Marc Cooper – President of Imagination Brands

Mr. Marc Cooper is currently president and chief doodle officer (CDO) of Imagination Brands Co., LLC. Mr. Cooper also owns and operates The Fiber Resource Group, Inc (TFRG), a successful paper brokerage and converting company he founded more than 16 years ago. The company continues to buy, sell and convert various types of paper and pulp for a wide range of end use applications, within the paper industry. Achieving sales in excess of $16 million at its peak, the company continues to be led by Mr. Cooper through one of the longest and most volatile periods of time within the paper industry. While running TFRG, Mr. Cooper invested in and actively participated in the start up of a paper mill as well as a separate warehousing, transportation and converting company. Along with his entrepreneurial endeavors, Mr. Cooper invented a unique, patent-pending machine for converting paper.

Mr. Cooper has been actively involved in various aspects of the Jewish community of the North Store and Technion University in Israel. Mr. Cooper is married to Diana, his wife of 20 years, and has three children ages 16, 14 and 12. He resides in Beverly, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of Brooks School (1985) and University of New Hampshire (1989).

What are you working on right now?

Raising a seed round of funding to help bridge the next stage of growth for Imagination Brands. My focus is on developing as many retails storefronts as possible for our new version of Doodle Roll® and looking at ways to expand the line as well as lay the foundation for future growth.

Where did the idea for Doodle Roll and Imagination Brands come from?

A paper customer of mine who had gone out of business made a very basic paper roll called Doodle Roll. Unfortunately, they went out of business. However, I was fortunate to have revitalized the name and subsequently secured the trademark and registration rights. It just seemed like a product with the name Doodle Roll should exist, and I was surprised when I embarked on this project three years ago that it was not used anywhere else in the world.

At the same time, I started to come up with ideas about how to integrate our patent pending package with the Doodle Roll to create a product that not only had a cool name but also combined all of the elements of a fun, portable activity kit for kids to be creative and use their imaginations anytime, anywhere.

Lastly, being in the paper business, I wanted to develop a unique product around a configuration where we could develop some exclusivity in terms of the paper roll size and length. So I set out to develop a proprietary machine to produce the paper rolls. Subsequently, a more advanced process has been developed, which enables us to produce over 1,500 rolls per hour.

What does your typical day look like?

Since Imagination Brands is still a small, two-person (and soon-to-be three-person) company, and since I also own The Fiber Resource Group, Inc., which shares the same employees, my life is anything but consistent. During the course of any given day, I am perpetually trying to buy and sell paper for TFRG, develop paper converting opportunities for operation in Gardner, MA, and sell as many Doodle Rolls as possible.

Unfortunately, there are a million other task-related activities that are also necessary, which include but are not limited to: overseeing ongoing product development , package design, graphics, online sales and strategic relationships, reviewing CRM and ERP systems, helping to identify optimal production, coordinating assembly and fulfillment functions, working with vendors and figuring out how to pay the bills, and managing a very tight cash flow during this extended startup phase.

A good day ends up with me helping to coach my 14-year-old daughter’s softball team or my 12-year-old son’s baseball team.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I obsessively think of new ideas and new versions for the Doodle Roll, and now have many other products that have evolved as a result of my short three years in the toy, arts and crafts manufacturing business. I have painstakingly learned how to develop new ideas and have built a network of experienced graphic designers, product development professionals, packaging designers, manufacturing experts and others. I constantly tap into their expertise to review ways to produce new or improved products. I currently have 3-4 working prototypes for new products and hope to bring them to market in the next 12 months or sooner.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The revitalizing of U.S. manufacturing!

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Selling NuSkin for a multi-level marketing company after a failed attempt at a commercial real estate career right after college. Asking people you know–and even people you don’t know–to buy hand cream that contained placenta protein was a miserable experience and a desperate (failed) attempt to make money at an early age.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would learn to listen to others (including my wife) better.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Never stop trying and never give up!

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not properly knowing how to handle growth and scale my paper company during a very successful, 10-year run. As a result, I got involved with other businesses I did not know as much about in the industry. In each case, I maintained my core business and went back to it each time I failed at trying something new.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

If you work hard for a long enough time, eventually you get lucky! I am still waiting to get lucky on my latest venture. Also, when ordering a glass of water at a restaurant, ask for five extra lemons. When they arrive, squeeze them into the water, add sugar and you’ll have fresh-squeezed lemonade. My grandfather, Matt, taught me that. You could save a ton of money over the course of your life.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

This is a difficult question, as the world is in pretty tough shape. However, I would have to say I would change the way people feel and/or treat others, especially as that relates to bigotry, anti-semitism or any other negative or destructive behavior or thought of one group of people toward another. Children, in particular, deserve to grow up in a world where everyone is considered equal.

I would accomplish this by facilitating a program where children have the ability to interact–both in person and online–with children their own age, starting very young. As a result, they would see that other children, regardless of where they live or how much they have or don’t have, are just like them. Every child should have the opportunity to feel safe, have fun, and not have the negative ideals of adults engrained in their minds before they have an opportunity to see the world as it can be.

Tell us a secret.

I have virtually every imaginable type of condition relating to focus and attention deficits. I can be talking to someone and literally go off into another world. This also makes it virtually impossible to read more than a few pages of a book, no matter how interesting it is.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Xobni organizes every social and personal contact database into one.
  2. Google. What doesn’t it do?

I don’t have a third because I really don’t spend a lot of time surfing the web for new tools.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

(Warning: See my earlier point about my focus and attention deficits)! I did make it a good way though a great book called Merle’s Door, which I hope to someday finish. I am a big dog lover as well as a lover of nature, skiing and adventure. This book embodies all of the above and more.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I’d have to defer to Julia, our social media guru.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I was next to a guy and girl who were on a motorcycle last Friday, and the girl had her shirt pulled halfway up her back to show off her big tattoo. The vibration of the motor cycle caused her sides and tattoo to feverishly jiggle. I was talking to someone on the phone, and as I tried to describe to him what I was witnessing, we both burst out laughing.

Who is your hero?

My dad. Over the course of his life, he has taught so many others the meaning of tzedakah and how to be a mensch. I hope I can have the same (or at least a meaningful amount of the same) influence in my lifetime.

How do you invent a new product and bring it to market yourself?

People think of millions of great ideas every day. Actually turning them into realities is no small task. Many people simply try and license their ideas to other companies and hope someone will express an interest in supporting them. A very small percentage of people with great ideas ever bring their products to life themselves.

Having spent the past three years and more $500,000 going through this process, I know why. I highly recommend that anyone attempting to invent and manufacture a new product consider the time and cost of doing so. At the same time, I would also recommend they seriously look at the market possibilities to make sure that there is a market (no matter how great the product is). Determining the cost to produce and what customers will pay is an important step as well. Keep in mind that the customer is rarely ever the consumer. In most every industry, there is a mature distribution channel(s) that make it extremely difficult for a single product company to gain access to these markets.

Having an experienced industry expert to help guide you through the process will save you lots of time and money. At the end of the day, there is nothing like seeing a product or idea you came up with actually finished!

Why is it so hard to focus on just one thing?

Life has become so complicated and overly stimulating. I have to believe when I was a kid 30-40 years ago, the condition of ADD was not even a fraction of what it has become today. With technology available virtually every second of the day, almost everywhere you go, kids and adults are bombarded with more information, data and choices than ever imaginable. As a society, we need to learn to recapture quiet time and simplicity more often. I am the biggest culprit, but I strive to regain a simpler way of life!


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