"Hurry, let's do it now, they've gone!" So says Steve Ochs as we hustle down 58th Street in Manhattan towards what looks like a refugee from a RV junkyard. "They" are the police, I'm guessing this thing isn't supposed to be double parked on the street.
"Welcome to the Myachi Mobile", he grins as we climb in. It turns out they use this old RV with 113,000 miles and wildly painted sides to promote the myachi. They drive it to schools, shopping malls, anywhere they can attract a crowd.
FYI: for those of you who don't know: Myachi, pronounced "Mee-ah-chee," is the trademarked name of a sandbag, similar to a Hacky Sack, used in various games revolving around catching the bag on the back of your hand, and other parts of the body. Source: Answers.com.
A half hour and one broken table and few wild left turns later I know all about the myachi, how it started, where it's going, and I have to tell you, I'm impressed. Not only with the item, sort of a hand version of the old hackey-sack, but with Ochs. And I'm also impressed that right now today, in the year 2007, the great American Dream of making it on your own in business not only exists but is flourishing.
"It's one of our top ten sellers right now, " says Ed Schmults, CEO of FAO Schwarz, the signature New York toy store, which is a turn around story in itself. FAO has been resurrected from the ashes of near business oblivion thanks in no small measure by concentrating on it's core mission--selling great classic toys.
"It's all about 'play'," Schmults points out, while two of Ochs' myachi demonstrators are doing their thing behind us on the second floor of the FAO store.
And that's what Ochs is about, play. You can do all sorts of tricks with the myachi. You can make sound effects with your mouth while you do it. But everything about it is about play, activity, imagination. There's not a battery or a chip in sight.
Ochs came up with the idea while in college, but followed a more traditional path when it came time to make money. He went into Wall Street. Three years of that was enough. He just kept thinking about that myachi idea. So yes, he maxed out his credit cards and went for it.
Just about now is when Charles Koppelman walks in. Charles Koppelman is the former Chairman of EMI Records and the current Chairman of Martha Stewart's company. And oh yeah, he's Steve Ochs partner in the myachi.
"I just think it has great potential, great energy, and it's great for kids," he says as we walk through FAO. "I think Steve has hit upon something that has great "legs" as a business too. There are all sorts of different things we can do with the myachi, board games, promotional items. It's going to be great."
Who am I to argue with Charlie Koppelman? That's what I'm thinking while Ochs is trying to teach me how to do a myachi trick. His enthusiasm is engaging, his business vision is big, and his hands are quicker than my eyes. That darn myachi is flying around.
Is this a great country or what???
MOA is headed back to Arizona, and we'll find ourselves in Alaska and South Dakota next week.
Plenty of time to practice my myachi moves there. See you along the road.
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