Two niche markets-toys/games and a Web site for gifts-have taken husband-and-wife entrepreneurs into new territories.
Steve Edmiston is president of Seattle’s Front Porch Classics. The company creates retro-feel toys and games. Melody Wickline Edmiston has created a Web-based consumer retail site specializing in high-quality and hard-to-find gift ideas. The couple lives in Des Moines. Both are Washington State University alumni.
Before joining the game company, Steve had created a Dread Pirate game as a Christmas gift for their daughters, 12 and 8. The game eventually developed into one of Front Porch Classics’ leading products.
Melody (’84 Bus. Adm.) watched the marketing of that game, later renamed Old Century Dread Pirate. She became inspired by the challenge of getting a new, quality product into consumers’ hands. Her business experience at that point included working mainly in defense operations at Boeing for 10 years before opting to stay home while her children were young. She launched her own business in 2002.
“There had to be other manufacturers out there, and people who have trouble finding their products in retail stores,” she says about early efforts to get Dread Pirate into retail outlets. “Manufacturers can win all these awards. But they’ve got to get their products to retailers. Retailers can be very cautious. It takes time to get some products into stores.”
Instead, she offers customers a link to a few products she believes are unique finds-specially designed patio fire pits, for example-through her business, Essential New Discoveries, and the essentialnewdiscoveries.com Web site. She enjoyed working at Boeing, she says, but she needed a new route that fit her better. “I don’t want a boss. I have a lot of ideas.”
Steve (’84 Econ.) describes his entry into the world of toys as a “career careen.” After graduating from WSU, he completed a law degree at the University of Washington. He was in private practice for nearly 14 years, specializing in environmental Superfund litigation.
The last four years of that stretch, he started writing creatively. At 39, he decided to leave law. His plan to take a year off and write lasted only seven weeks, when he met two individuals starting Front Porch Classics, launched in 2000. Its Old Century Baseball was named Family Fun Magazine‘s 2002 “Toy of the Year.” Old Century Dread Pirate won the 2003 Oppenheim Gold Seal Award.
The timing was perfect for the idea, he says. The company wanted to offer a way to “unplug in a wired world” with games that looked like they came out decades ago, yet decorative enough to showcase on a coffee table. “Just when things were crazy before the dot.com bubble burst, we decided to do an antitechnology business.”
He shared his Dread Pirate idea with his cofounders. “It ended up being the linchpin of our original investor presentation, because it was a product we could show,” Steve says. Featuring pirate battles, mutinies, desert islands, and buried treasure, the game comes in a wooden treasure chest and is played on an illustrated, aged treasure map. Now Front Porch Classics has 20 employees and offers 20 products through such retailers as toysrus.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Steve also has had some early success as a screenwriter. His first script, called “Signature,” was under option by an entertainment company for a while. Another script was shot as an independent film called Farewell to Harry. He also writes screenplays for independent feature films, including A Relative Thing, which premiered November 2003 at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. It will continue on the festival circuit throughout 2004. “It’s a family drama,” he says. “I wrote this one and, as it turns out, coproduced it.”
In addition to contributing creative ideas, he does legal work for Front Porch Classics. Recently, he found the perfect marriage of the game business and his screenwriting passion. Front Porch Classics signed a deal with 20th Century Fox and developed a game to promote the feature movie, Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe.
“I’m involved in writing for movies. I help create games,” Steve says. “It’s fun to be able to do both.”