Jim Weigl is the President and Inventor at Virginia Toy and Novelty Company, where they create fresh and unique gifts and novelty products for clients worldwide. He is the President and Licensed Auctioneer at Blue Box Auction Gallery, a Virginia-based company where they leverage the power of the latest technologies to turn assets into cash on the worldwide market. As a passionate entrepreneur and business owner, Jim is on the Board of Directors for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) of Southeast Virginia.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Jim Weigl shares how he started a novelty toy item business on the shores of Virginia Beach and grew it into a thriving business
- What is the value of an established relationship with consumers and vendors?
- Jim talks about the opportunities and relationships he forged from attending the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
- How Jim pivoted his business during the pandemic
- What inspired him to start an auction business?
In this episode…
What do you do when your sales halt due to the pandemic? What shifts can you make to optimize your workplace and make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty? What can you do to bridge the gap?
When the pandemic halted sales in his thriving novelty toy business, Jim Weigl knew he needed to find a solution and pivot his strategy. He entered the PPE business as a temporary fix but became inspired to begin a new venture. To accomplish his vision, Jim started Blue Box Auction Gallery to ease the stress and strain of the pandemic. Now, he is here to share his innovative story of running two successful businesses concurrently.
On this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Jim Weigl to talk about what it takes to create and pivot a great company during a precarious time. Jim talks about building his toy company from his living room into a thriving business, the value of establishing connections and relationships with other entrepreneurs, and his innovative business shift during the pandemic.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Jim Weigl on LinkedIn
- Virginia Toy and Novelty
- Blue Box Auction Gallery
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- EOS Worldwide
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Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now let’s get started with the show.
John Corcoran 0:13
Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran. Here I am the Co-host of this show. You know, check out some of our past interviews. We’ve got lots of great episodes of smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations, we got Netflix, we got Kinkos we got YPO, EO activation, Blizzard, lending tree, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 where we help b2b businesses to give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships by helping you to run your podcast or generate a referral pipeline and tremendous ROI Go to rise25.com to learn all about that, and this is episode is part of our global leadership conference series. The Global Leadership Conference, or GLC is a conference for emerging business leaders put on by Entrepreneurs’ Organization each year. I’m a member of EO and will be attending this year’s event. I’ve created this series to highlight all the smart entrepreneurs who have been before and share their experience this year, GLC is both in person and virtual. It’s in person in Washington, DC, April 23, to 22nd 2022. And in Barcelona, Spain, and virtually it’s open all EO members worldwide. Go to eonetwork.org, to learn more about it. And Alright, my guest today is Jim Weigl. He is the president of two different companies. Virginia Toy is one of those companies, and the other one is Blue Box Auction Gallery. And so we’re going to talk about those two how they came about. Jim, such a pleasure to have you here today. And I want to take you back to 1999 is when the origins of Virginia Toy came around. And you said it started as a good old side household. But after your day job, you had a day job, and you live in a touristy area, and you started selling toys to tourists, in order to make an extra buck on the side and turned into a bigger business. So take us back to that moment in time. What that was like.
Jim Weigl 2:05
Yeah, it was a great time back then I had a wonderful job with a great company. I was in sales, and super ambitious. And after the day ended in a traditional corporate job at five o’clock, I just wanted to go conquer the world. And I was in a new town. I live here in Virginia Beach, Virginia, beautiful place lots of great activity and interests in the summertime. And just thought of an idea, why don’t I walk down to the beach and go talk to the tourists and see if they want to buy some thing to entertain themselves. And I started selling novelty toy items to them glow necklaces, and bracelets and hats and things of that nature. And that was the origin of Virginia Toy and Novelty Company.
John Corcoran 2:51
Wow, that’s a true dyed in the wool salesperson that you’re selling during the day and you go sell in the evening as well.
Jim Weigl 2:58
Yeah, it’s not even work. It’s just fun.
John Corcoran 3:01
So how did it evolve from there from you selling toys on the street or on the beach?
Jim Weigl 3:08
Yeah, so I got a contract with the city of Virginia Beach. At first, I was just doing it as like a total bootleg Street, hustler vendor, whatever you want to call it, then I realized there’s a lot more value to getting an established relationship. And there was a merit to that. So I went to the city of Virginia Beach, and I partnered with them to be a part of all of their festivals. In this area. We do hundreds of different concerts and magic shows and really cool events that happened throughout the summer season. And then I was there, instead of one guy walking around, I would hire my neighbors and my friends and friends, children and things of that nature. And I now had a dozen people going out and 30 people going out. And I started using a lot of quantity of product. And I thought I got to be able to get this stuff cheaper. And what I did is I learned where the suppliers were, and at the time suppliers were overseas in China. And in hindsight, it was a big venture to buy from China at that time, the internet wasn’t what it is today. The communications weren’t what it is today. But at some point, I just made my first trip I went to a big trade show and that’s some suppliers and just embedded myself in the business and I got my first massive container of stuff shipped to my warehouse slash living room. And at the age of 21 years old, I had my living room just piled up with inventory. And to justify that purchase I had to buy maybe two years or three years worth of supply. Wow. But price was so much cheaper that it made sense. So here I am with three years worth of supply in my living room. Single bacheleor 21 years old or so and didn’t matter to me, but I said, Hey, if I bought these things for price one and I can sell over price two, why not just sell them bigger? So I reached out my first wholesale customer was Busch Gardens here in Williamsburg. Virginia. And so I got my wholesale deal with them. And then I thought, hey, that’s really fun. I can do it to more entertainment places and roller skating rinks, and bowling alleys and theme parks like that. And suddenly it started to grow and evolve. And the amount of time and attention I would put towards the other job declined and the amount of time and attention towards this new blossoming business started to grow. And that’s where the shift finally happened.
John Corcoran 5:25
In around 2006, you had a vendor who told you about EO Entrepreneurs’ Organization, you went to a meetup. And you said, in your words, you kind of found your people. What was that like?
Jim Weigl 5:38
Oh, it was, it was amazing. Just before 2006 I was a bit off more than I can chew. I had a licensing deal with Marvel, and I was selling them Spider Man toys, and I had a licensing deal with DreamWorks. And we were selling Shrek toys. And it was going really fast. And I was wearing every had are many hats and just tons going on. And I loved every minute of it. But it was up early, stay up late, just grind, grind, grind, and absolutely enjoyed every second of it. But I had nobody I could talk to, you know, my family are great, wonderful people, smart business people, but different from what I was doing. And friends were not really relating to it. And then I went to this group. And EO, I never heard of it before, sat at a dinner table at one of the local restaurants and talks to people that were members. And it was like they all spoke the same language as I do. They understand the trials, they understand the stress and the pressures and the joys and the victories. And I was hooked. I had to be I had to do it. It was just not question.
John Corcoran 6:37
And it wasn’t too long after that, that you joined your board got started to get involved in the board level and attended your first GLC conference as well.
Jim Weigl 6:48
Yeah, the term voluntold or volun, you know, unsolicited just volunteered. Yeah, thrown is incredible. And everyone jokes about it. But it was the greatest thing that happened to me, I was asked to join as a co chair for the learning and help putting on the learning events. And at the time, it was social events together that we create for our chapter. And I loved it, I got to rub elbows and meet more people in the chapter and get my name and my face out and connect with more people and just establish relationships that I maintained to this day after 16 or 17 years of time in I’ve only not been on the board one year. So I’m 16 years in the organization, I try my best to serve on the board every single year, because I just get so much out of that interaction of working towards a common goal. And all of us volunteering our time to do that. And the best bonus of all of it is GLC, it’s like this fantastic opportunity to get a trip somewhere in the world. And you meet with 500 or so entrepreneurs from around the world speaking different languages and different industries, all volunteering their time to help grow this organization. So we can all benefit each other. It’s absolutely incredible.
John Corcoran 7:59
So cool. He said one of the most impactful ones you attended was Greece in 2018.
Jim Weigl 8:06
That was incredible. Just Greece is gorgeous. I think it was the food that I liked the most in Greece. But no, it was just great speakers, great connections. It was you know, being over in that part of the world, it had a whole different dynamic. This year, we’re in DC, so we’ll get more US based folks. But that had a lot more European and Asia and Asian attendees and just getting that interaction and you just make yourself available and talk and say hello in the elevator and that type of stuff. But it was just incredible to have that. That opportunity.
John Corcoran 8:42
Yeah. Now, I want to hear about your experience going into COVID Because you had this business that was serving entertainment venues and amusement parks, many of which were shut down in 2020. what point did you start to realize, Oh, crap, this is going to really affect me.
Jim Weigl 9:02
Yeah, it was early March, mid March, something around that timeframe when the demand for face masks and PPE was really strong. And I have good ties and good relationships with different factories and different folks in China that could help get that stuff. So we were air shipping this stuff in in the very early beginning. And that was the shift that we made to something to do because we needed to help people that were asking me to get these properties of these items for them. But maybe end of March, early April, I realized that literally every single one of my customers was going to be closed for the year. And sales went to zero basically for all of the toy and novelty items. And we had to be creative and come up with a solution. The PPE business was was strong but getting saturated very quickly. And we exited that we were just early adopters and help where we could and then we thought, what am I going to do? And that’s right got the idea to go into the auction business?
John Corcoran 10:03
Yeah. How did that come about? Why were you inspired to do that?
Jim Weigl 10:06
I’ve always enjoyed auctions. I attend them. I like finding unique and interesting things at auctions. I add, you know, find something unique, and I may buy it and then sell it in the future, we’ll get to enjoy it on my own. So that prompted me to say, Well, hey, maybe I’ll buy more stuff. And I could just buy in some more interesting things. And I said, You know what, the guys that found the gold nuggets, they did really well. But the people that sold the shovels, those are the ones that really succeeded. And it was more stable, and it made better sense. And I thought, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to open up an auction business. I went home and I told my wife and I said, hey, guess what, I’m going to go to Indiana and go to auctioneering. School. And she thought it was wild and amazing and said good luck. I can’t wait.
John Corcoran 10:49
Does she support it? She was like, It’s nuts. Why are you doing that?
Jim Weigl 10:52
Now, she was great. And she said, Absolutely. As for you go have fun. And let me know how it goes.
John Corcoran 10:57
Yeah. And it’s both live and online auctions.
Jim Weigl 11:03
Yep, we do online presence first. And we have an in person secondary as an option for certain times and certain auctions. So if we’re selling, you know, collectibles that are easy to identify a comic book that’s rated 9.5. There’s no need to see that in person necessarily, although it’s nice to have. So sometimes we might do that. But when we’re selling something like fine art, people may want to take a look at it for antiques, they want to come and evaluate it better. Or just the the fun that comes out of a live auction. So we have it online first in person second, and if you haven’t in person, we’ll do it live stream or simulcasts also. Hmm.
John Corcoran 11:39
And then do you see yourself as we hopefully are coming out of COVID? Do you see yourself continuing run both businesses?
Jim Weigl 11:45
Yeah, absolutely. It’s happening right now. The toy businesses come back to life, the parks are eager to serve their guests, the end of anything, 21, middle end of 21, it started to open up, people were eager to get out. Now we’ve all been locked up for too long and eager to go and just enjoy ourselves. And there’s children that have been promised rollercoaster rides, and cotton candy and fun toys to buy and play and win prizes. And that’s that’s what we’re going to do. So we’re doing exactly that.
John Corcoran 12:12
That’s great. Um, talk a little bit about the impact that your forum has has had on you, when you realize that, you know, my business might be completely shut down. For the remainder of this year, I might need to find some other type of business to start, what was the impact like for you, and not just then but also like earlier in your career?
Jim Weigl 12:32
Well, without EO or my forum, I would likely not be here as a business or as an entrepreneur. And I mean that sincerely. I’ve had a couple of rough patches. Throughout the years that I’ve leaned on some people that are very important to me very close to me that I met through EO, primarily in my forum, and they were just instrumental in giving me sanity, and helping in many different ways. More recently, with the transition and the pivot into the new business, I had certainly run the idea by them and it was going fast. And we were all trying to figure out, you know, what was up and down at the time. But the the support from the chapter itself, and from my forum was just overwhelming. And it was, it was something that you can’t compare to anything else. It was really invaluable to me.
John Corcoran 13:22
That’s great. And then final thoughts for anyone considering going to GLC, what do you say to someone who’s thinking about going it’s never been before.
Jim Weigl 13:32
Sign up as fast as you can go there with an open heart and open head and spend an extra day before and after, find the my EO that are going on. Find a local person to hang out with if you don’t, if you go there with nobody that you know, you’ll find somebody, even after it’s over just to hang out with, spend the day find something cool and interesting to do. Just buffer that extra time because you’re going to meet people anyway. But I believe it should be like a competition from your chapter in your board. To get there the energy that comes at GLC and the level of speakers and learning that happens is helped personally professionally, socially. I mean, it just hits all the buttons of why would you not it’s just it’s awesome. It’s really a great event.
John Corcoran 14:17
Jim, this has been great. Where can people go to connect with you learn more about you and your, your different businesses?
Jim Weigl 14:22
Well, LinkedIn is a great spot if you want to connect with me on there or blueboxauction.com is the auction gallery. And Virginiatoy.com Is the toy company for for connecting there as well.
John Corcoran 14:36
Excellent, Jim, thanks so much.
Jim Weigl 14:38
Yeah, good to have you. Thanks, John.
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