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Retail Revival Spotlight: A Tiny Idea with Big Intentions

By: Lauren Mobertz, eBay News Team

How Tiny Circuits is tapping into the maker movement to create an electronics laboratory in Akron, Ohio.

Tiny Circuits wasn’t always supposed to be a catalyst of the maker movement. Founder and Ohio native Ken Burns came up with the idea for Tiny Circuits during his career as an electrical engineer, where we wanted to design a simpler way to build prototyping materials. He launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise some startup money, with an initial fundraising goal of $10,000. When his campaign closed four weeks later at $110,000, Ken knew he was onto something. He quit his day job and never looked back.

Offering tiny electrical parts and DIY electrical kits, Tiny Circuits is based in the former B. F. Goodrich rubber factory in Akron, Ohio. With 3 million square feet of floor space across 75 buildings, it was in its heyday one of the largest rubber factories in the world. Since the fall of the rubber industry in Akron, the building has been preserved and repurposed to house local entrepreneurs like Ken, accelerating a revival of business across Akron.

Ken is proud to be part of Akron’s growing economy. All of Tiny Circuits’ products are built locally in Akron, tapping into the talent of local universities as well as the wider community. “A lot of people have a perception of Akron and the Midwest as being flyover country, or the Rust Belt,” Ken said. “It's really not true. We're showing that Akron is a great place to build electronic products.”

One of Tiny Circuits’ most popular products is their tiny arcade. A simple DIY kit, the arcade teaches kids and adults alike circuitry and programming skills by guiding them to build their own arcade device. Once assembled, the tiny arcade can be used to enjoy classic arcade games in the palm of your hand and even program games of your own. The palm-sized computer is inspiring the next generation of makers and getting kids excited about science and engineering.

“It's really cool to see kids interacting with our products,” Ken said. “With the tiny arcade, you see all the pieces and how they go together. You put it together yourself, and you have the ability to program your own games for it. It’s getting kids into the mindset of, 'I can actually create this thing.’”

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Over time, Ken aims for Tiny Circuits and other small businesses in Akron to build a sustainable, thriving local economy that avoids the pitfalls of the city’s former rubber industry. “I'd rather have 10 companies that employ a hundred people than one company that employs a thousand people. With all these small companies starting up here and growing, I really see that taking hold,” he said. “We are experiencing a true revival of Akron and, as a long time Akron resident, it’s cool to see that the city I love, and that we all love, is on the rebound. Hopefully, with eBay we're able to reach the entire global market from right here in Akron.” 

Buy your own tiny arcade and other tiny electronics devices at Tiny Electronics on eBay.

Tiny Circuits is a participant in Retail Revival, a partnership between eBay and the cities of Akron and Warren, Ohio to support small business owners who want to introduce their products to the global marketplace. 

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