David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store

February 20, 2017 2 Comments A+ a-

A few weeks ago I spent very inspiring weekend with David Kokai, founder of WLWYB (www.wlwyb.com) brand, who runs a large LEGO parts store, MinifigShop, MinifigBox and he's about to create his own WLWYB Media company.
LEGO is his passion, his life. There's one thing that I am pretty sure about him: he's very smart guy and knows what he talks about. In our interview, he opened up about his journey with WLWYB brand, about LEGO part business, internet social life, his LEGO media project and many more.
He's one of the lucky ones who turned his hobby into his own business.

David, what did you do before you created WLWYB brand ?
I used to work in an IT company in Austria for 11 years. I've also worked 1,5 years in the Budapest airport. I was the one who wrote the emergency handbook. That's funny, isn't it ? :-)

It's nice, it's something unusual. What was the main intention to start your own LEGO business ?
There are not too many things on Earth that are so positive as LEGO. And I wanted something where I am measured by my own output. If I'm doing well then we're going to be successful, if I'm doing bad then we're going to head into the death. It gives me so much motivation and force to get up in the morning. With WLWYB, I'm building my own success. I do not have anyone to finger point to but I don't need anyone to align myself to ... And that's so cool.

Exactly. LEGO is such a positive segment of life. 
Yes, that's absolutely true. You know, if you're selling the winter tires for the cars that's a pain in the a** for everyone. :-) Who likes to go to the tire shop ? It's expensive, it takes time, there is always so many people. We're not selling winter tires to your car. The one who orders from us is waiting for it like hell. I remember when I started and everything (almost nothing :-)) was back at home on the desk. And I've just got an email from a guy from Budapest asking what could be the quickest way I could get him one quite complicated LEGO technic part. Certainly one of the crucial ones in his system. Without that it's not just a brick missing. And I've just said OK, no problem, in 20 minutes I am at your place. I've jumped into my Porsche and burned a lot of fuel to get to his place. :-) Because at the other end there is someone who is waiting for his hobby, for his joy. This is what he likes to do and that's cool. 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
What's so cool about this segment is that there is such a big community of people worldwide interested in LEGO.
LEGO communities are everywhere, each and every is positive. So you upload two bricks, put on that "This is my project" and you don't get the usual bullying stop but rather "Oh, yes ! Welcome to the club. That's a great start. You have a long route ahead of you but it's cool, just go and whatever. " which is so cool and positive. 

Yes, when I started to be into LEGO I was so surprised by the amount of LEGO forums and ways in which you can interact with AFOL's and share the enthusiasm for bricks together. 
Who are your customers, David ? 
We have more than 6,000 new customers every year who are coming from all around the world. They are builders and AFOL's who are in need of different LEGO parts. There are many segments of them. Some are building their childhood classics, some are just replacing the missing parts from their childhood classics, some doesn't have a longterm plan just have an idea how to extend their modular building. Another ones are those who do not buy by a given intention, they just fill up their inventory. There are also many small scale professional users which sell usual stuff like key chains or small gadgets made of bricks and these are also our customers. 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
Do you have some special customer who orders from you ? 
We have many of them.  We have LEGO builders from Asia or New Zealand who orders from us. We have LEGO builders from all around the world. For example, we have a customer, he's got a flower shop, and before Valentine's Day we produce a lot of hearts for him, from small to big ones, and he sells them to his customers. 

Do you sell him just the parts and he builds it himself or you build it for him ?
In this given situation, we sell him the parts and he builds it by himself. Actually, he has 4 children to help him out to put the hearts together. :-)

So kind of child work, right ? :-)
You know, classmates of my daughter are fighting during the summer, who's gonna come to help out in my store. It's a paradise for kids ! 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
Do you have many corporate clients ?
We have some, but we could have, of course, many more. For example we supplied the energy broker company with already made sets. We are absolutely flexible. This B2B leg could be at least as powerful as the B2C leg. And what's cool is that these two legs can fit into each other. For example if we would be able to sell a big quantity of MinifigBoxes that means that all the minifigs are sold from the sets and only the parts remain. Meaning we can serve our corporate customers with much better prices because we do not have to calculate the risk for the minifigs sitting in our inventory for months. 

Tell us about the brand WLWYB, that's interesting. In all respect, WLWYB is very unusual name for a brand. :-)
The brand is an anti brand. It goes against everything which is written on first pages of every marketing book. First, this word is not pronounceable. Second, it doesn't have a secondary meaning. WLWYB is meant for an umbrella brand. And under this umbrella there are all our traditional brands like the MinifigShop, the MinifigBox and then the third part of this company are the raw bricks (our own BrickLink and BrickOwl independent part shop). So those are intended to behave like normal brands but on the top of that I just created something which is absolutely unusual. People often come confused and ask: "What ? W-L-W-Y-B ? What does these 5 letters stands for ?" But what I've just realised is that once they find it out somehow they love it and remember it for a long time and perceive us as a strong brand. 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
And how did you come up with the slogan We Love What You Build ? 
You know, brand and marketing communication works well if it triggers emotions, surely positive ones. On the other hand, on the rational level, there is the winter tire. :-) Hey guys, I need to change my car tire, I have to check it out where is it the cheapest, where can I order it online, whatever ... That's the rational level. That's not the marketing, that's the necessity. Marketing is where you can pump up the emotions. And that's the love. And what can we love ? I cannot love you as my customer because customer doesn't want that retailer loves him, he wants something else. Therefore, it cannot be authentic. I might love your money, your briefcase, your VISA card, but why would I love you ? I can love what you build. It's an absolute authentic and legitimate slogan and that slogan is used as a branding even if it is unpronounceable.

When we talk about love, I have to admit that I love your brand picture with different Minifig heads that you're using in your marketing materials. It looks perfect ... 
And you know why it's so perfect ? These are used Minifig heads and you can see all the imperfections of the heads. Mostly marketing pictures like this one are computer renders, absolutely flawless. Between the heads on the picture there are 20 years of difference. But that's why I love the picture, because these are real heads with real imperfections ... And this is the reality. 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store
What is the LEGO part business like ? 
The LEGO part business is typically organised by toy stores who sell their excess stuff or by builders who turned their hobby into their full time job. This whole segment is done by not professionals, typically individuals. And everyone who knows something or has an idea for something rather keeps it for himself. 

What kind of secret for instance ? 
Typically, pricing is an issue. LEGO part should cost in average 0.1 in general. It's a rule of thumb. Normally a good, whatever it might be, you buy more of it you get it cheaper. That's true for 85% of LEGO parts. But then there are 15% which are not behaving like normal goods. 

What do you mean by not behaving like a normal good ?
Imagine a white 1x2 brick, which is nothing special. If you need between 1 to 10 pieces it shouldn't cost you more than 0.02 per piece plus shipping, of course. If you need 10,000 of these I can get it to you for 0.8 per piece. 

That's interesting. Why there's such a big difference ? 
Just because there are more than hundred thousands of households in the world that can sell you 10 white 1x2 bricks but if you need 10,000 then you have only ca. 15 guys in the world you can turn to. Of course you will not have to face this issue if you know the uncle of the LEGO owner or if you have someone who is going to steal it for you from a LEGO factory. :-) So on the mainstream or orthodox way you have 15 guys to turn to.

Well, 80 cents for a piece if you need 10,000 of them ... it's getting expensive !
You know if you can wait 4 to 6 months maybe it's doable for 40 cents. But if you cannot wait, you have to pay. Corporate customers are the ones who are usually OK with it. So first, there are 15% of the parts which are not behaving like normal goods. They are inverted goods. And that makes the story really funny.  Second, there can be hundred times differences between very similar parts or very similar colours. That's why they like to keep it in secret. 
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
So how do you deal with the pricing issue ?
I have a tool which I created and I can load up a whole stores offerings into my database and analyse their pricing, their inventory levels, blind spots. So I can see what kind of mistakes they are making. And they are making these mistakes not because they want to - but because there is no literature or guidance on that. The 5 year database I have is a very strong advantage.

You're working on several projects simultaneously. It must be very demanding and difficult to coordinate everything. 
What's so hard for me is always to prioritise, especially between our two lines of our business, the B2C and B2B leg, because both has a huge potential to grow. And then I didn't even mention the media company stuff which should be the engine of this growth. I wanna tell you about the media company, that's interesting.

Yes, that is definitely interesting. What does media mean for you ?
I researched myself, my daughter, my friends, whoever I could ask concerning their media eating habits. I'm not a media expert so I'm pretty sure that all these things can be found in the relevant book on the second or third page. But it just gets more meaning when you realise it on your own. And I've just realised that media is doing nothing else than giving you chill out time. You want to have 30 minutes chill without using your brain, you want something to lead your thoughts. 

Do you personally live the internet social life ?
I myself have no Facebook profile. I'm pretty active on Reddit but that's the only place. I don't live the internet social life.

What exactly do you mean by WLWYB Media company ?
Until now I've always thought that we need to produce our own content. Now I think that we need to aggregate the best available LEGO related content, pick it each and every day and present it with appropriate sources to our audience. The noise around LEGO is so big. With my homemade and absolutely free tools, I am able to cover more than 10 million LEGO content basis created every month. As a media company my job is not to produce my own content. My job is to make sure that I have a mix of my own messages together with the best LEGO content available on the internet and am able to deliver it to our audience on daily basis. This is what I mean under media company. To gather the content is one part of the challenge. The other one is to distribute it via selected channels such as Facebook or Instagram accordingly. So that they not only work on their own but even strengthen each other. That's an internet marketing technical knowledge. It's not an art anymore.
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store 
That sounds great. I personally look forward to your media project a lot. Just one more question, David, aren't you afraid that someone could take advantage of your openness and steal your ideas ?
Well, I belong to those very few people in the world who don't have any problem to talk about these topics. I don't want to keep all these stuff for myself as a secret. First, I have my 5 years advantage with my database. Second, I have at least one year advantage in the business set up track as well. There are much bigger LEGO part stores, there are much bigger LEGO set stores, there are many ventures that do many things. But with the profile of LEGO satisfactory from the parts through the minifigures to the low availability sets, there is no one. That's our own issue. I have all these advantages so I'm happily talking about these taboos. :-)
David Kokai: Inspiring Story of the Man Who Runs Large LEGO Parts Store
Thanks a lot, David, for you openness and willingness to share your story and your plans with us. I'm more than sure that we will hear about your success in projects you're working on hard very soon. 

I'm more than happy that I had a chance to meet such a big LEGO enthusiast and inspiring person who knows a lot about LEGO and what's he doing.

There is a real life behind the bricks ! And these stories of people are something enormously interesting.

Hope you found David's story as interesting as I did.

2 komentářů

Write komentářů
21 February 2017 at 00:40 delete

Thank you for posting your interview with David Kokai, I enjoyed reading it.

How nice to have a full-time job working with LEGO. What's not to love?!

Lego Girl
22 February 2017 at 00:00 delete

I'm glad that you liked the interview, Eric. Yes, that's a dream job. :-)
In David's company you find LEGO everywhere - from unopened boxes full of different theme sets to bricks of various colours and shapes neatly organised in shelves and sitting there and waiting to be shipped all around the world and make someone's day brighter. That´s a paradise ! :-)