Minneapolis pro teams might not be collecting any hardware these days, but the trophies coming out of Twin Cities suburb Maple Grove—and specifically, a little company called Titlecraft—are second to none. We asked Titlecraft founder Edward Reichow about fantasy football awards, participation medals and the best question to ask when creating a killer trophy. Stanley Cup makers, take note.
The question you always ask is, “What if?” What if you did this, what if you did that, what if a table had three legs instead of four legs? Then you just kind of let your mind wander from there.
MADE MAN: So why did you start making handcrafted trophies?
EDWARD REICHOW: I wanted to make the anti plastic bowling trophy. No matter what sport you play, if you’re really into it, you’re putting in a lot of effort and a lot of time. I wanted to come up with something that justifies the effort that you put into your sport—something heirloom-quality, that wasn’t going to end up in a garage-sale box in a couple of years. In other words, your wife wouldn’t get mad at you if it was sitting on the mantel.
MM: Did you ever get a trophy as a kid that fell apart?
ER: Actually, yeah, I had one that fell off the shelf and it broke and we fixed it, but it didn’t really have a profound effect on me. I just knew it was kind of cheap. But as an adult, part of the allure initially was coming up with a fantasy football trophy that was worthy of the effort that you’re putting in every week. You want the bragging rights, you want to show it off, so that’s why I wanted to come up with something that was really cool.
MM: Your trophies contain both wood and aluminum. That’s pretty unusual, right?
ER: They’re unique. With our different sports balls, we actually handcraft the seams and the laces to give it a really nice, high-end, handmade, hand-finished feel that you can’t really get with anything else that’s out there right now. It certainly has an audience, because they are selling very well. We’ve even got a lot of interest overseas. It’s definitely a fun industry to be in because I’m a huge sports fan myself.
MM: What does a typical day in the shop look like?
ER: We’re either turning sports balls on the blade or assembling, putting things together and polishing aluminum. It really varies depending on the day, but there’s definitely some sawdust created every day.
MM: How do you get your design ideas?
ER: Oh, I’m crazy. The wheels are spinning constantly. I’ll see something and like it, and the question you always ask in design or when you’re being creative is, “What if?” What if you did this, what if you did that, what if a table had three legs instead of four legs? Then you just kind of let your mind wander from there. I try to create new stuff every year. You always have to sharpen the sword and stay on the cutting edge of design so the line doesn’t get stale.
MM: Have you won one of your own trophies?
ER: You’re not supposed to ask me that! In fantasy football, I have not. In other things, I have. The funny thing that’s always thrown around on blogs and message boards about me is they say that some people are meant to build trophies and some people are meant to win trophies. So I was obviously meant to build trophies.
MM: These days, kids get trophies just for showing up, even if they lost the game. How do you feel about that?
ER: I’m against that. Life doesn’t give you trophies. You’ve got to earn them. If you lose, you lose. That’s just as important a life lesson as when you win, so I’m not for giving trophies to everybody just because you don’t want to make somebody feel bad. Life is definitely not fair, and there’s no time like when you’re a kid to figure that out. But it also makes you appreciate it more when you win, because you had to earn it.