Rudy Gonzales Jr. worked in a biotech lab a few years ago. Today, Gonzales spends much of his time playing with toys.
The Lakeside man is the creator and owner of Build It Workshops, a new Carlsbad-based creative studio where parents and their children can collaborate to construct do-it-yourself projects.
Gonzales was inspired to create Build It Workshops after a day with his two young daughters at the New Children's Museum in San Diego in 2011. At that time, Gonzales was a full-time, stay-at-home dad after being laid off from two different biotech companies in one year.
The museum had large wooden blocks available for families to play with, Gonzales explained.
“That was really fun,” Gonzales said. “Instead of just watching my daughters do something, I was participating in it.”
After watching his oldest daughter play with her own set of blocks at home, Gonzales wondered what she and other children could build using thousands of blocks, plenty of open space and imagination. That’s when he decided to build a workshop for kids.
“I just decided that I had to take a chance on myself, and I took another shot,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales applied and was accepted to Kimco Realty’s Kimco Entrepreneurs Year Start program, which provides operational and financial support to startup entrepreneurs and first-time business owners. With assistance from the KEYS program and a loan from ACCION San Diego, a nonprofit that assists small business owners in San Diego County, Gonzales officially opened Build It Workshops on Feb. 11.
“It’s this little idea I had,” Gonzales said. “I thought it would be cool to do something different.”
Prior to opening, Gonzales spent months searching for the latest gadgets and toys, which he brought home for his daughters—now 3 and 4 years old—to test.
“Our house was crazy,” he said. “There were toys everywhere!”
Now other children are using the toys and safe building materials to learn and play in the workshop’s open play environment. Located at 1818 Marron Rd., Suite 103, Build It Workshops, offers children ages 3-12 a hands-on learning environment where they can build their own projects as well as participate in “Daily Build” planned activities.
On average, Gonzales said he and his three staff members see children and their families play and build at the workshop for three to four hours each visit. Some local school officials have already inquired about field trips to the workshop and summer camps have already booked time in the summer, he added.
“We’ve had a great response from the community so far,” Gonzales said. “I feel really blessed.”
Gonzales said he wants Build It Workshops to be a place for all kids to have the opportunity to use their creativity.
Before the workshop opened, Gonzales invited a mom and daughter to look around after they approached him outside and asked him about Build It Workshops. Although the young girl was excited, her mother mentioned her son would enjoy the workshop more because girls “aren’t into this kind of stuff,” Gonzales recalled. Three days later, the mom emailed Gonzales to say her daughter couldn’t stop talking about Build It Workshops and that she wanted to visit the workshop again.
“Those are the little moments that are the most meaningful to me. The child had to educate the mom to not put her in a box,” Gonzales said. “Those are the things that we try to expose kids to – something different, something new.
“How do you know your child isn’t interested in something or if they’re going to be good at something if you don’t give them a chance to experience it?”