It's Just Ducky Manufacturing in the U.S.A.
The Rubber Ducky is an American icon. As such, Craig Wolfe believes that its future descendants should be made in the United States.
“The rubber duck was actually invented in the USA,” notes Wolfe, founder and president of CelebriDucks. His company designs and produces collectibles that celebrate some 200 film, music, sports, and historical personalities as rubber ducks. When he got into the business in 1998, Wolfe was bothered by the fact that all of the rubber ducks sold in this country — including his — were manufactured overseas.
“The most important thing for me was bringing a whole industry back to America,” Wolfe says. “We need to bring jobs back here and not outsource America all over the world. You may get cheaper goods, but in the end people have to have jobs to buy things.”
Moving his manufacturing operation from China to the United States was no easy task. “I cannot tell you the stressful learning curve we went through doing this,” Wolfe says. “The costs of doing it here were so much more expensive than overseas. It was shocking. But in time we started to figure it out.”
Wolfe says the lessons he learned cost tens of thousands of dollars, but he has now found the right blend of manufacturing partners and streamlined production techniques to make it work. “Slowly but surely, we are recouping our entire investment,” Wolfe says. “You need nerves of steel to do this, but if you have faith that it can work, sometimes it actually can. We are cost-effective and profitable now but it was quite an investment to get to this point," Wolfe says.
Wolfe says 100 percent of the pre-production of his ducks and 25 percent of the final manufacturing is taking place in the United States now, with plans to bring even more of that work back home.
“The first batch of ‘Hatched in the USA’ ducks sold out right away, and we are moving to our new factory in New York from Ohio to speed up the process,” Wolfe says. “I know it’s very expensive and a big risk, but I don’t regret one moment of doing this.”
Wolfe is expanding his line of new domestically produced ducks and says he is positive that he is taking the rubber duck business in the right direction for the good of his business and the economy. Fifteen staffers continue to work in various cities in Ohio in artwork, fulfillment and warehousing while 20 more work in production at two factories in New York City.
"Where manufacturing goes, the service industries also follow,” Wolfe says. “You cannot ever give that up and think there are no consequences.”
Carla Turchetti is a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who is passionate about small businesses and the stories behind them. Carla is a small-business columnist at the News & Observer, the regional daily newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina.