October 02, 2015

MEET YOUR MAKER: Ken Ciak of LOD Enterprises

Every business has real people behind it. But who are these people? Are they just like you and me? What are the reasons they got into the business? How did they get into the business?

LOD Enterprises with the great tag line "Plastic toy soldiers – created today with a nod to the past" is the new kid on the block for large scale plastic figures. So now it's time to...

Ken Ciak of
LOD Enterprises

Ken with his two lovely children at the
Chicago Toy Soldier Show

Tell us a little about yourself?
I am 45 years old and live in Green Bay, WI.  I was born in Western Massachusetts but have lived in the Midwest for the last 38 years primarily in Green Bay and Indianapolis.  I am huge fan of the Homer’s Iliad, sports, and know a fair amount about Star Wars (the original trilogy).  I am happy to be a new manufacturer in this hobby and will strive to create figure sets and accessories that appeal to the most enthusiastic fans.

Where do you live, family? what do you do for a living? 
I am married and my wife’s name is Sara.  We have seven year old twins, a son named Alex and a daughter named Emma.  I have worked in the health insurance and employee benefits arena since I graduated from college in 1992.  I manage a sales team in the central part of the country and travel 3 of every 5 weeks for a couple of days or so.

When & how did you get interested in plastic figures. What led you down the path to being a manufacturer?  
I was a fan of plastic toy soldiers and dinosaurs when I was younger.  I never really lost my interest in them, but did detour for a number of years as I collected Star Wars and Micronauts’ figures in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Seeing advertisements in various magazines for playsets as an adult intrigued me and I started attending the OTSN in Chicago four years ago.  I noticed that the ancients were not represented as well as other eras so I decided to investigate creating a playset focused on the Trojan War.  A few conversations with Nick Versteeg of Toy Soldiers of San Diego after purchasing his Romans and Barbarians set put me on the path to being a manufacturer.

Do you have any other interests beside this hobby?  
My primary interests outside of toy soldiers focus on sports, movies, reading, and Star Wars (third mention, I know).  My kids are entering the age where their sports take up a lot of time, but I also stay active by playing basketball and flag football in various pick-up or city leagues.  I also play golf and assist in coaching the kids.

How did LOD Enterprises come to be? 
The company came to be as a way to distribute the figure sets.  I initially looked to partner with an existing manufacturer possibly trading my investment and creative energy for their existing platform to bring the product to market.  When that did not come to be, I formed LOD Enterprises.  The name is a play off of the old Superfriends enemies, The Legion of Doom, from the early 70’s cartoons.  My buddies and I used the “Legion of Doom” name for our various traveling flag football teams from the 90’s.  I felt it was a good homage to my closest friends.

Creating and manufacturing plastic figures is a tough business. Tell us a little about the process and what goes into creating a set of plastic figures
The process has been longer than what I expected, but the timing and expectations have been met all along the way.  The idea came about in the fall of 2013 at the OTSN and I started working with an artist on the sculpts early in 2014.  This was her first foray into plastic figures and we worked closely on the poses and look of each warrior.  It took about six months to come up with the sculpts before they were ready to be sent to the factory in China.  From there the process started again with plenty of communication back and forth on the sculpts, details, and desired look of the figures.  This process takes about five or six months though I will stress that all timelines (deadlines) were met by both parties.  Invariably, both the factory and myself have other responsibilities so there are stretches that appear to be slower than others.  The intent and expectation was for the first figure set to be delivered in time for the OTSN in late September.  The figures are due to arrive at LOD Enterprises headquarters the second week of September.

The five archers shows the process from start to finish going from left to right.
The first three were created using a 3D printer and the dark grey one was used by the
factory to create the prototype.  The prototype is the dark beige archer
 (4th from left) and the final figure is the blue one.
Ken manning his table at the 2015 Chicago Toy Soldier Show
Tell us about the historical research behind your figures.
The War at Troy and the heroes from Homer’s Iliad have been a passion project to study and read about since the 6th grade.  I have no less than 50 books on Homer, the time period, and ancient warfare in my bookcase right now.  Most of the information I have found online or at a library already exists in my collection.  There are a number of Osprey books on Mycenaean warriors, the Bronze Age, and plenty of source material from Homer’s classic as well.  I am a stickler for detail so the sculptor and I discussed many of the nuances I hope collectors will appreciate in the set.  There will not be any Corinthian helmets as an example as they did not become relevant until Homer actually is credited with writing the Iliad (700 BCE) as opposed to when the conflict occurred (1250 BCE).

What does the future hold for LOD?
We are currently working on the second figure set, which will include chariots and new poses for the figures, as well as three separate foam pieces to allow collectors create the walled city that withstood the ten year siege. 

What are some of your favorite web sites?
I receive e-mail updates from a handful of dealers and follow a number on Twitter as well.
add links:

Do you post about your hobbies on Facebook or other social media outlets?

I have a Twitter page (@lodtoysoldiers) and the website is under construction (www.lodtoysoldiers.com).  I will have a Facebook page up and running by the time of the OTSN next month.

Read Tom Stark's overview on the first set from LOD HERE

View all LOD Products Available

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