe said.

When did you start your company? CelebriDucks evolved out of Wolfe’s animation company, Name That Toon, in 1998; Name That Toon launched around 1998.

How: When Wolfe graduated college with a degree in business and religion, he said he found himself with no direction.

“I always found that if I wasn't moved to something emotionally, then I couldn't really conceive of it as an area of serious livelihood for myself,” he said.

But it all changed, he said, when one day he saw an original framed drawing of Mickey Mouse for sale; it was one of the drawings used in the 1930s Disney carton short. He said he was captivated by what he calls “the raw energy in the animator's hand drawing.” That hand provided him with direction.

Wolfe then sought out where to get similar items and later launched his original business, Name That Toon, in which he bought and sold original Disney vintage animation drawings.

After being turned down for the contract to market the artwork for FOX’s Simpson cartoons, Wolfe said things finally started to look up for his new endeavor. He ended up marketing the artwork for the Motown-music laden California Raisin commercials, then, later, marketed Coca-Cola’s vintage vending machines, Coke glass bottles and other memorabilia. The only problem was, computers then took the lead in animation, not one’s hand – and Wolfe had no technical training.

“But you know, how it is ... when you feel passionate about something, doors open and you connect with the right people to help you make your dreams a reality,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe eventually got the Coca-Cola contract and his marketed items went on to become some of Coke’s top selling art pieces. He said his “little company that could” then became the largest publisher of advertising artwork from television commercials in the United States, creating the first animation art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, M&M/Mars, Pillsbury, Campbell Soup, Hershey's, etc… But that wasn't fulfilling enough. He wanted to raise the bar some more.

“I think it’s common that many entrepreneurs want to create their own brand, their own characters and that's the creative force that drives so many of us,” he said. “So it was a little scary, but I made a conscious decision to completely reinvent my business.”

So he started making celebrity rubber ducks.

“A common question I always get is: ‘You just make ducks?...You can make a living doing this?’ Well, yeah! If you make some of the finest ducks in the world and are the only ones in your niche producing them for celebrities, collegiate mascots, Fortune 500 companies, etc., you can easily become a millionaire doing it,” Wolfe said. “Rather than wasting time thinking about what I could’ve or should’ve done, I found a way to create something different or better.”

Why: Wolfe said he loves the freedom, flexibility, ability to set his own hours, and the ability to find the best people worldwide to work with. He said you couldn't pay him enough to go back to working in an office. Wolfe also credits being his own boss with having less stress and an enhanced control of one's life.

“They say one of the most stressful parts of any business is middle management,” he added.

“You're responsible for all kinds of things, but lack the full authority to make the necessary changes to implement them. Working at home eliminates so much of the stress of all that.”

Day in the Life: Some days end later than others, according to Wolfe, depending on the production schedule of CelebriDucks’ overseas operations. But typically, he is in the office by 9 a.m. He takes breaks to exercise, eat and sometimes go out and take a walk, then ends his day around 5 p.m. After dinner, it’s a bit more office work, then non-work activities like reading, watching television and working on an album in his small home studio.

Pros and Cons: For Wolfe, the main ‘con’ to this type of work is working with his art department across the country. E-mails and phone usually suffice but “there are times when I would just love to be sitting in the room reviewing artwork and sculpts in person,” he said. “It just makes it a bit easier.”

But the upside to working from home, he said, is that it allows him to have “a tremendous staff all over the place who you could never really fit under one roof without an undue amount of expense, stress, and overhead that is totally unnecessary. The beauty of working at home is working with the best people wherever they might be!”