by Marshall P. Gavin, co-founder and executive vice president of b. dazzle, Inc.

In today’s tough economy, when mass-market discount import products are an increasing share of the market, b. dazzle, inc. bucks the trend by choosing to manufacture in North America and directs its efforts only to the specialty retail market. The company’s values include quality products that are wholesome, cross-generational, fun, and mind-stimulating; personal service recognizing the importance of every customer; a commitment to the American economy and the small business sector; and a strong commitment to high ethical standards.

In 1993, my wife, Kathie, and I lost our jobs in corporate America within six months of each other. We looked for new employment, but there was a terrible recession in Southern California in the early ’90s, and we were unable to find anything locally. After a few months of no additional prospects, our savings ran out and our home went into foreclosure.

Kathie always had a dream of creating a puzzle based upon patterns she studied in school, specifically ancient Egyptian “heads and tails” tile matching games. Recognizing that we were at a point of losing everything anyway, I suggested to Kathie that it was the perfect time to take the risk of starting a business to produce and distribute her puzzle idea, and we wrote a business plan.

We hired a local artist to paint original art, and Kathie designed four different prototypes, which we displayed in 1994. In that first year, we generated $124,000 from those four puzzle designs. We got our home out of foreclosure, and we commissioned more art, producing six additional puzzle styles. We added more wholesale trade shows, did a mass mailing of flyers to specialty gift stores and toy stores, and were blessed with $376,000 in revenue for that second year.

And so it went: each year, Kathie designed more puzzles, we exhibited at more trade shows, and we sent out more mailings, working six and a half days per week, about 16 hours each day, traveling about 200 days per year until after only about 10 years, b. dazzle, inc. became an “overnight” success. We are now completing our 16th year and have more than 140 Scramble Squares puzzle designs, which are enjoyed by men and women ages 4 to 104.

We believe that we have been richly rewarded by the “American Dream,” and that hard work and creativity within the American environment of freedom to innovate, invest, and own private property will provide us with prosperity and self-reliance. We are eager to keep the Dream alive by investing in America’s economy. Creating only American-made products requires an unwavering commitment to that principle, especially because many low-cost imports are made by workers that are paid a fraction of our nation’s minimum wage in environments that are not subject to our strict safety standards. By committing ourselves to operating efficiently and productively, we effectively compete with the imports by offering Scramble Squares puzzles for under $10.

b. dazzle, inc., is an official member of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition of the Josephson Institute for Youth Ethics in Los Angeles. Marshall served as co-chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Code of Ethics for the Toy Industry, which resulted in the ethical standards of the Toy Industry Association’s “Member Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Check out The Toy Book‘s July/August issue for info on more games and puzzles!