A career-changing moment or experience
My Main Squeeze
Inever intended to create prod- ucts, let alone create science toys for mass-market retailers like Target and Walmart. Twenty ears ago, I started speaking to elementary and middle school
students about ways to make learning
fun. I believed that a full day of speaking consisted of five school assemblies
and an hour-long training session for
teachers. Multiply that schedule by
approximately a hundred school visits
By my fourth year, I was on my way
to becoming a good speaker. But, I was
One day, I spoke in a teachers’
lounge using plastic soda bottles,
buckets of water, eye-droppers,
nuts and bolts. I shared a new twist
on a classic science activity called a
Cartesian Diver, which demonstrates
that an eyedropper in a bottle of water
can float and sink by simply squeezing
I secretly hid the workings of the eyedropper with a rubber tube (a fishing
lure) in the shape of a squid. Presto! The
science activity called SQUIDY™ was
born, and I had hundreds of teachers
conducting cool air-pressure demonstrations for their students.
Then, a teacher asked, “Where can
you buy these?” I told the group to
go to Walmart and purchase a bag of
fishing lures. “Why don’t you just sell
them yourself?” the teacher asked.
Hmmm. Could someone custom make
these fishing lures, I wondered?
I contacted a fish lure manufacturer
to inquire about ordering a special
batch of rubber squid-lures for a science
toy. After many confusing telephone
conversations, one agreed on a price
for the mold and the price per rubber
squid. I was told, however, that I had
to buy them in “quantity.”
How hard could it be to sell a few
hundred SQUIDY Cartesian diver toys?
There seemed to be a communication breakdown on one small detail. I
assumed “quantity” meant about 500
or so. Weeks later, there was a surprise waiting for me on my driveway.
Actually, it was all over the driveway. A
delivery truck the size of Kentucky had
unloaded 80,000 rubber squids with a
$20,000 price tag.
This scenario posed many challenges,
including raising money to pay the
bill, finding storage for 80,000 rubber
squids and, of course, selling them.
My wife and I stood outside speechless viewing the massive order. In tears,
she held the invoice in her hand—net
30 days. In contrast, I couldn’t wait to
bust open a box to see if this “custom”
fishing lure actually worked.
The huge invoice served as a
catalyst for motivation and divine
inspiration. My wife and I took a crash
course in marketing and distribution.
Then, we found a national toy distributor who liked the idea and started
Today, SQUIDY is available in over
1,000 stores and nearly 2,000 educational catalogs worldwide. This incident
was the beginning of our science toy
business at www.SteveSpanglerScience.
com. I also learned a lesson from this
experience: Whenever someone says
“quantity,” always ask for clarification.
Steve Spangler, CSP, offers both teaching training programs nationwide and a huge selection of science toys available at www.
SteveSpanglerScience.com. You might
even want one of those floating and