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What's Your Business?

By ALEX KNISELY GateHouse Media Ohio Published: July 5, 2017 12:00 AM
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Possum Products owner Russ Riggle plays with toys all of the time.

Riggle handmakes wooden toys -- anything with four wheels or that can fly in the sky.

Riggle owns Possum Products in Newcomerstown, and travels to festivals and craft shows to display and sell his homemade toys that are created with American-made materials.

Here's what Riggle had to say about his business:

What types of products do you make and what can they be used for?

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"My only product is handmade wood toys. Items range from planes, trains, trucks, tractors and things in between. I currently have around 70 active items in production. I am constantly working on new designs and introduce new products when time allows. The primary purpose of my products is to provide toys for kids (of all ages). Some customers use specific items as display pieces in their collections. A unique application is advertising. I will make an item and have my customer's logo laser etched onto the sides. My customers then can hand them out as long-term advertisement."

What got you into this? A hobby?

"When my job moved overseas, I found myself with more time on my hands than I had planned. I am the type of person who needs to be productive and toys are cool. I built some and started selling a few at the Newcomerstown Farmers Market. I expanded my area to about a two-hour radius for increased sales. With my two sons' help, I have expanded to doing over 40 shows a year. Recently, we tried several out-of-state venues to test the market."

What's the best part about owning your own business? What are the challenges?

"The best part of the job is the flexibility. When I first started, my father was having medical issues and needed help. Other than during show times, I could drop what I was doing and take care of him. He has since passed, but I am used to the flexibility now. My biggest challenge is health insurance. With premiums going up around 30 percent a year, I need to increase sales volume to just keep even. Doing the accounting part of the business is also a bit of a challenge for me."

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Is hand making wooden tools your only job?

"We have some investment income and the wife is a good money manager. That combination and a lot of hours allow me to work full-time with the toys."

What makes handmade wooden toys, such as the products you make, unique?

"No metal, finish or plastic. Just non-toxic food grade glue and wood. All of my materials that I use are made in the United States, mostly Ohio. Using my own designs and custom-made wheels allow my products to be unique in the market."

What's the average amount of time it takes for you to make one product, from start to finish?

"I don't keep track of time. If I did, it would become work. The way it is, I get to play with toys all of the time. How cool is that? I do spend a tremendous amount of time in the basement and working shows."

How do you market and sell your products?

Through promotions at area festivals or through social media? "The majority of my sales are made through festivals and fine craft shows. I also sell through several consignment shops. I am developing a few wholesale markets as well."

What's behind the name Possum Products?

"Me and a bunch of other people thought that 'busy beaver' was a great name for a wood working business, but no one had used Possum so it kind of stands out, and is a little catchy."

(Alex Knisely is a staff writer for the New Philadelphia Times-Reporter).

Possum Products LLC

9700 Stonecreek Road SW, Newcomerstown

Phone: 330-447-7617

Hours: Does not sell out of listed address

Been in business: Five years

Owner: Russ Riggle


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