I didn’t realize it until recently, but in 2014, I have already logged more travel miles and visited more cool locales than in any other year in the 37-ish that I’ve been roaming the planet Earth. Thing is, I’m not done yet – and as I type these virtual words to appear on your computer/device screen, there’s other adventures already on the books for the four months ahead. The most recent journey on my 2014 #RockFatherTour was a special one, and a trip that was a little bit different than most – an adventure back to Northeastern Ohio, staying in Cleveland and spending some time in the neighboring town of Streetsboro – home of The Step2 Company, who I’ve been working with for nearly two years – first as a “Test Driver,” and most recently, as one of 10 paid Brand Ambassadors. Along with five fellow Ambassadors (a few couldn’t make it this time around), this was our first time working with Step2 in-person, taking meetings and going hands-on with some of the latest products (for kids and grownups!) that are hitting the market now, and all the way into Fall of 2015. If you’ve ever wondered “Where the Toys Come From,” I have your answer…
Roughly 90% of what Step2 produces is MADE IN THE USA, right there in Ohio at a manufacturing plant attached to the company offices. Just across the yard is the Research & Development Building, a place that company founder Tom Murdough thought should be separate from the rest of the complex – an isolated realm for the “mad scientists” within to develop and refine new products – only 25% of which will ultimately make it to consumers’ homes.
Where it Began:
Murdough (since retired) is a legend in the Streetsboro area, a philanthropist who previously-founded another familiar company down the road, eventually setting up Step2 in 1991 with just five employees and a focus on products for the home and garden. In the time since, Step2 has become the largest manufacturer of rotational molded plastics in America, producing not only those items for the home, but TOYS, TOYS, TOYS, and some B2B items – custom products for municipal and corporate clients.
Where They’re At:
Just before starting a tour of the plant, Al, our trusted guide, made a comment about feeling “like an elf.” That’s really the key thing right there… The Step2 Company is like the literal version of “Santa’s Workshop,” and the entire crew are elves. Somewhat rockin’ elves, too, as we came around a corner in the plant at one point to be greeted by the sweet sounds of “Holy Diver” by Ronnie James Dio – but that was just a bonus. It was great to see the faces behind the toys as we made our way through the plant, seeing some old classics being produced along with some new ones, including a “blue” batch of the new 2-in-1 Ford F-150 Raptor SVT that will be headed to Sam’s Club as an exclusive this Fall (the red version is available now). Beyond the plant, we visited the warehouse, where toys were piled sky-high, awaiting shipment to retailers, distributors, and consumers.
Customer service, the fun FriDIY Blog, all of the graphic design, photography, packaging and more – it’s all handled in-house, and it’s awesome.
Where They’re Headed:
While there is much that I cannot divulge, we have seen the future of The Step2 Company, and what’s coming down the pipeline is fantastic. Collectively and individually, we the Ambassadors have provided feedback and consultation on new items that will be available well into the new year and beyond. There’s some great new toys on the way, along with new items for the garden (some I’m very excited about), and a commitment to sustainability and innovation all the way around.
CEO Tom Doherty spent some time with us in the product showroom and during one of our working lunches – his enthusiasm evident – and finally being in the same room with the team we’ve been working with long distance was a fun experience, as a group of people – most of which have never met in-person – just immediately clicked.
Your 2014 Step2 Brand Ambassadors From left-to-right, Janessa of Thrifty Nifty Mommy, Vanessa of See Vanessa Craft, Ruth of Viva Veltoro, Jess of A Million Moments, ME (James, The Rock Father), Lindsey of So Easy Being Green, and Step2 staffers Tena and Ashley.
Now, a trip to Cleveland can’t be all work and no play – especially when your business is play. That said, the whole team had some adventures, dining at Chef Michael Symon’s LOLA, 1890 at The Arcade, Blue Canyon and the 100th Bomb Group – and we took a stop to the wholly-appropriate Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
I even spent some after-hours solo fun by visiting the Horseshoe Casino located in the former location of The Higbee Company (from A CHRISTMAS STORY), winning some bucks on a DUKES OF HAZZARD slot machine, and I caught a late-night screening of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (review here).
I’ve worked with a lot of companies over the years, and the folks at Step2 are a group that I’m truly proud to be working with.