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Cardboard Helicopter's would-be elves dream up toys, gadgets





The team at Cardboard Helicopter is always busy dreaming up new inventions and designs in their Lakewood workshop. Since launching in 2012, they've designed more than 349 products for their clients and their own interests.
 
Past inventions have included the Splash Infuser, a natural way to infuse fresh fruit into water and cocktails, and the Jokari self-sealing spout for oils and wine bottles. Now the team is getting into the toy market – just in time for the holidays.

“We did housewares for years, but I’ve always had a passion for toys,” says CEO and Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Tim Hayes. “It’s just plain fun. It’s making things that make people smile.”
 
The firm’s clients have launched a variety of toys for the 2016 holiday season, most of which are available at big box retailers like Walmart, K-Mart, Home Depot and Amazon.
 
"We've been getting into the toy market and designing for some big brands," says Hayes.
 
For instance, Walmart is now offering the Tricerataco holder, a stand-and-stuff taco holder Cardboard Helicopter designed for KidsFunWares. “The triceratops’ back is a perfect little taco holder and kids can play with it after they eat,” says Hayes. “We invent it and then we license it out.”
 
Then there’s a series of two-wheeled scooters and bikes the team designed for California-based Pulse Performance Products – a stand-up scooter designed to appeal to both boys and girls while attending to safety, and the Safe Start Transform rechargeable electric scooter for riders ages six and older with two speeds and a rechargeable battery.
 
“We designed a version for an older kid, but [Pulse] wanted it to be youthful,” says Hayes, noting that both scooters can be found at outlets such as Target.
 
Then Pulse asked Hayes to come up with an authentic, kid-sized chopper motorcycle. The result is the Chopster E-Motorcycle – designed to mirror a Harley Davidson, the bike has high handlebars, street-worthy tires, a rechargeable battery and sleek lines.
 
“We designed the look and feel of this little bike,” says Hayes of the Chopster, which is selling on like mad at places like Home Depot and Amazon.
 
For adults, Cardboard Helicopter redesigned a series of tools for Smith’s Consumer Products, an Arkansas-based hunting and camping products manufacturer. “They were kind of dated and wanted a while new look and feel,” says Hayes of the project. The result was a sharpener-and-knife tool, and the multipurpose tool, Pak Pal.
 
The small but mighty team of six - which goes up to eight when demand increases - is also entering the pet market, with offerings such as the Critter key chains, an LED-lit animated key chain for finding key holes and doing other small tasks in the dark. Fitting as the company mascot, a pooch named Penny, keeps watch over the Lakewood digs where the team aims to keep designing new products.
 
“We design anything,” Hayes boasts. “We meet to brainstorm once a week on new ideas. “We have a collaborative spirit here, designing new ideas by designing backwards. We turn our sketches into products and then say to our clients’ hey what are you looking for?’”
 
What’s next for Cardboard Helicopter? It all depends on what the team dreams up. “We focus heavily on design and fill the gaps for our customers who like to outsource that aspect,” Hayes says. “And we can do it rapidly.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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