The start of a beautiful partnership. (1)

ernie aldo

The start of a beautiful partnership. 

Ernest van den Heuvel is 180 pounds of creative energy. Charged by a 50.000 kilovolt shock in his teen years when he climbed an electrical tower. (Yes that was stupid. Don't do this at home! Even if you really have an electrical tower near your house) He was a backhoe operator for years and did a lot of excavating work in the New York and New Jersey area. If you see a shopping mall there, then there is a big chance Ernie did the digging for the foundation. This is where he made his money. He subsequently invested in a dream: The toy brand, HandTrux and the toy that would propel it: The HandTrux Backhoe. Developing it just right so that children and grown ups would have fun using it. Also, that the right quality was there that he dreamed about. A toy that did not fall apart when you unwrapped it. Durability and strength. Like the real machine. It took a while to find the right partners in a time that money was cheap and hard to come by at the same time.

Digging your way to the top with limited means takes tenacity. Big Toy companies can establish a new toy with a big marketing budget within a few months. If you have less money to spend then you need street smarts, perseverance, creativity and all kinds of characteristics. Luckily Ernie has this in abundance. Besides that, Ernie rocks. We mean he really does rock. He makes a fine piece of music with his band "Rough Embrace". He made his first song when he was in the hospital after burning a big part of his body when he climbed the electrical tower. He got zapped by electricity, but it awoke in him an unstoppable creativity. He describes the creativity as a water faucet, you only have to reach out to touch it. 

If you ever have the chance to meet Ernie then bring plenty of energy. Not for Ernie, for you. You will need it. Ernie is "High Energy". You would think he had a few gallons of a power drink and mixed it up with more coffee then you could find in all the Starbucks in New York. The truth is he only drinks water and ACV. Apple Cider Vinegar. So what you always get is pure Ernie. Besides inventing Toys and other things, he plays guitar and sings in his rock band, rides his Harley Davidson, still operates heavy machinery and works very hard on HandTrux and the HandTrux animation and film, forthcoming. That is where his focus is. 

The last few years he has developed the HandTrux Backhoe together with the factory he has been doing business with for years. After some set backs you apparently cannot do without, things are really starting to take off. The toy is as good as it can be. It actually inspires the imagination. The toy and the packaging have gone through a few changes and is now perfected. Someone who was always there to help Ernie is John Romano. He has his own business, a web development company, but he has a lot of experience in the toy industry. You could say that Ernie is the creative energy and John is the business "cool and collected" sense in the background. 

Now HandTrux is beginning to do very well in the USA. Sales are being made, people are blogging and writing about it. The press picks it up. Social Media gets the word out. This is also the medium where Aldo de Beunje saw the HandTrux Backhoe for the first time. He also became zapped. Not by electricity, but by the idea. Something "clicked" and the Dutch computer programmer and entrepreneur felt he needed to get in touch with HandTrux. So he did. 

Aldo de Beunje has started his career with selling candy in Germany. The start of that career meant he needed to learn to speak german quickly. He did not mind. After a few months he speaks it fluently. He had gone to school, had seen it and well that was enough. He decided from a young age that he can teach himself the things he needs to know, when he needs to know it. After a career as a salesman he decided to switch to computers. He always was fascinated with computers since he was young. He had programmed a computer on the age of 12. He asked his parents to give him one but they did not see the point. Who needs it? So no proper education, no degree. A nice, but not great, job as a salesman. How do you get in the IT business as at most a gifted amateur? Well, you send every contact from every job opening with the word "computer" in it, a fax. (Because E-mail and internet was not really a fact then.) About 400 faxes and 34 interviews later Aldo has a job with a insurance company.

They were willing to pay for his training. They liked his spirit and energy. They invested in him. 18 hours a day "playing" with computers and learning everything about this piece of electronics was then a way of life. He built a whole computer network in his house to be able to learn how things work. Making your hobby into work, so you never felt you were working. After 14 years there is a lot he knows about computers. The great thing about the computer industry is that you never stop learning. There is always something new to learn. After network administration, hardware and programming in several computer languages, he had a nice scope of knowledge.  For someone who dropped out of school this was strangely enough something he liked. Constantly educating himself, but the commercial vibe was always there. For a few years he was waiting for a chance to do something with it, then HandTrux came along. 


beach handtruxOn a facebook page about design, he saw the photo of a boy who was digging in the sand on the beach. It clicked in his mind. "This is it" he thought. He could actually see the child using his imagination, he had never felt this before, but it seemed like everything came together. When you know, you know. Luckily it said HandTrux on the toy itself, so it did not take long with the help of google to find out who was behind this wonderful toy. He sent an e-mail to HandTrux. It was December 12, 2012:

Dear mr/mrs/ms,

I found the handtrux backhoe by accident and loved it immediately.
I was wondering if you can give a entrepreneur a break an let me
sell it in The Netherlands, Belgium and maybe even Germany?
I think i would be a great representative.
I am verry enthusiastic about this great toy.
Can i buy these wholesale ? What would they cost ?

Kind regards

Aldo de Beunje

aldo ruzannaAfter a few days there was a e-mail from Mr. Van Den Heuvel. From Mister it went quickly to "Heeeey Ernie!". From e-mailing back and forth it went to skyping. They found out they were a lot alike and had similar ideas about toys, about how kids should be actively playing, to be creative and build something with their hands connected to their minds connected to their imaginations, to learn a skill they are emotionally tied to they will learn better. How to get things moving without a big marketing budget or ad campaign. They talked for hours, dozens of ideas back and forth, a true entrepreneurial brainstorm. Ernie said to Aldo that there was a friendship that was forming. Aldo said to Ernie that he felt the same way and asked if this means that there was a discount on the purchase. They laughed. Business is important. Having fun doing business is even more important, especially when you're in the toy business. 

They worked out an agreement and put it in writing. Aldo and Ernie may be kids at heart, but they are also enough of businessmen to know that they must set up a contract for this kind of thing. To celebrate this and to show the appreciation Ruzanna and Aldo felt towards Ernie and HandTrux, they sent a big box with some typical Dutch treats and gifts in it for Ernie, Lauren and John. But also for all the workers in the factory where HandTrux was made. 

Aldo was first talking about a thousand units, but transport cost made him decide he should go for a full 40 foot container. His wife Ruzanna who was also taken by the HandTrux supports her husband fully. They decided together to go for a shipping container. She said: "Then you can spend some money on a plane ticket as well." Ruzanna who came from Armenia to The Netherlands has family in New York. Aldo could stay there to save money. They have put there life savings (and some more) in the HandTrux dream. Let's go for it.


Keep reading: "To the big apple for a big container (2)"


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