As his group of friends tore into their new packs of baseball cards, Chad Collins watched closely. He bought a backpack full of those sealed packs at a recent baseball card show and brought them to recess with quite an industrious plan in mind for a third grader.
He sold those baseball card packs to his friends and if he saw one he knew was valuable as they opened their packs, he’d offer a trade—that one card for a whole new pack.
His friends got more cards of course, but Chad got all the value. This exchange rate worked well until the principal got word of that “business”, and he was quickly shut down. But a business mindset had been born.
Chad’s schoolyard side hustle is no surprise considering he grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. It’s that quick-minded, entrepreneurial heart that would eventually lead Chad to create Brick Fest Live, a LEGO® Fan experience.
And while he knew the ups and downs of that entrepreneur lifestyle, as Chad grew up, he convinced himself that wasn’t the life for him. So instead of giving into that entrepreneurial spirit early on, Chad began his adulthood seeking a more stable livelihood.
A LEGO®-Inspired Shift
Like many kids who play with LEGO®, Chad was inspired to turn his knack for building things into an engineering career. After some time at a global security and aerospace company, Chad eventually landed a job at a well-established startup. It was the perfect mix of stability and entrepreneurship.
But working in that fast-paced startup setting proved to be a less than optimal fit for Chad. He traveled a lot for work, which meant spending less time with his family. He was either flying to a new city for client meetings or commuting a total of three hours each day.
Since one of Chad’s core values has always been spending quality time with his family, the job was beginning to put a huge strain on his life. But then everything changed with a simple lunch meeting.
One of Chad’s friends invited him to lunch at a nearby mall, and while walking to the restaurant together, Chad spotted a LEGO® store.
Chad had no idea that LEGO® stores even existed, so Chad asked his friend if they could make a quick stop inside. At the back of the store, Chad saw a big wall where you could fill a cup with different LEGO® bricks instead of having to buy a full set.
Feeling like a kid again, Chad grabbed a cup and filled it to the brim with LEGO®. He brought his new collection home that night, much to his seven-year-old daughter Jordyn’s delight.
As Jordyn’s love for LEGO® grew, she started to search for inspiration videos on YouTube. One day, she asked Chad if they could create a YouTube channel together under the name Your Creative Friends. Through the channel, they could share their LEGO® creations and have an additional excuse to try out new LEGO® sets. Chad enthusiastically agreed, and they started planning their first video.
The very next day, he uploaded a quick video on how to fit more LEGO® bricks into their standard cup at the store. The video received over ten thousand views in the first couple of weeks.
As more people found their YouTube channel, their audience began asking when the next video was coming out. Chad took the video content more seriously, noticing there was a large amount of opportunity he could tap into with this passion project.
YouTube was everything for us, and really my daughter Jordyn was everything. If she didn’t light that spark for LEGO®, and if she didn’t request to create a YouTube channel, we wouldn’t be in business today.
What started as a way to bring Chad closer to his daughter and preserve his memories as a kid turned into a business. But before Chad could start his business, he put his focus on connecting with his YouTube audience.
Launching His First Event Experience
As Jordyn and Chad filmed and uploaded new YouTube videos, they were inspired to look for LEGO®-themed events they could attend together. Connecting with other LEGO® enthusiasts online was great, but it would be even better to meet them in person.
Chad began searching for events in the Philadelphia area, but there weren’t any. The closest event he could find was several states away. That’s when the lightbulb turned on.
I thought if there isn’t an event like this in the Philadelphia market, and we have this YouTube audience of people now that we serve with our great content, then maybe they’ll all come to the show that we produce.
Wanting to test his idea, he put early bird tickets on sale for their own event— an in-person LEGO®-inspired event experience, Brick Fest Live, that would happen several months later. It also helped that The LEGO® Movie had just been released in 2014, so the event was timely.
In the first weekend of his ticket presell campaign, over five thousand people bought tickets. The event was meant to be a side hustle, but it quickly seemed to have sustainable income potential.
In the next few months, they sold even more event tickets—for a grand total of thirteen thousand. After stopping ticket sales, Chad decided to have some tickets available at the door on the day of the event. He didn’t expect that ten thousand more people would show up to buy same-day tickets because they weren’t able to buy them online.
The first Brick Fest Live experience represented a lot for the Collins family, but the biggest question Chad now had to answer was when to take the leap from his full-time job. After so many hours of commuting and traveling over the years, working at home in his pajamas with his family nearby sounded like a perfect fit.
He was already making comparable income with the first event, so it motivated him to create a strategy for leaving the startup to pursue his own business.
After a few conversations with his wife in the fall, they decided that Chad should quit his day job in February, two months before their first event. That gave him enough time to put all of his attention into creating a great event, while also still providing additional financial security for his family for the new few months.
One day in December, Chad was driving to the office and received a text message about all the things he had on his schedule that week. Instead of responding to the text message, he called his wife and told her that he thought this was the day to leave.
After getting the thumbs-up from his wife, he found the CEO that day and put in his two weeks’ notice. He admits that quitting his job before the first event had even happened was a little scary, but he knew he was onto something.
Pursuing Brick Fest Live Full-Time
With the success of the first live event, Chad was excited to put tickets on sale for the second show. And when that second show had the same amazing turnout as the first, Chad was filled with confidence to start hiring staff and investing in new attractions.
For the first two years, he invested all of the money they made back into the business to streamline their processes and come up with new attractions that would entice families to keep coming back.
Chad has always looked at Brick Fest Live as a family-focused experience rather than just a two-day event. He wanted to inspire parents and their kids to unleash their creativity and explore their imagination.
LEGO® is a timeless toy spanning generations. The LEGO® bricks that are made today are compatible with the LEGO® bricks that were made thirty years ago. They bring out memories in parents that they had when they were building with their parents. So they’ll come to a show, and they’re gonna have that same connection with their son or daughter that they had with their mother or father.
The best reward of running Brick Fest Live is that it gives Chad more time to spend with his own family. Instead of taking long trips to work in his car, he takes trips to the toy store with his kids to pick up the latest LEGO® set so they can build something new and record a YouTube video afterward.
While his normal day can consist of anything from contract negotiations to brainstorming new attractions for each event, Chad knows that his family is always nearby. He now trades business flights for road trips with his family.
Instead of going on a business trip for eight days. . . now our family hits the road for thirty days to host three Brick Fest Live events. We also get to sightsee and have these amazing adventures with just the four of us that would be impossible to have otherwise.
His family is integral to every aspect of his business. His wife greets attendees at the events, and his in-laws help with merchandise sales. His kids frequently appear in his YouTube videos and love participating in the events.
Building a talented team of employees has also helped Chad scale rather quickly while preserving his family time. With fifteen employees, he runs three large-scale event productions. In addition to Brick Fest Live, he and his business partner Gabe Young produce two other events: Minefaire, an official MINECRAFT community event, and Young Innovators Fair, a family Science and Tech Expo.
With a marketing, operations, and finance team working in alignment, they’ve been able to increase how many events they host each year. In 2016, they put on a total of fifteen events. A year later, they doubled that number to thirty.
The only way you can accomplish something is by having just a fantastic team that believes in the messaging of the company. Our mission is to provide a unique educational experience where families can come together and just have a blast.
Taking a look behind the curtain of Chad’s business, you’ll see that, while ticket sales bring in the largest amount of revenue, there are many other income streams at play. Vendors pay to have space on the showroom floor—which creates a steady stream of income, much like event sponsors who want to have their name attached to the show.
Merchandise sold at the events provides another source of revenue. They also have a membership box service that sends members LEGO®-themed merchandise every month. Affiliate marketing is one of their lower-tier revenue drivers but gives them the opportunity to monetize their video content.
Chad notes that the reason why they have been able to make changes and experiment with new income streams is because they’ve always had a strong audience. From his early days on YouTube, Chad has always prioritized conversations with his customers, attendees, and community members.
Looking back on the success of his business, Chad is thankful that his love for LEGO® and entrepreneurship was sparked at a young age. Instead of building someone else’s dream as an engineer, he’s now able to take those same skills and inject them into his business.
Building your business is for you and your legacy. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing . . . because you’re not working; you’re living. For us, we’ve created this blend with family and our lifestyle . . . where we have fun in our experiences every single day.
Proving that LEGO® is for everyone to enjoy, Chad can frequently be found building new cities out of LEGO® bricks with his kids huddled around the kitchen table, hoping they carry on the family tradition and always make time for play.