There was never a dull day on the farm where Eddie Ulrich grew up in southern Minnesota. “I had ample opportunities to exercise my imagination,” says Ulrich. “This manifested itself in activities such as drawing comic strips and creating full plot lines and character dialogue with my GI Joes and Fisher-Price Adventure People.” He earned a reputation for his ability to draw and it was not long before people came to him with requests for artwork for lemonade stands and then small businesses.
One day a farmer came to Eddie asking for a simple sign advertising ducklings for sale at an upcoming flea market. “I drew a little cartoon duck and in stylized letters wrote ‘Fuzzy Ducks for Sale,’ ” Ulrich says. “Although the farmer was puzzled by my choice of adjectives, he used the sign and sold every last duckling within the first half-hour of the flea market.”
Then, when the farmer got home, people kept asking him about ducklings. “He couldn’t understand all the fuss over common ducklings—especially in a farm community,” says Ulrich. “What he didn’t realize was that I had unwittingly made them into more than just ducklings—I had given them a unique graphic identity that set them apart.”
Years later when Ulrich became a college student and then a freelancer, he thought back on his Fuzzy Duck campaign. “I realized I combined a visual identity with a memorable name and in doing so had differentiated the product and called attention to it. Wasn’t that what successful design was all about?” he says.
As he worked toward establishing a company and a brand, he used that successful name to forge his path. Even though he considered changing the name to something more “professional,” existing clients and friends pushed him to stay true to his roots. Says Ulrich, “So, knowing that the client is always right, I kept the Fuzzy Duck moniker and started my company.”
Today Ulrich’s digital solutions and creative marketing agency, Fuzzy Duck, employs nine people and operates out of a 102-year-old house in downtown Wayzata. Clients range from well-known global brands to tech startups and nonprofits. Fuzzy Duck might work on developing a brand or a marketing campaign as well as email or website design. “We also have top-notch illustrators who allow us to work on fun projects like children’s book illustrations, character development for corporate mascots, and concept art and visual development for the entertainment industry,” says Ulrich. “I personally love being able to take people’s rough ideas and turn them into a fleshed-out visual reality that can be pitched, presented and developed further.”
Fuzzy Duck also serves as an incubator for creative enterprises beyond the corporate world. They developed and pitched an animated children’s television show, co-published an illustrated screenplay for a science fiction film and co-produced an independent feature film called Fall Into Me. Ulrich’s most recent project is a children’s book he wrote called A Mother’s Dream that he hopes to self-publish in 2016.
Ulrich’s hard work and success have not gone unnoticed. The TwinWest Chamber of Commerce awarded him and his company the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in May 2015.
“Eddie Ulrich and his company Fuzzy Duck Design exceeded the criteria we had for this competitive award,” says Brad Meier, president of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce. “The combination of a highly successful business track record, combined with his support of the community and future projections for growth, earned Eddie this award.”
Ulrich believes what makes Fuzzy Duck stand out goes back to his talented staff and the company’s internal motto of “Listen. Think. Create.” “We use this as a constant reminder that even the smallest projects require these steps in order to be successful,” he says.
It is the creative problem-solving that keeps Ulrich and his team challenged and invigorated. “You know what they say: ‘If you earn a living at something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” he says. “That’s how I feel—on most days, anyway.”