Robert J. Croak is a highly recognized entrepreneur due to the wildly successful Sillybandz brand that he created. Robert’s journey started out with his lower-class upbringing in the Eastside of Toledo, Ohio in a broken home. His childhood was turbulent, as the divorce of his parents created a life of instability through his teenage years; but regardless of heart-wrenching setbacks, he never lost focus of his dreams. Much of Robert’s post-college career was spent in the automotive business where he was a salesman and quickly moved up to finance manager. But after a few years pursuing a nine to five career, Robert realized very early on that the entrepreneurial path was his destiny.
At the young age of 22-years-old Robert made his first full-time jump into owning his own business, the first of many. With a love for music and the unfortunate passing of his grandmother, Robert had the opportunity to purchase the family bar and restaurant “Frankie’s” made famous by his Grandfather Frankie Andriaccio and keep the legacy alive. Throughout the years, he continued to open more bars and restaurants, and his passion for the business only grew.
Although Robert had a nice run through the 1990s and into 2000s, he had a longing to expand into his true passion of inventing and branding. Equipped with a great staff, the transition to product development went well. In 2003, the company progressed very swiftly, and with this growth came a new world of opportunities. For his personal fitness and wellbing, Robert had enjoyed running a lot of races and triathlons, and on one particular day Robert was given a yellow Livestrong bracelet. While already developing other similar products, Robert felt that the Livestrong bracelet concept could be expanded on and the launch of www.customsiliconebracelets.com brought the immediate realization that he was right. The business evolved very quickly and over time Robert expanded the custom product offerings beyond silicone bracelets.
Sillybandz fans always want to know how Robert came up with his multi-million-dollar idea. It all began when he visited a product show in China where he was given a very-poorly-shaped animal rubber band by a Japanese designer. Robert looked at the oddly shaped silicone in his hand and tried to see how the vague outline was actually intended to look like a dog. The Japanese seller told Robert his rubber bands were to be sold as an office supply product. Although Robert felt that it would never sell as a novelty rubber band for adults, this very moment was the match that lit the fire of an incredible idea.
With wild entrepreneur instinct, Robert took the product back to his office in Toledo, Ohio and pitched the idea of making them into children’s bracelets, adding artistic detail, and calling them Sillybandz. The staff didn’t believe in it and didn’t think customers would invest in “silly silicone bracelets,” but Robert forged ahead with the design and manufacturing.
Many people assume Sillybandz was an instant hit, but that is far from the truth. Robert recalls, “It was a very slow build. With some key stores like Learning Express onboard, it slowly grew to a tipping point. But to this day, my mantra is ‘Always go with your gut,’ and I am so glad I did!” Not long after fortunate celebrity interactions, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Shakira wearing the bracelets, the Sillybandz brand grew momentum. Little did Robert know, his little idea was about to be the biggest bracelet trend the world had ever seen.
What happened over the next two and a half years was simply unheard of. Robert’s little Toledo, Ohio company was catapulted into the limelight and went from twelve employees to over 300 in the matter of months. During this time trying to efficiently scale the craze and capture the lighting in a bottle, Robert was working 18 hours a day seven days a week. Sillybandz partnered with the Kardashians, Justin Beiber, Hello Kitty, Barbie, Spongebob Squarepants, and Angry Birds for exclusively licensed bracelets. Licensing and consistently creating new packs to ship around the world was not easy, but with much determination, little sleep, and a great team, Robert kept up this pace producing a trend that outlasted most huge fads — over three years.
Thanks to the whirlwind Sillybandz fame, Robert has since been featured on “How I Made My Millions,” Bloomberg, CNN, MTV’s Made, Bravo’s Housewives of Beverly Hills, GSN-High Stakes Poker, as well as countless other TV shows and news features. After 2012, the blaze of the Sillybandz trend cooled off and Robert has continued inventing, investing, and launching many new products and brands. With his accomplished reputation as a master brand-builder and infrastructure for product development, Robert has developed many new products, and has also diversified into real estate, technology, and fast casual pizza enterprises. Through the years, Robert’s passions have remained the same: to continue creating meaningful products that provide him the financial ability to help make the world a better place.
Over the past eight years, Robert has had fun creating without thinking much about the bracelets that made his name. However, in 2019 with the rise of Tik Tok and Instagram influencers who are now the young adults who wore Sillybandz in their childhoods, Sillybandz is making a comeback. With over 1.6 Million Facebook fans, thousands of Google searches, hundreds of thousands of social media users hashtagging the nostalgic accessories, and media channels like Buzzfeed showcasing the bracelets, it’s only a matter of time before the Sillybandz craze will be a worldwide trend once again.