Millions of Americans are getting ready to let out a collective sigh of relief as this particularly stressful election cycle comes to an end. Regardless of the outcome of the election there will be newly obsolete signs littering lawns across the country. Many of those "I'm With Her" and "Make America Great Again" signs are destined for recycling bins but some, perhaps, might be used to start the American dream.
That was exactly what happened with August Graube, a Seattle inventor with a dream of creating a toy that would let kids build big forts like the ones he grew up playing in in Oregon. He had long had this idea and, after getting laid off, he had the motivation to try and create the toy. As a self-funded venture, Graube needed access to inexpensive materials to work with in the design process.
It was November 7th, 2012 and the tallied votes confirmed that Barack Obama was to be a two-term president. After stuffing his backpack with his fourth “Yes On 2” and his sixth “No Coal Exports” sign August Graube decided he now had enough material at his disposal. Graube, a long time do-it-yourselfer, was in the beginning stages of what would be a very long process of bringing his Fort Boards toy to market.
What those old campaign signs provided was a free supply of decent quality corrugated plastic. Much more useful than cardboard but usually harder to get, that type of plastic was perfect for Graube to create prototype after prototype of his large-scale building toy. He would eventually settle on his final product after version 165. Many of the later stage prototypes were created with 3D printing which is very expensive. Graube was thankful that he learned many of the early trial and error lessons on the free campaign signs.
To this day Graube isn’t entirely sure if what he was doing was stealing or neighborhood cleanup/recycling, two acts on opposite ends of a moral spectrum. He found some people were thankful that he was removing those “eye sores” and some people still bitter about their preferred candidate losing. The reactions he encountered didn’t seem to correlate to Democrats or Republicans.
“In a way, this is maybe the best example of both parties coming together to build something great,” Graube joked, “bipartisan fort building might be the answer to the tension in our country.”
The final product of Fort Boards is made of injection molded plastic but now, four years later, as he looks out at the sea of political signage, he is reminded of where his growing business once started. He’s also reminded that despite the nervousness that this election has caused for many people in the country, the American dream is still alive. Everyday someone out there is starting a successful business from scratch. Everyday someone is creating something great. Everyday someone is being struck by inspiration and maybe, all they have to do is look out for the signs.