Today's interview is with an inspiring young man named Max J. Ash. Max is a budding entrepreneur with dyslexia who created a slam-dunk mug design at just eight years old. When asked by his 2nd grade art teacher to make a mug, Max had the ingenious idea to add a hoop for tossing marshmallows into hot cocoa. Max’s parents helped him submit The Mug With A HoopTM to a product innovation contest held at Fenway Park and he was named a top ten finalist and winner of the community vote. A full court press put the mug into production and with over 18,000 units sold (approximately $400,000 in retail sales) in the first few months on the market, it now serves as a model success story that raises support and awareness for the upside of kids who learn and think differently. Max was recently issued his first patent from the U.S. Patent office and he has additional patents pending. He is Chief Creator and Chairman of the Board of MAX’IS Creations, Inc., the family business he now runs with the help of his parents and brother Sam. He is currently in 4th grade at The Carroll School in Waltham, Massachusetts, a school for children with language-based learning disabilities. He is an avid baseball and basketball player and connoisseur of basketball shoes and socks. Max's full story and Max'Is Creations business are worth checking out. We're delighted to publish his interview, below:
CSC: Out of all the steps you've taken to go from your initial assignment in school to a successful business with multiple patents (or patents pending), we're most curious about the manufacturing. How did you decide on MudShark Studios in Oregon and are the white mugs still made there? How did you decide on the manufacturer in Thailand?
Max: It was hard to find a place to manufacture in the USA. My dad found Brett Binford of Mudshark Studios in Portland Oregon and he offered to help me make my mugs. We sent him 3D printed pieces that he could use to make the molds. And then he made my first edition white mugs. The mugs made at Mudshark Studios cost too much to sell them. So we tried to have my mugs made in China but the factory did it horribly. So then we found another factory in China but it looked bad. The color was bad and the rims were crooked. So then my dad searched up people and found Ed Weiner at Maryland China Company. Ed works with a great factory in Thailand and he has become our sourcing agent and manufacturing partner. He does the factory visits and tells people what to do to make the mugs right and they ship them on a boat to us.
CSC: Part of your path has involved presenting to large groups of people, sometimes reading a speech. Because reading, in particular, is often a notable challenge for people with dyslexia, we always like to ask folks what special tricks or techniques they employ as they practice and prepare for important presentations. Can you fill us in?
Max: I have a hard time answering questions and do better reading off a script. Sometimes my parents help me create a powerpoint and I read that and in some interviews they have a teleprompter.
CSC: We're curious about what advice you would give to a creative, young person like yourself who also has dyslexia...maybe this person is full of innovative ideas, but doesn't have a support network in place (like your awesome parents!) or feels that nothing they do is good enough. What might you say to this person?
Max: Keep trying to work harder and try your best.
Camp Spring Creek: Our campers come from all over the world to spend 4-8 weeks with other creative thinkers and make friends for life. But many have had experiences before they arrive that don't sit well--feeling misunderstood at school, experiencing low self-esteem, unexplained challenges, or constant comparison to their peers. What is your "dyslexia discovery story," including some highs and lows?
Max's older brother Sam answered this question: When Max was little, he didn't learn at the same pace as everyone else in his classroom so he had a hard time learning to read. My parents found The Carroll School, which is a school for kids with learning disabilities. Since going to Carroll, Max's reading has improved gigantically and he has improved on his writing. Max has learned that he's as smart as everyone else he just needs different kind of teaching.