Creative Fold's Edoardo Kulp - Live What You Love

by The Creative Fold | 09 Mar 2023

Biographies and Interviews




(Mary) Hi Edoardo! Every time I visit our local italian restaurant, I remember running into you there last fall - the world is a small place! Please share with our readers your roles and responsibilities in our industry?

I am currently the Director of Business Development and co-owner of Creative Fold, a creative and product development agency primarily in the Toy and Game area.


What is your claim to fame in the industry?

“Claim to Fame” is a bit of hyperbole. But if there is one thing I can state is my claim to fame, it’s the development and launch of Ken Gruhl’s and Quentin Weir’s amazing game, Happy Salmon. I was with North Star Games (NSG), and at the 2015 Toy Fair, Ken and Quentin showed us Happy Salmon. Nick Bentley, who was also at NSG (now at Underdog Games) insisted we grab it. Of course, the game was just a prototype at the time, and NSG gave me the responsibility to make it into a sellable game. The gameplay itself was already perfect, but we had to figure out how to package it in a way that would make it stand out. Should we put it in a box, a plush package, or perhaps…a salmon! I created a number of prototypes using many neoprene laptop cases, found a graphic designer, located an excellent manufacturer, and voilà, a Happy Salmon was born. Initially, the game didn't sell very well because people didn't understand what it was all about. But as soon as a retailer demonstrated it, it was, well, hook, line, and sinker. Instant sale. Even hardcore gamers loved the game. It went on to win ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids, Origin’s Best Family Game and was nominated for a TOTY. Happy Salmon was the genesis of NSG’s Happy Planet line of games which I also had the pleasure to developed. The line included another TOTY nominee and Gruhl/Weir brainchild, Monster Match, and the German import Dirty Pig (Kosmos’ popular Drecksau). It was so much fun working on these games and probably something I would call a highlight of my career.     



What has been your biggest achievement?

Other than being a great husband (I think), raising my 3 amazing kids, and developing Happy Salmon, I would say it was summiting Mount Reiner. At 14,411 ft, it’s not a huge peak, but it was a goal I wanted to accomplish. I trained extensively for it and I did it. Mind over matter… 


What was your biggest failure?

After 2.5 years at ThinkFun, I thought I needed a change and a way to expand my marketing experience. I went to LivingSocial, the online coupon company. It lasted all of 7 weeks. It just was not a good fit for me. Honestly, I thought I was doing a good job, but being an internet company, they were working a mile-a-minute and everyone expected instant results. Additionally, they really did not have a “product”. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my working career. I consider it a failure as nothing like that had ever happened to me. But looking back, it was also one of my biggest successes. I learned what I did not want to do in my career, and it immediately led to a nine-year stint at North Star Games.


Do you have a mantra that you live by?

Live what you love. My kids gave me a Mantra Band with this on it and I wear it every day. I truly believe it.


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

My wife is an accounting professor and we moved from Boston to the DC area for her new job at the George Washington University School of Business. In Boston. I was a Brand Manager at Staples helping manage their own-brand writing category. My previous work included marketing and brand management work at Gillette and Polaroid. I had a ton of consumer product experience at these amazing companies and thought I would be able to find something similar in the DC area. At the time, DC did not have many consumer product companies. I was not interested in working in the government or the defense industry! After doing some consulting for a little over a year, I happened to find a job posting for a Marketing Manager at ThinkFun, which was located in Alexandria, only 25 minutes from my house. The rest, as they say, is history.    


What are you working on now?

I am co-owner and Director of Business Development for Creative Fold, a product development agency – or as we like to call it, a problem-solving company. The company was started by Jodi Meusel and Katie LaSeur. I met them at ThinkFun, where Jodi was the Director of Product Manufacturing and Katie was the Director of Product Development. I have now been at Creative Fold for over a year. Because of our backgrounds, we work primarily with companies in the toy and game industry, but we work on other things too – like pet products and working with non-profits. I love connecting with people in my Business Development role to see if we can help meet their needs, but I am still completely ensconced in the development projects we bring in. I love that part of the job!  


What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?

Seeing the joy on EVERYONE’S faces after using a fun toy or playing an awesome game gets my blood flowing. Since starting my toy and game journey at ThinkFun, I have never considered leaving. After all, back in 2017, I played Happy Salmon for 4 days straight, 8 hours a day, at the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. Only someone who really likes this industry can do that!  


If you look back at yourself 10 years ago is this where you thought you’d be?  Where did you think you’d be? What changed? What went right?

Never in a million years did I think I would be in this industry. After all, I started in investment banking, then went into consumer products developing and marketing Oral-B toothbrushes, instant cameras, and office products. But at 53, I am truly a kid at heart and all my friends and family say that this is my destiny. I totally believe things happen for a reason.


What was your favorite project to date?

Definitely my work on Happy Salmon and North Star Games’ Happy Planet Line. Tied for second would be my work on Polaroid’s “Polaroid One Instant Camera” (which, as the first redesign of an instant camera in 23 years, was touted as the product that would save Polaroid…it didn’t) and Staples’ Easy Button.


What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

I personally am happy that the “poop trend” has passed us, somewhat. J I am happy to see more originality in games, not just the re-skinning of old games. I hear that some of the smaller game companies are struggling after making gains over the past few years. I really hope that people continue to put down the electronics, look up, and play fun, family-friendly board games.   


What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

Test, test, and test some more. Listen to your testers and the people around you. Negative feedback only makes you and your product stronger.


What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?

Yes, you need to make a living. But do what you love, and don’t go into an industry or a job just for the money. You will be miserable. As I like to say, live what you love. You want to wake up in the morning wanting to get to your job/your daily tasks. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but if you love what you do, there are way more ups than downs.   


What advice do you have for people starting in the industry?

North Star Games was a very small company, and I came in as their Marketing Manager. But soon, I was helping with product development, developing a website, and managing sourcing and manufacturing. Learn to be flexible and open yourself up to doing anything to get your foot in the door. You’ll learn a ton and it can only help you in the future.


Do you have a typical workday and how does it play out for you?

At Creative Fold, we are totally remote, so I have my home office. My typical day involves getting up, working out, getting to my desk, looking at emails, working on projects, walking the dog…repeat. Oh, I should mention that I do work in family-time too! 


What’s your workspace setup like?

I love my home office. It’s spacious, yet simple. My large window allows me to see my kids come home from school. It’s perfect for my dog to look out too! I have a standing desk that lets me believe that I am getting more exercise. Most important is my credenza which shows off the many products that I have worked on over the years. Some people may call it the “ego display”. I don’t think it’s ego, but pride and gratitude for the opportunities given to me.  



What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Working with some extremely talented people within Creative Fold and beyond. It’s so rewarding. But what I absolutely love is seeing the finished product coming out of a manufacturing facility after what could have been months and months of development. That is the best!


What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

How to convince my kids to help me test the products I am working on!


What and/or who inspires you?

My parents. They both, respectively, escaped the Nazis in Europe and made it to the US. It was not easy, but they created a life for themselves that eventually led to meeting each other, marrying, and having my brother and me. I cannot imagine their fear as they stayed one step ahead of the Nazis. The stories they tell (and I have documented) are a testament to perseverance, determination, and fortitude.


How do you recharge or take a break?

My wife and I are big Below Deck fans. Monday nights on Bravo can’t come soon enough. It’s so outlandish, but it’s so good! Otherwise, long walks with my wife and Labradoodle.


What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. I loved the creativity.


What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

I am totally an early adopter. New gadget? I have to have it. I almost single-handedly converted the entire Gillette Company to using the US Robotics Palm Pilot when it first came out in 1997 – the original one! I have used an iPhone from the very beginning. I cannot live without it.


interview product development sourcing packaging Happy Salmon game design marketing

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