Years ago, Craig Wolfe became the largest publisher of artwork from television commercials, creating the first ever animation art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and M&M/Mars.
Eventually Craig sold the lines to create CelebriDucks, a new art that takes the form of film, music, and sport icon inspired rubber ducks.
CelebriDucks has been voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly and has been featured by hundreds of TV shows, magazines, and newspapers.
Craig has sold millions of his popular rubber ducks and has created custom, made-to-order ducks
for SeaWorld, The New York Yankees, Harley-Davidson, and The Future Farmers of America.
In an effort to bring jobs and industries back to the US Craig manufactures 100% of his here in America where the rubber duck was actually invented.
Craig also has entire factory in Michigan dedicated to manufacturing PVC Free rubber ducks out of food and medical grade materials, making these ducks the safest rubber ducks in the world for babies to teethe on.
Career Success Q&A
What do you like most about your job?
Oh – it’s a creative wonderland here – coming up with all these fun and whimsical celebrity rubber ducks. The ideas are endless.
Plus, we do so many unique things that inspire me. Like returning the whole rubber duck industry back to the USA where it began, and making the safest PVC free rubber ducks in the world for babies to teethe on.
There is always some new and exciting projects we are working on since we are also the top custom duck manufacturer in the world.
What kind of formal training do you have?
I have a BA from Hobart College and graduated in 1974. I was an English and religion major and had no business training at all.
But so much of business these days is about being able to effectively communicate. So, that English degree really did help me!
What kind of experience did you have before you began your business?
Before I created CelebriDucks, I created the first ever animation art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Bush, and M&M/Mars.
The concept in many ways was the same. Carve out a niche of creating artwork of popular iconic characters. It became very successful, but the idea of doing these celebrity rubber ducks just seemed like too much fun.
It’s like that John Lennon quote, “life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
I kept the art [business] when I started with the ducks. It was originally just going to be a fun little side
business, but the Philadelphia 76ers read an article about us and asked us to create their superstar, Allan Iverson as a duck. It came out so good that it looked more like him than he did!
All of a sudden the Yankees and the Cubs – all these people – came a calling and I realized I had a whole new business on my hands. I had to pick one. I chose ducks and never looked back!
So, I sold off the animation business and became all ducks. Fortunately it worked and I became the top custom rubber duck manufacturer in the world.
There was so much to learn. I had no manufacturing background, but I know how to work with people. [I pull] in the help I need from people far more talented than me.
As time went on, I got better and better at my craft and it continued to evolve leading up to our current line. We are doing our best work ever with our new Costume Quacker offering.
I think I am most proud of our new Good Ducks, which are our PVC line of rubber ducks 100% made in America. [They] are considered the safest ducks in the world for babies to teethe on. We are even exporting them to China!!
Do you have a guiding philosophy for your career?
Have fun, be inspired, do what you love, and use your business to do good in the world.
It’s never just about the money!
What excites you most about your career right now?
Every day we have some new exciting projects with our custom work and new characters we add to our Costume Quacker line. You never know what is going to come in each day.
Just today, a Grammy winning musician’s agent wrote us because their client wants to be a CelebriDuck and have us create a custom run of ducks for him!
Every day is a new adventure and a new project….a lot of fun!
What excites you about the future of your career?
The possibilities are endless here.
We are working on so many new Costume Quacker characters, so many new custom jobs, and our new military duck really excites me.
Did you know every US military duck is made overseas? How wrong is that!
This coming year we will be making the first ever US military duck 100% in America. We are starting with the Navy. You can even view the Sailor duck artwork in the American Made ducks section in the Duck store when you go to buy ducks on the website.
We are also working on a children’s book to go along with our Spooning Chocolate division.
Yes, I also have a chocolate company, Cocoa Canard!
Are you an avid reader?
I read all the time. I love books. I do not read books electronically. I hold them in my hand the old fashion way!
What book would you recommend to others?
Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury – I know you might wonder how this would help a business person. But it is great. The chocolate industry is a microcosm of business in general. And the story of how the Quakers tried to do business in a way that was socially responsible makes for a fascinating read.
You will learn a lot from reading this book no matter what industry you are in.
I read the trade magazines for my industry and actually learn so much from watching CNBC – Shark Tank, Marcus Lemonis, Cleveland Hustles, anf West Texas Investor’s Club.
Do you have a routine you follow to ensure you’re always improving?
The way I do it is to always be running what I am up to – both in my business and personal life – by my most trusted intimates daily.
Bottom line, don’t work in a vacuum! Everyone needs feedback on a daily basis.
My routine is always being accessible humanly to people. I am always making sure that my smallest accounts are treated exactly the same as my largest accounts.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you keep. Excess overhead can bring down a business of any size.
Also – live by the penny, die by the penny. Someone can always make something cheaper. Quality is the hardest thing to knock off!
Who are your most influential mentors and why do you admire them?
Milton Hershey – used all the money he made to create jobs and a town that was dedicated to making people’s lives better. Then he donated his money to create one of the largest schools in the world for children in need.
The most amazing thing is he gave away all his money while he was still alive and just lived in two rooms. It was all about making a difference in people’s lives
Would you consider yourself a goal-setter?
Yes, I would think of me that way.
My method is doing what inspires me. Then running it by the people I most trust, and then together bringing it to life. I don’t have a formula other than throwing as much time and energy and passion into doing what inspires me and bulletproofing my niche.
What are a few of your short-term and long-term career goals?
To live simply, do crazy impossible fun and inspiring things – and most importantly – to leave all my wealth to non-profits to further do good in the world.
Money for just the sake of making more money has never motivated me. It’s all about the good you can do with it! This is my primary goal – and having fun while doing it!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the course of your career?
Bringing the whole rubber duck industry back to America, and then making the safest rubber ducks in the world here in the USA. [It] was the most difficult thing I ever did in my life.
It almost killed me. Fortunately it worked!
I had NO idea how much of our manufacturing had been lost for these types of items.
And doing the Good Ducks – creating PVC free rubber ducks out of food and medical grade materials was SO challenging.
It was so stressful as there were so many unknowns, but I rolled the dice and knew that if I did make it work, no-one would ever be able to duplicate it.[That] is one of my core principles: Bulletproof your niche!
What have you found to work really well for fostering professional growth?
Having a very trusted group of intimates to run all my ideas by. I depend on these people to provide guidance and help me know what direction to take with the company.
Everyone needs a group of peers they can really trust to give them direction.
What is a professional challenge you’re still looking for a solutions to?
I think our biggest challenge will always be that we are not creating a cheap mass market product. We are making the highest quality products in our industry.
The tough thing about this is we have a higher price point for the larger retailers unless we get massive volume which takes time and education.
Like the Good Ducks for instance, what mother would not buy those for her baby!
But again, you have to know they exist and the safety benefits. Once they do understand, they sell out of every store we put them in!
Are you currently working on any projects readers should be aware of?
Oh yes, now that we have brought the rubber duck industry back to the USA, I am going to be making the first ever US military rubber ducks actually [manufactured] in America: as opposed to overseas!
I am very proud of that. The fact that we now make the safest PVC rubber ducks in the world, here in the USA, and that we’re exporting them worldwide including is huge.
People really want to support ventures like this if they know they exist.
What is the best way for people to connect with you?
The best way to reach me is to write me at email@example.com. I respond to everyone.
Or, just call me. I actually talk to people on the phone!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/celebriducks/ .
Have questions about your own professional development or the details of Craig’s career path?
Ask your questions in the comments below and we’ll be sure to help in anyway we can!
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