11-year-old launches construction toy company

Serving as vice president of product development for a new company is a big responsibility for an 11-year-old, but Zach Sword is up to it.

He’s been fascinated with construction equipment since he was a toddler, and the business his dad helped him launch July 25 – Zach’s Construction Toys – is focused on finding and distributing realistic, durable products and “real stuff” such as safety cones and apparel.

“The toys we were finding in the stores just weren’t cutting it,” says Chuck Sword, Zach’s father. “There’s just a certain breed of kid who goes beyond the Tonka toy.”

Zach could watch an active construction site for hours, and he wants to play with the machines he sees working, Sword says. Zach handles all product selection for his company. He goes through construction toy catalogues, tells his dad which items to buy, then plays with them and ranks them.

Many of the toys the company sells are licensed by manufacturers such as Caterpillar, Liebherr and Kenworth. Sword says licensing makes a huge difference to Zach because the toys are usually more detailed and he recognizes the machines as the ones he sees at construction sites.

Zach kicked off the new company with a media and charity event during which he donated more than 500 toys to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. “I want all kids to be able to play with the toys that I like, and these wheel loaders are a lot of fun to play with,” Zach said.

A Volvo wheel loader and a Caterpillar skid-steer loader were at the launch party, which attracted about 500 people, and Zach got to drive the skid steer in a parking lot.
Zach’s dad owns DHS Diecast, a 25-year-old construction and truck model distributor, and Zach’s Construction Toys will draw on the expertise of the older business, Sword says. The new company has been in the planning stage for eight months.

“Zach really was the reason I got into the DHS business in the first place,” Sword says. He has owned DHS Diecast for four years. “The whole idea was to look for toys and then we ended up with a company where Zach couldn’t even play with the toys.”

DHS sells adult collectible models – the kind that look nice displayed on a shelf. They are usually made of metal and contain small, detailed moving parts that are easily broken. Kids can play with Zach’s products, on the other hand, in the sandbox or in the dirt. The toys are usually made of hard plastic and include moving parts as well, but are made to withstand playtime. The company looks for toys that are new or unusual.

Zach likes to visit the warehouse when new shipments come in, but he doesn’t get to keep a lot of the toys for himself. “He would get spoiled really fast that way,” his father says. When Zach wants a toy, he has to do some work to earn it.

The 11-year-old isn’t at all hesitant about what he wants to do when he grows up. “He wants to drive a construction vehicle,” Sword says. “He wants to be an operator.”

When Zach was younger, he turned his mom’s flowerbeds into building sites. Sword says jobsites still spring up somewhere in or outside his home almost every day.

“That’s just part of living in my house,” he says. “Wondering where construction is going to be taking place.”

To view Zach’s line of toys, books, videos, safety equipment and even “dirt” made from recycled tires – it’s less messy and vacuums up easily – click the link to the right.