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Joel Glickman — K’NEX

It happened at a wedding — Joel Glickman, then 50 years old and working in his family’s plastics business, was sitting at a table and starting cutting and connecting a bunch of straws together. His creation gave him an idea for a plastic construction toy. The idea soon became an obsession. After rejections from Hasbro and Mattel, Glickman decided to take a huge risk and shut down part of the family’s injection molded plastic business to make his toy himself.

In 1993, not long after K’NEX hit the market, Toys R Us’ founder said it was the best thing he’d seen in years. Four years later sales of the toy had grown to about $100 million. Glickman retired, but when the business suffered, he went back to work, and business is once again booming. The company anticipates it will have sales of approximately $100 million for 2012.

Photo: K'NEX