Heavy interviewed creator Neal Hoffman. Here’s what he told us.
1. The Idea Came When His Jewish Son Wanted a Christmas Elf
Hoffman and his wife are an interfaith couple, raising their two sons Jewish.
The idea for the Mensch came when his son asked for an Elf on the Shelf, which is a Christmas elf doll designed to watch children to make sure they are good for Santa.
“Every December we go through the December Dilemma of my son wanting Christmas items in our home,” he said. “When he asked for an elf, my first thought was, ‘No, because we are Jewish.’ But after thinking about it for a second, I didn’t want to say ‘No,’ I wanted to come up with an alternative.”
2. He Launched the Company on Kickstarter, & the Response Was Tremendous
Hoffman took to Kickstarter in March of 2013 and raised over $22,000 in just 60 days.
“I sent thousands of messages to friends, family, classmates, and bloggers to get to our goal,” he said. “What surprised me was the reaction to Mensch months after Kickstarter. Once we had the context of Hanukkah people went crazy for the Mensch.”
3. Neal Worked in the Toy Industry
Having worked at Hasbro for six years as a brand manager, he used his experience to produce the toy. He previously worked on projects including GI Joe, the GI Joe Movie, and Tonka.
“It was my dream job,” he said. “It was an incredible learning experience and I worked with the most fantastic people I have ever met.”
4. He Did Extensive Religious Research for the ‘Mensch’ Book
To pen his first book that accompanies the doll, Hoffman put in the time to make sure it was historically accurate.
“I did a lot of research into the original Menorah, which has seven branches, versus the current one, which has nine,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we got the religious aspects as exact possible.”
The book also includes the traditions he followed as a youngster.
“The rest of the book is really designed to inspire my son to want to bring existing Jewish traditions that I grew up with into our home,” he said.
5. He Had to Stop in the Middle of Taping Because He Was So Sweaty
Hoffman applied to the show online and then got a call to interview for Shark Tank. After a successful interview, he was asked to submit a video.
Although he prepped more than enough for his appearance, he still had to combat some nerves in the midst of the sharks.
“I practiced for hours, read all of their books, watched every episode, and even then I was not prepared for just how smart they all are,” he said. “I am anxious to watch the episode and see how I come off. It was a whirlwind, but I do recall in the middle they had to stop to get me to wipe my brow I was sweating so much.”