Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
August 2, 2021
Adam Mullins | Brixilated
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Adam Mullins and I’m the founder and CEO of Brixilated. We create personalized Lego® products and experiences. It’s our mission to change the way the world plays with Lego®.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
My wife and I were living as expatriates in London as management consultants. It was a high-stress job so to decompress I would play with Lego®. At the time I had more disposable income and more time without kids. My wife wanted us to buy some art to put on the wall to remember our experience of living there. I thought art in London would be pretty expensive so I decided to try custom building a mosaic out of Lego®. It was therapeutic, an enjoyable experience, and fun to build. I took it down to High Street to be professionally framed, then built two more. By that third time, the gallery owner asked if I’d ever thought about selling these. My response was no, out of respect for actual artists, there’s no way that I can consider myself an artist. I’m a data geek selling analytic products. But he thought there might be a market for it and I agreed to put it in the gallery window on a Friday afternoon to see if there was any interest over the weekend. I figured I would just pick it up on Monday morning, but the gallery owner called on Saturday and said he’d sold the one in the window and wondered how quickly I could make 10 more. All of a sudden we were doing art shows, Lego® shows, Comic-Con, and a lot of custom commissions for clients. What started out as a little hobby became a side hustle. We knew very quickly that we had something that people really enjoyed but I wasn’t ready to leave my full-time job while living in London.
When we moved back to the U.S. in 2018, I started working on it full-time. We learned that people wanted to build mosaics and be a part of the build, not just receive something. We did an experiential build at a wedding reception, we’ve done school events, corporate events, and we’ve really figured out that there’s this market for bringing people together to build something that’s bigger than themselves. That was our business model when we started this as an LLC.
In January of 2020, I took on Brixilated full-time. However, with a global pandemic, you obviously can’t create experiences for people to come together and touch things. So we shifted gears a bit and started creating some of the local building kits that we consider our personalized products. We help fill the gap between the sets that Lego® makes and what people would like to build – the things they see every day, the people, places, and spaces that they love. The first kit we put out was a Dayton skyline set as a fundraiser for the University of Dayton. Another suburb saw that and wanted us to create one for a fundraiser. It’s been this little snowball that’s picking up energy in terms of creating something that people really enjoy building and they connect with it.
In 2021, we started developing and prototyping a Lego® mindfulness class. It’s a new building experience that we’re putting into schools. We’re really interested in the therapeutic component that comes with Lego® building. As business owners and social entrepreneurs, we hold ourselves accountable to try to do as much good as possible. We’re always trying to find those win-win situations of who can we help, who can we serve, and who can we benefit through our products.
Ultimately, creating really neat products and experiences of Lego® and using that to make the world a better place is our business model and our mission.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
We stand for using business as a force for good. You hear that a lot with B Corporations and other nonprofits. When we were figuring out that we had something here from a business model perspective, we had a “come to Jesus” moment where we talked about what we liked about business, what we didn’t like about business, and it became really clear really fast that we had something that made people smile. If we’re not putting out good products that make people have fun and make people happy, we’re not doing our job.
If we can use the business as a force for good and really impact and change lives, there’s not a better outcome. It’s really personal for us. We take what we do, how we do it, who we’re trying to help, and who we’re trying to serve as the way that we think this should operate. We want to be the model for ourselves, for our kids, and for all the people we ended up benefitting and working with.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
From a customer perspective, it’s smiles. As somebody who spent 10 years in the corporate world, it’s so satisfying to create a product that people identify with when their reaction is joy. It’s hard to explain how amazing that is, that we’re creating something that genuinely makes people happy. Putting out great products is the first part. We’re continuously evolving our product line and our experience line to try to inject them with as many learning and enrichment opportunities as possible. I talked a little bit about the therapeutic component. If you think about play being both purposeful and intentional, but also providing a vehicle from a skill development perspective, we think that there’s a big opportunity with purposeful play, and learning in particular.
We’re also having an impact on our community. We have university partnerships where we take our business model into the Dayton University ecosystem and have students who do capstone projects. We do fundraising and last year donated just about 10% of our revenue. Being able to both stand beside our community, but also raise them up through our products and experiences is a big win for us. We found there’s a big need for that right now. Last year nonprofits were hit really hard, and everybody’s looking for new innovative ways to reconnect with their customers or consumers and reestablish those relationships. We think we provide a really creative solution for that via Lego®.
Looking forward to the future, we hope to create, develop, and instill a workforce development program where we’re working with individuals within our community.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by a good group of people who all share a positive enthusiasm for the future. I have a really close leadership team. The greater Dayton-Cincinnati ecosystem is open and supportive to innovative new ways of thinking and we were really lucky to partner with the University of Dayton and their Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation. Their mission and their “how” is very similar to our mission and our “how.” We’ve had a really good two and a half years of partnering with them and it’s going to put us in a good position for 2022.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
I think our mission says at all: we want to change how the world plays with Lego®. We’re creating products and experiences, particularly in our Lego® curriculum, that can be integrated and activated by every child during their formative years. That’s across the globe. The programs we’re creating are really bringing together industry leaders who have the expertise in early development, child development, and education. We’re building programs that are fun and enriching, are adaptive from a skill development perspective, and can be scaled globally and help children’s lives at an early formative age. I envision a world where Lego® building is placed at the same caliber of importance as high school varsity sports. We can contribute to the STEM movement where we’re creating Lego® experiences that kids are doing from a very early age that are helping put them on the road to a positive, adaptive, developmental future.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
The pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse. The curse is that we lost about a year of both revenue and progress and momentum. But it was a blessing in that it forced us to look at what we were doing, how we were operating, and what we really wanted to put our resources toward. We have a diverse product and experience portfolio which allows us to create a number of things from a breadth perspective and a scale position. However, when I’m talking with investors and thinking about raising capital, I am constantly being told that I need to focus on one thing and do that well. And that’s a little bit of a disconnect between our business model and what we need right now.
The last challenge that we’re facing right now is growth. We are currently on a path to either triple or quadruple revenue this year going from that tough COVID year. We’re making sure that we’re scaling up and doing it without breaking the products, the experiences, the team, or operations. It’s a new challenge to face, but one that we’re definitely excited to take on.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
We’re very intentional with the products, the experiences, and the impact that we’re trying to make. We’re really putting a lot of time and energy into making sure that they are as enriching as possible. We are thinking beyond fun – we’re trying to inject learning opportunity, development and enrichment into our fun experiences but doing it in a way that’s kind of sneaky. It’s passive. Kids sniff out really quickly if you’re trying to teach them something. We have this curriculum that can be as easily applied into a rehab facility, a children’s hospital, a schoolroom, or handed over to a homeschooling parent. That really gives us a great amount of confidence that we’re on to something that has a lot of legs.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
It’s from Bob Dylan’s “Talking World War III Blues.” The quote is, “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.”
I always love that idea of leaning in and trying to get into other people’s worlds by basically saying, “I’m doing something here that I believe in. Come along and get involved and I want to know what you’re interested in, I want to know what your dream is,” and finding that space where everybody can kind of operate together, have some fun, and make some significant change.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
First, connect with us. Reach out through LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. We find that when people are generally aware of what we do, they automatically start thinking about how they could build our experience into their experience. Second, help us be an advocate for the change that we’re trying to make by sharing our story and talking about some of our products or experiences. Personal referrals are how I’d like this business to grow. There’s a lot that we don’t know, there’s this massive learning curve. We’re really hoping that by sharing our story that people will be interested in it and find new ways of working with us. You can find us at brixilated.com.
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