Putting it Together at the Oakland Puzzle Company

ByKate Eby Localish logo
Monday, May 13, 2024 7:27PM
Putting it Together at the Oakland Puzzle Company
The Oakland Puzzle Company makes jigsaw puzzles to help local artists and organizations.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- An ethical process, and a product that's enjoyable, is a combination that's a perfect fit for the Oakland Puzzle Company and proves it's living up to its motto of "Have Fun. Do Good."

"We are just one of a few jigsaw puzzle manufacturers in the whole country that not only designs our puzzles locally but actually manufactures them ourselves," says David Tibbs, who launched the company with his sister, DeAnna, in May 2023.

They were starting to piece together the idea of the company before the pandemic hit. It delayed, but didn't derail the process. They credit a book, titled "Start Your Own Small Jigsaw Puzzle Business: Like I Did" with helping them turn their dream into reality. After a series of phone calls, zoom calls, and a cross-country trip to meet in person, the book's author, Kevin Poorman, has become their mentor.

At the heart of the Oakland Puzzle Company is their mission to benefit local artists and organizations. A portion of proceeds is donated to support their community partners, which include artists, small businesses, and nonprofits. Within their first year of business, the company donated $12,000.

While they work to "Do Good," as their motto says, they have a clear idea of what looks good when it comes to choosing images to turn into puzzles.

"Generally we like things that are very colorful and fill the frame as much as possible, " says DeAnna. "If we find an image that matches well with an organization that we're already in touch with, or if we can visualize an image that can be created with an organization, that's a natural fit," she adds.

"We look for an emotional component to it as well. The puzzle experience is more meaningful when you have an emotional connection to the image," adds her brother David.

The Tibbs are proud of their efforts to create a sustainable and local supply chain for the materials that go into making each jigsaw puzzle. They work with Community Printers in Santa Cruz, a worker-owned print shop, to print the puzzle face; that's the front side of the puzzle with the picture on it.

The puzzle face is glued to a chipboard and dries for 24 to 48 hours. Then it's run through a die press which cuts the puzzle into 500 pieces. Those pieces are mixed up to make sure none are stuck together, bagged, and boxed. An insert describing the artist and organization is included in each box.

Packing materials, like padding and cushioning, have been donated from the community; none has been purchased.

"We got into this knowing we had a pretty good chance that this was going to be a successful company," says David. After a promising first year in business, they are looking forward to the future. He adds, "We see ourselves eventually as being a national brand."

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