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Vintage Tin Toys Become Viable Company

Monday, September 25, 2017
Aaron Brown and toys

It’s safe to say that most students enter their freshman year at Georgia Tech with big dreams. They want to invent something incredible, be a leader, or run their own company one day.

Aaron Brown, a first year industrial engineering major, is beginning his journey at Tech as the founder and CEO of a successful company: Tin Toy Arcade. The young entrepreneur runs a website that allows people to buy genuine tin toys and, hopefully, reconnect with their childhoods.

When he was in second grade, Brown discovered a box of vintage toys as he was digging around in his grandfather’s basement: think windups, robots and rocket ships. While most kids would be perfectly content to simply play with toys, Aaron Brown wanted to share them with other people.

With a five-hundred-dollar loan from his dad and camera in hand, Brown entered an art show, where he displayed creative photos of the toys next to the toys themselves and sold them as a pair. By the end of the night, he had quadrupled his father’s investment and won Best-In-Show.

“At the art show, people really liked seeing the toys,” said Brown. “I could see the happiness on their faces. It gave me the idea to reconnect adults with their childhood toys and spread that joy to more people.”

Brown’s family helped him set up a website, and whenever he got an email from an interested customer, he would go to the box of tin toys he kept in the living room and ship the toy out.

Eventually, Brown ran out of his grandfather’s old toys, but found ways to keep selling the trinkets. His newly-minted toys are created on the same machine presses that the vintage versions were made on decades ago.

The business took off, and Brown’s stock of toys grew from a cardboard box to shelving units covering the walls of his house. The toys are now stored in a large warehouse near the airport.

Brown’s toys have attracted a lot of attention. One of his products, a mini radiocon robot, was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s 2016 Off Duty Holiday Gift Guide. The vintage toys have been incorporated into the sets of a variety of movies and television shows, such as Heroes, Men In Black, The Man in the High Castle and Interstellar.

Brown’s journey has taken him all over the world, from trade shows in New York to working with toy makers in Germany. He knows what it is like to stay close to home and play it safe, as well as aim for the stars and invest four years of revenue on a shipment that could make or break the business. Brown took a big risk on items from a toymaker he thought his customers would love, and the gamble paid off; he is now the world’s exclusive retailer for these toys.

Aaron Brown with family

Brown’s success is due in part to capitalizing on the nostalgia of his customers, as well as taking carefully calculated business risks. Improvements to his business have been made in tiny increments, but Brown says that is what has made Tin Toy Arcade flourish.

“My business has been successful due to taking one step at a time, and if it doesn’t work then I take a step back, reassess the situation and step forward again,” said Brown. “Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing. So far, it’s worked out, but the business is growing and I don’t know how to wing it anymore.”

That’s where Brown’s major, industrial engineering, comes in. He loves to constantly improve the efficiency of his business—so much so that their main competitor is now Amazon, due to the ability of both companies to promise same-day shipping.

Tin Toy Arcade pulls this off with seven full-time employees, two of which are Brown’s parents. Brown says that he has learned a lot from managing people from such a young age, and likes to make sure that everyone is equal and has valued input. As CEO of a small company that has far-reaching impact, Brown finds himself doing both big and little things to keep the place running – he makes the investment decisions and takes out the trash.

Brown hopes that the math and other technical skills he learns in his classes will teach him how to continue to improve Tin Toy Arcade, as well as inspire him to come up with new ideas.

While his intent was to use Tin Toy Arcade to save money for college, Brown says that he is going to keep it going because growing the company motivates him. His passion for what he loves and his entrepreneurial spirit are some things that he shares with many Georgia Tech students. Brown thinks that the key to a great entrepreneur isn’t the spark that starts the business, but the continued work that is needed to keep an idea aflame.

“I want [the company] to be better, even though it doesn’t need to be better,” said Brown. “I think that’s what engineers should be doing anyways, whether it’s entrepreneurial or not. You can definitely apply that from engineering to the entrepreneurial spirit and passion to really make great products.”

Creating something amazing inevitably involves some risk, and Brown lives for that uncertainty. He knows, better than anyone else, that sometimes you have to be bold in order to make it big.

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Aaron Brown with family


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Georgia Tech Welcomes First Cohort of Online Master's Degree in Analytics

Monday, August 28, 2017
Student studying

The online version of Georgia Institute of Technology’s top 10-ranked master's program in analytics welcomes 284 learners in the first cohort starting August 21, 2017. Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics) begins with seven courses. This is the Institute’s second at-scale degree program, following the 2014 launch of the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program, which demonstrated that world-class education can be delivered at a lower price. The OMS Analytics is available for less than $10,000, one quarter of the cost of the Institute’s on-campus program.

The majority of learners are working professionals
Announced in January 2017, the OMS Analytics attracted more than 1,200 applicants worldwide. Of the  284 enrolled learners, 97 percent will continue working while taking the degree. Designed to meet the needs of working professionals as well as candidates who are able to study full time, the online program takes one to two years to complete and is as rigorous as its on-campus counterpart.

"Unlike most on-campus master's degrees, our first online cohort is primarily U.S. citizens, almost all working full-time, and has a median age in the thirties,“ said Joel Sokol, MS Analytics program director both online and on-campus, and associate professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech. “The demographic profile shows we're serving a large, and very important, segment of the population – working professionals who want to compete for new or more advanced jobs in data science, but are at a point in their lives where it's not realistic for them to take a year off from work. For those individuals, this program is the perfect solution."

Women and Georgia Tech alumni are well represented
Seventy-eight percent of the Fall 2017 cohort are U.S. citizens and eight percent are permanent residents. A third of the students from the U.S. come from Georgia, while the second most represented state is California, which makes up 10 percent of U.S. students. Of the 284 learners in the first cohort, 27 percent are women and 19 percent are Georgia Tech alumni.

“I’m excited to see Georgia Tech continue its journey of providing quality education at affordable prices in a manner accessible to many of today’s working adults. Even more exciting is seeing the number of women and Georgia Tech alumni in this cohort,” said Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). “Gender balance in STEM fields is among Georgia Tech’s chief diversity goals, and of course it’s our goal at GTPE to turn alumni into lifelong Georgia Tech learners.”

Although online programs tend to attract mainly male, white U.S. citizens, in this cohort 40 percent of learners identify as Asian, African-American or other. Of this 40 percent, 32 percent of learners identify as Asian while four percent identify as African American. Overall, seven percent of learners indicated they are Hispanic.

More than a third of learners already have graduate degrees
Thirty-seven percent of learners in this cohort already have graduate degrees. Of this group, 89 percent hold master’s degrees, 7 percent have doctoral degrees, and 4 percent have law degrees. Dean Baker pointed out the significance of this data, “The fact that so many already have graduate degrees and applied to our program shows the value of a Georgia Tech credential as well as the high demand for professional education in analytics.” 

According to a 2011 report on big data, the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that organizations in the United States will face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 employees with deep analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts who are able to use big data analysis effectively. 

Based on applicant feedback, one main motivation for applying to the OMS Analytics is to become a chief data officer. The top three motivations include the following:

  • Obtain a leadership role in analytics.
  • Attain a strategic leadership role or enhance one’s strategic leadership role.
  • Contribute analytics and business intelligence to one’s organization. 

Learners represent a wide range of professional backgrounds
This group of adult learners comes from a range of industries and professional backgrounds. Sixteen percent of learners in this cohort have a computer science or information technology background while 14 percent come from finance, insurance or banking. Other well represented industries include education, telecommunications, transportation and supply chain, government and defense, and manufacturing. The three most common job titles are analyst, manager and engineer. The seventh most common job tite is vice president, which means that at least five percent of the learners in this class are at VP level.

“Different backgrounds and experiences create the diversity of thought that is very important in an interactive online program like ours,“ said Yakut Gazi, associate dean of learning systems at Georgia Tech Professional Education. “Our courses in this program have group work, peer evaluation, and discussion forums, and we expect to see many instances of learning from each other in this group of students with extraordinary backgrounds,“ she added. “We also expect that these learners will form connections that transcend this program. This is another advantage of this Georgia Tech degree – incredible learner experience that surrounds the curriculum.”

Courses are prepared in-house for online delivery
The OMS Analytics is offered in collaboration with edX, the leading nonprofit MOOC provider. Building upon the success of the OMS CS degree, the OMS Analytics includes two new features, a practicum experience at scale and an alternative pathway to enter the program by taking the Analytics: Essential Tools and Methods MicroMasters© program, which is offered by edX.

A key difference between the OMS CS and Georgia Tech’s latest at-scale degree is that courses for the OMS Analytics are designed and produced for online delivery in-house by Georgia Tech Professional Education via edX.org. Within less than a year, the division’s learning design team of instructional designers, interactive media producers, graphic artists, editors and simulation experts worked with faculty and leadership to develop seven courses for the master’s and the MicroMasters© program, offered by edX.

Applications for spring 2018 are open
Georgia Tech is currently taking applications for the OMS Analytics for Spring 2018. The application deadline for early decision is September 1, 2017. For regular decision, the deadline is October 15, 2017. For more information, visit omsanalytics.gatech.edu.



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