Interview With Ben Westover, Co-Founder Of Megalopolis: City Of Collectibles

 

 

We have conducted an interview with Ben Westover, one of the Co-Founders of Megalopolis: City Of Collectibles that is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Check out the interview below, and make sure to check out their online store. They offer great rewards points, Free U.S. and Canada Shipping of orders of $150 USD or more, an opportunity to own stock in the company and more great perks.

 

1. Hi Ben, thank you for taking the time for this interview especially during the holiday season. I understand how busy things can be especially fulfilling all of the orders you guys have been getting this holiday season. Let’s start off with the beginning of your journey and how you and Matt came about to purchase Megalopolis: City of Collectibles in 2018, and have since grown the company into a recognized brand among adult fans and collectors. Also, who created the character of Toy Overlord?

My pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!

Matt and I were actually heavily involved in the creation of the original Megalopolis. I was hired to design the branding as well as some of the operational logistics, and Matt did a lot of the early web design and tech build outs. So the Megalopolis name, the Toy Overlord character, the art direction, all of that stuff was created by us.

The original owner wasn’t really a “toy guy” so to speak and had a different vision for the brand than we did. After a couple of years, he realized he wasn’t really passionate about toys and collectibles and decided he wanted to move on to another opportunity. 

Matt and I still loved our vision for the brand and the intellectual property we had created and wanted to build something special. Matt worked out the necessary details to start building out under a new entity, and we’ve been off to the races ever since!

The Toy Overlord was my creation, though he has evolved a lot with both Matt and our amazing graphic artist Andrew Cramer contributing greatly to the development of the character. He really gets his personality from all 3 of us and our various warped senses of humor!

 

2. How did you get started with toys and collectibles, and was this always a passion or something you have grown to appreciate now that you’re working in the industry?

It’s definitely been a lifelong passion. I’ve always loved toys, and started collecting action figures when I was 4 years old with Masters of the Universe. I started my first little toy company when I was 13, buying my friends old collections and selling and trading at flea markets. I’ve done everything from ecommerce to retail management to product design, you name it. I have plastic in my blood!

Matt is of course a lifelong collector as well, and having grown up on different properties than I did, it adds a broad spectrum of expertise.

 

3. Can you tell us what your average day is like at Megalopolis, and during your time at the company, what has been your biggest challenge and accomplishments?

I’m not sure there such a thing as an average day! What we do is so multi-faceted it varies from minute to minute, but that’s part of what I love about it. 

At any given moment you could find me working on a new product design, designing a store layout, talking to a customer, working with vendors, cursing about freight delays or playing with a new figure at my desk! Matt and I are constantly at work laying out the roadmap for the next 5-10 years, and working on the next piece and reveal. We work around the clock 7 days a week, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The biggest challenge is always building an audience. There’s a few collectibles companies that do a great job, and there’s a lot that frankly don’t.  So you have to prove yourself to earn trust, and also differentiate yourself to offer something different than what’s already available. And you have to do so for a fandom that is very passionate and very demanding. If you slip up even a little, they let you know! 

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have so many amazing fans and to have grown very big very rapidly. With that there’s always some growing pains and adjustments to make, and those are the hurdles that top the list. But again, we have been so fortunate to be doing so well in this competitive industry and those supporters that have made it possible mean the world to us.

I would say that in and of itself is the biggest accomplishment. There have been many others we are very proud of, such as launching the first of its kind mobile app, creating exclusives, partnering with industry heroes the Four Horsemen, and many that are yet to be unveiled. But building this community and culture we are committed to and seeing that succeed so fast and in such a big way is by far the top of the list.

 

4. A mobile app for an online toy store is not something you see very often for a store like yours. How did that get started and what has been the outcome of this so far?

It was something we wanted to do right out of the gate. We saw that 80% of purchases were coming through mobile, and most sites in collectibles were not even mobile responsive. The industry just wasn’t keeping up with the trends in technology.

As collectors ourselves, we always had to go to multiple sites for news, entertainment, and purchases and it was very time consuming and inefficient. We wanted to build an app where you got all of that in one place. We’re very proud to have been the first to do it.

 I’ll also add that this is Megalopolis Mobile 1.0 and a proof of concept version. What’s to come is truly mind blowing!

To answer the second part of your question, the outcome has been tremendous. We had over 5,000 downloads within hours of the announcement at SDCC and thousands more continue to join. It’s incredible.

 

5. In 2019, we’ve seen so many great toys, including the news of the return of ThunderCats Classics and the launch of Masters of the Universe; Origins next year. What has been your personal favorite tidbit of news for the year?

It was definitely a banner year for collectibles! So many amazing new products, and I felt like a lot of companies were thinking outside of the box and evolving their offerings. 

If I had to choose 1 tidbit of news, it would be Masters of the Universe returning to Mattel and the launch of Origins as well as so much new entertainment. There’s also some other plans Mattel hasn’t unveiled publicly for Masters that has me INCREDIBLY excited as a He-Man fan.

I also have to give a shout out to NECA. I don’t think there was a better line this year than their TMNT figures, both animated and movie. Those and their Gremlins releases were my favorite 2019  figures.

 

6. This past San Diego Comic-Con, was this your first time attending the show and what did you think of the overall experience? Did you obtain any goodies from the show and what was your favorite experience and memory?

We’ve been out before, but 2019 it was really next level. With it being the 50th Anniversary, it was just jam packed. We spent so much time in meetings and doing press we didn’t get as much time to interact with people as we would like, but that interaction is really the highlight for us. We love meeting fans and getting feedback that helps us continue to grow and refine Megalopolis.

We did manage to obtain some goodies of course! The NECA TMNT pack and the MOTU Origins 2 pack were my faves, but I also got some fun unique pieces like the Unruly Industries Thanos vinyl figure that I love.

 

7. The partnership with The Four Horsemen Studios put Megalopolis on the map among Mythic Legions fans and collectors. How did this come about and how has it been going fulfilling orders? To your experience, have there been any QC issues with the figures? I also wanted to ask if Megalopolis will be selling Mythic Legions on the website, as well as distributing the figures?

We had been talking to the Horsemen for quite some time about it. Originally, I had seen a post from Cornboy in one of the collector groups where he mentioned their desire to stock certain figures all year round and that they were exploring warehousing and whatnot. I instantly understood the implications of that, both pro and con, and just shot him a quick message that if he ever wanted to chat I thought I had some ideas that could be mutually beneficial.

Mythic Legions was growing exponentially every wave, and it was getting to the point where the Horsemen would have to become a full-fledged Ecommerce retailer to keep up. They are the best art studio in the game, and they want to remain the best art studio in the game, not be a retailer. But finding a solution is difficult. You don’t want to just hand it off to some random Third Party Logistics company, because they don’t understand the nuances of collectibles and the needs of collectors. 

Mythic Legions is the Horsemen’s baby, and handing off any part of that process to someone else is not a decision they took lightly. Ultimately, in order to continue to grow and focus on their core business they had to let go of certain aspects and find the right partner to handle them. After becoming customers of Megalopolis themselves and experiencing what we do,  the timing made sense and what we could offer made sense. We have very similar views on the industry, on fan experience, and what the collectibles world should be and look like, and it’s just a great synergy between our companies.  We consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to contribute to the overall Mythic Legions experience.

As far as future distribution, news to come! The Horsemen have huge things in store for Mythic Legions (some that are going to make your jaw drop!) and we will continue to add new ways for Megalopolis to be a support in those efforts.

We recently completed shipping the “Siege at Bjorngar” Wave and at time of this interview are about 75% done shipping “Wasteland.” Shipping has gone as close to perfect as is humanly possible. Our experience in pre-planned logistics and high volume order execution has allowed us to shave significant time off the total turnaround from the time figures exit factory to arrival in customers hands, and our customer service responsiveness has also aided in quick fixes of any issues.

To the question of QC issues, in our view these are the best figures for the money out there, period. The Horsemen have dialed in their processes and the QC is top notch.  Anytime you mass produce something there will be some level of defects, but it’s been equivalent to what we see in lines like Marvel Legends or WWE, which is just a fraction of a percent. It’s very few.

 

8. Do you personally collect Mythic Legions and which one is your favorite character?

I have been collecting Mythic Legions from the beginning! I love everything about the line. Everyone I know who is exposed to it falls in love with them. I don’t know how to narrow it down to one favorite, and if you ask me 5 times you’ll probably get 5 different answers depending on the day! But today, at this moment, I’d have to go with the newest ogre Argamedes. His paint is just exquisite, and he’s incredible.

 

9. Will we ever see a Toy Overlord 6-7” figure sculpted by The Four Horsemen?

I sure hope so! Cornboy, you guys reading this? ????

 

10. What are your thoughts about the future of toys in 2020, and what has been the best seller for January so far?

I think 2020 is shaping up to be an incredible year. Despite what you may read online in some fan groups, the collectibles market continues to grow year over year. There are new exciting companies popping up all the time with unique products, and the established companies continue to innovate. I see 2020 continuing the momentum of 2019.

Our best seller in January has been the Marvel Legends Fantastic Four Wave Dr. Doom figure. And it’s not surprising. He is a beautiful figure!

 

11. What do you see happening in the industry in the next decade and what do you think will be the top brands this year?

Top brands for this year I think will be a little more clear after Toy Fair. There’s a lot of product on the horizon that’s still hush hush. Of course Marvel Legends will continue to be huge, Transformers Earthrise is shaping up to be very exciting.  McFarlane will do big things with DC this year, NECA continues to create amazing and unexpected products. Super 7 is really emerging and I think is going to turn a lot of heads with their Ultimates like Thundercats and TMNT. It’s such a diverse and exciting landscape!

Over the next decade, I think we will see some positive changes. At one point in time, licensing was overly restrictive and limited products, and the industry sort of over-corrected which means oversaturation of some properties and less representation for others.  I think that will start to even out a bit and make more sense.

I also think independent toymakers will continue to emerge with new and original properties. Collectors have really begun to embrace the artform and craft of figure design and production, not just characters they know. We see awesome companies like The Four Horsemen,  Boss Fight Studio, Spero toys, etc. all growing with original toy properties rather than just licensed ones. The market is finally supporting that, and I think we will see a lot more growth in that area. 

From a retailer perspective, specialty retailers are becoming more and more important.  Looking back 10 years to today, a lot is unchanged in the ecommerce game as many sites have found a working formula, so I imagine they’ll stick with that for the next 10 as well. But for Megalopolis, what we will have in place is something totally different than has ever been done before. 

When we talk about creating the comic con experience online we mean it in a very literal sense. When we talk about experiential retail we mean it in a very literal sense as well. We are developing technology to create an entirely new way of not only shopping, but for interacting with other fans and the hobby. It’s a time consuming process, but we are getting there step by step and are excited to start rolling out pieces of it overtime.

 

12. With New York Toy Fair coming up, what are you looking forward to most and what toy line do you think will win the show for most fans and collectors out there?

If Hasbro in fact shows a certain brand relaunch they are rumored to be showing, that will be the talk of collectors no question. If not, I imagine people will be excited about a myriad of things depending on personal tastes.

I’m always most excited for anything Masters of the Universe related, and for NECA because I feel like they always have amazing reveals for this show. Fingers tightly crossed for Mattel to show some more MOTU goodies!

Toy Fair 2019 was, for me personally, the best Toy Fair in several years. The bar was raised, so I hope 2020 delivers similarly!

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