About Rodney Ramlochan

Successful serial entrepreneur in tech as well as Global Business Manager for 360 MAGAZINE with an appetite for Comic Con and limited edition toys.

Bobby Vala

Our Head of Global Business Development and avid toy enthusiast, Rodney Ramlochan, continues his ongoing series on the action figure community, highlighting key independent toy lines, manufacturers, retailers, and YouTube podcasters. In a recent interview, Ramlochan sat down with Bobby Vala, the owner and operator of Valaverse, the powerhouse behind Action Force, a line of modern military-inspired action figures.

From Dreamer to Action Figure Maestro

Dreamers abound in the realm of collectibles, but few transform those dreams into tangible action figures. Meet Bobby Vala, the visionary behind Valaverse and the creative genius behind the modern-day Action Force line. In this exclusive interview, Bobby Vala invites us to trace his path from a childhood passion to his triumphant entry into the world of collector-based action figures.

A Dream of Comics: Art Meets Industry

Bobby’s remarkable journey doesn’t begin in a typical toy store but rather with a dream of illustrating comic books. After completing high school, he embarked on the path to becoming a comic book artist, enrolling at the prestigious Joe Kubert Art School. His undeniable passion for comics and art soon collided with the competitive nature of the comic book industry, resulting in a growing collection of rejection letters on his bedroom corkboard. Yet, as often happens in great stories, success arrived when he least expected it. Bobby discovered his break when he stopped actively pursuing it, and fate steered him toward a career in the toy industry that would shape his future.

Balancing Design and Engineering

Bobby’s love for toys was no secret, and a friend’s suggestion to explore toy design marked a turning point. When Bobby decided to return to school to pursue a career in toy making, the curriculum wasn’t solely focused on artistic design. While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Bobby gained valuable insights into the engineering aspects of toy production. Courses on methods, materials, plastics, tooling, and production became part of his arsenal of knowledge.

However, FIT’s emphasis leaned heavily towards the design aspect, and Bobby, always the well-rounded enthusiast, desired a comprehensive understanding of the toy industry. He recognized that to excel, he needed design skills and engineering expertise. His passion drove him to seek wisdom from industry veterans during internships at Hasbro.

Learning from the Pros

With the assistance of his friend’s brother at Hasbro, Bobby entered the world of toy design during the Transformers movie frenzy of 2007. His time at Hasbro wasn’t just about being a designer; he became a sponge, eagerly soaking up insights from seasoned professionals. To him, the invaluable knowledge these veterans possessed couldn’t be found in textbooks or training modules; it was acquired through years of hands-on experience, and he was determined to tap into it.

He admits to being somewhat of a nuisance, bombarding these experts with questions, but that relentless pursuit of knowledge would prove to be his secret weapon in the competitive toy industry. Armed with insights from the old guard, Bobby left no stone unturned in his quest to understand the industry’s inner workings. His artistic talent and passion for action figures quickly caught Hasbro’s attention.

GI Joe Dreams

His journey at Hasbro was remarkable, with stints on iconic brands like Marvel, Star Wars, and Transformers. While Bobby’s commitment to Hasbro’s flagship toy lines was evident, his heart remained devoted to one toy line in particular – GI Joe. He was even entrusted with creating the first-ever six-inch GI Joe action figure line, a dream come true. However, a GI Joe movie cancellation led to the project’s discontinuation, a setback that couldn’t diminish Bobby’s passion for the brand.

Going Independent

In 2018, a massive layoff at Hasbro reshaped Bobby’s path once again. Undeterred, he decided to pursue his toy passion independently. A friend’s suggestion to create his own toy line ignited a new dream – to resurrect Action Force, a classic toy brand lost in obscurity. Action Force, once a rival to GI Joe, had faded into the shadows when Hasbro acquired its parent company, Palitoy. In 2005, Hasbro stopped renewing the Action Force trademark, leaving it dormant for years. Bobby saw an opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic brand. For Bobby, GI Joe is not just a competitor; it’s a lifelong love affair. He maintains a 300-square-foot room in his house dedicated to GI Joe, filled with every figure, prototype, and unreleased gem. His deep appreciation for GI Joe led him to purchase the trademark for Steel Brigade, ensuring its legacy lives on.

Resurrecting Action Force

In 2019, Bobby launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the revival of Action Force. The campaign exceeded its initial goals, unlocking a plethora of action figures and accessories. Unexpected delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic tested Bobby’s resolve, but his dedication to the project never wavered. However, Action Force was more than just action figures for Bobby; it was about building an immersive brand. Comics, merchandise, and events were all part of his vision. His commitment to engaging with the community, signing legendary figures like Sergeant Slaughter, and ensuring Action Force remained relevant spoke to his passion and determination.

Beyond Action Figures

Bobby’s diverse expertise has allowed him to wear many hats as an independent toy entrepreneur. At Valaverse, he’s not just the creative mind behind the products; he’s also the head of marketing, social media, engineering, and production. This multifaceted approach sets him apart from those who focus solely on design. His journey from being a Hasbro designer to running his enterprise might seem like a leap, but it’s a testament to his resilience and adaptability. Bobby has embraced the challenges of entrepreneurship with open arms, and his results speak for themselves.

The Multifaceted Entrepreneur

Bobby’s entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been without its fair share of hurdles. Toy entrepreneurship is a multifaceted endeavor beyond just designing action figures. Issues like supply chain challenges, production delays, and the intricacies of marketing and shipping can’t be underestimated. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the nitty-gritty details, from ocean freight costs to tooling changes and cost sheets. For Bobby, it’s about being prepared and knowledgeable, traits that can only be honed through real-world experience.

Navigating Entrepreneurial Challenges

Bobby Vala is vocal about his concerns regarding newcomers entering the toy industry without the necessary education and experience. He believes a genuine commitment to the industry should include a deep understanding of its intricacies. Starting a toy line isn’t just about hiring a sculptor and crowdfunding; it requires a comprehensive grasp of all aspects, from manufacturing to marketing.

Advocating Responsible Entrepreneurship

His unwavering passion for action figures and collectibles drives him to advocate for responsible entrepreneurship within the industry. Bobby emphasizes that being “all in” makes all the difference in toy entrepreneurship. Those who are genuinely committed and passionate about their creations, like Valaverse, stand out. It’s more than just putting out many items; it’s about pushing them, creating a vibrant and thriving brand, and connecting with the community.

Affordability Matters

For collectors, nothing is more frustrating than feeling squeezed dry by rising action figure prices. Bobby Vala, himself a collector, understands this all too well. He firmly believes that the industry shouldn’t exploit its consumers. As he aptly puts it, you can squeeze a sponge as hard as you want, but eventually, it’ll run dry. So why squeeze the consumer? When he launched the Action Force line through Kickstarter, some critics deemed the $32 price tag too high. However, Bobby has remained true to his commitment to affordability. Even years later, his prices haven’t budged. In contrast, major players like Hasbro continue to increase their prices, with rumors suggesting even steeper increases on the horizon.

Setting a New Precedent

One of the most remarkable moves by Valaverse has been the recent announcement of price reductions. Bobby isn’t doing this because his company is struggling; it’s quite the opposite. His increasing quantities have led to cost reductions, and rather than pocketing the extra money, he’s choosing to give back to the fans. Valaverse is setting a unique precedent in the industry by being the only company to drop prices, prioritizing the consumer experience above all else. Bobby’s goal is to offer a wide array of products, from gear packs to weapon packs, basic Troopers to regular figures, all at prices that make collectors feel like they’re getting real value for their investment.

The Complete Package

Bobby’s commitment to value becomes evident when comparing Action Force to other major brands. He points out that even other brand’s popular deluxe figures, priced at $34.99, come up short when compared to Action Force offerings. Valaverse figures come with stands, extra hands, and a variety of accessories that rival or surpass the competition, all for a $30 price point. He emphasizes that the key is providing consumers with a complete package that makes their investment worthwhile. While other brands may release deluxe figures with fewer accessories at higher prices, Bobby seeks to provide an all-encompassing experience for Action Force fans.

Quality Control and Transparency

Bobby understands that maintaining product quality is crucial in building trust with collectors. He acknowledges that Action Force hasn’t been without its hiccups, with production issues in Series One and a mold defect in a Series Two figure. However, he highlights the importance of addressing these issues promptly and transparently. For Bobby, holding the factory accountable is a non-negotiable principle. It involves rigorous sample inspections, communication with the factory, and meticulous attention to detail. He believes a robust quality control system and an efficient feedback loop are essential to delivering top-notch products.

Gratitude to Collectors

Bobby Vala deeply appreciates Action Force fans for their steadfast support. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a newcomer, Valaverse remains committed to a collector-centric approach. Action Force isn’t merely a toy line; it’s an immersive experience, and Valaverse is devoted to ensuring that every collector feels valued and satisfied.

Collectors First

In closing, Bobby Vala leaves us with a clear message: Action Force is the line where collectors come first. It’s a journey that continues to unfold, innovate, and captivate, one meticulously crafted figure at a time. Whether you’re a seasoned action figure aficionado or just embarking on your collecting odyssey, Valaverse promises a thrilling adventure for all.

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Hella Dope Toys via 360 MAGAZINE.

Hella Dope Toys

Our Head of Global Business Development and avid toy enthusiast, Rodney Ramlochan, continues his ongoing series on the action figure community, highlighting key manufacturers, retailers, and YouTube podcasters. In a recent interview, Ramlochan sat down with Ted Yeakel and Aaron Yancey, the co-founders of the e-retailer Hella Dope Toys, to delve into the expansion of their online store and their associated podcast.

Childhood Friends Redefining Toy Collecting

In a world where nostalgia blends seamlessly with the thrill of the hunt, childhood friends Ted Yeakel and Aaron Yancey, from Columbus, Ohio, embark on a journey to rewrite the rules of toy collecting. They are the dynamic duo behind Hella Dope Toys, a unique enterprise in the ever-expanding world of collectibles. As we sit down for an exclusive conversation with them, it’s evident that their story transcends toys – it’s a tale of enduring friendship, entrepreneurship, and unwavering passion.

Aaron and Ted’s middle school encounter sparked a lifelong friendship that endured through shared experiences. Over nearly three decades, their bond strengthened, and they became each other’s confidants, even standing as best men at each other’s weddings. Their journey eventually led to their mutual passion for toys, but first, let’s explore their Ohio roots. 

Aaron and Ted grew up in a northwest Columbus, Ohio, neighborhood that had seen better days. Despite the challenges posed by a shifting landscape and increasing crime, they were fortunate to have spent their formative years in a relatively safe environment. Their enduring friendship was rooted in shared interests, starting with a love for cheese pizza and professional wrestling. Aaron recalls a pivotal moment, saying, “I visited his house, and he was enjoying his usual cheese pizza. Surprisingly, WCW Nitro was on, and I exclaimed, ‘Oh my God, I love wrestling too.’ That’s when our friendship solidified.”

Their enthusiasm for toys also played a significant role, especially because access to toy stores was limited. Aaron explains, “Toy stores were a rarity for us, mainly limited to Christmas and birthdays. So, we spent our time outdoors, channeling our youthful energy into creating adventures with neighborhood kids.” While their love for toys would re-emerge in their adult lives, let’s save that part of the story for later.

Clearancing and the Birth of Hella Dope Toys

Hella Dope Toys had a surprising origin, rooted in what Ted calls “clearancing.” It began with selling discounted items from big-box stores to finance a coveted big-ticket item: the Hasbro Marvel Legends Sentinel figure. Ted’s resourcefulness came into play as he sought affordable toys due to limited spending capacity. He realized he could buy cheap and sell for a profit. However, what truly transformed their venture was the heartfelt gratitude from customers. Ted remembers, “People were thanking me, which struck me as odd. Mothers would say, ‘This figure was hard to find, and my kid wanted it for Christmas.’ People were genuinely appreciative.” Aaron chimes in, “We came to realize we weren’t just flipping toys; we were providing a service that brought happiness to people’s lives.” This newfound sense of purpose fueled their passion. 

The duo lives by three core principles from the inception of their business. First, they seek to address issues within the toy-collecting community. This problem-solving mindset drives them to offer unique products, often at competitive prices, meticulously packaged and swiftly delivered. Second, they prioritize customer value. It’s not just about selling toys; it’s about providing a holistic experience beyond the transaction. Exceptional customer service makes purchasing enjoyable and satisfying. Lastly, they embrace continuous improvement, recognizing that excellence is an ever-moving target. They relentlessly refine their operations to surpass customer expectations.

Power-Con and a Turning Point

Power-Con, the annual celebration of all things He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, became a pivotal event in the Hella Dope Toys story. What started as a fan’s trip quickly became an opportunity to network with prominent toy companies. Aaron recalls their experience at Power-Con 2022, saying, “Our original intent was just to go as fans. We didn’t have any toys to sell.” But his fearless approach to networking changed the game. “We walked up to some tables and introduced ourselves, explaining what we were trying to do.”

Their interactions with influential toy companies like NECA and Spero Studios opened doors and initiated conversations that would change their trajectory. Aaron emphasizes, “It took a lot of talking to make people understand that we were serious about this, not just setting up an eBay store.” Ted adds, “We planted our flag at Power-Con and walked away with a stack of business cards. It was the turning point. Suddenly, we had conversations with people we idolized and those who were creating remarkable figures.”

Challenges on the Road to Success

As with any entrepreneurial journey, Hella Dope Toys encountered its share of challenges. Aaron admits that their biggest challenge was the financial aspect. “We started with nothing and relied on our own money to fund everything. Our business model didn’t include a buffer, a safety net.” Additionally, the timing of their acquisitions posed challenges. Smaller retailers often received sought-after items after larger chains like Target and Walmart. Aaron explains, “By the time we get these items, they’ve often gone on clearance at bigger stores. It’s a race to stay ahead.” Another challenge they faced was building brand awareness and trust. Aaron and Ted took the initiative to send gifts to YouTubers and toy enthusiasts to introduce their store to a wider audience. The pivotal moment came when the 3POA Podcast, a popular YouTube channel, featured their products and promoted Hella Dope Toys. This endorsement significantly boosted their credibility and visibility.

Building Trust and Transparency

Aaron and Ted emphasized the vital role of trust-building with their customers, particularly as a small company in a competitive market. Transparency stands as their cornerstone strategy. They’ve humanized their brand through platforms like YouTube and social media, sharing their journey, experiences, and occasional missteps. This candid approach has eased potential customers’ comfort in interacting with Hella Dope Toys, instilling confidence in their brand.

Aaron and Ted initially didn’t see themselves as “YouTubers” when discussing their channel. Their early episodes followed structured scripts, but they soon discovered that the most captivating shows embraced spontaneous, unscripted conversations. In their initial episodes, they sought guest speakers to boost visibility, much like they did for their toy store’s promotion. However, as they delved deeper into podcasting, they recognized the need for a more organic approach. Ted explained, drawing parallels to wrestling events that require a draw to fill seats, “We needed to borrow some clout.” Initially, having guests ensured content, but it became evident that the formula grew stale.

The Hella Dope Toys Podcast underwent an evolution, shifting towards organic, unscripted discussions with guests. They aimed to engage with individuals beyond their toy-related endeavors, making their YouTube channel more enjoyable and strengthening their connection with viewers. Key to their podcast’s success is the interaction with the audience. They emphasize acknowledging and engaging with viewers and listeners by actively participating in chats, mentioning names, and recognizing contributions, fostering a sense of community that keeps people returning. Ted highlighted their desire for the audience to feel appreciated, setting them apart and nurturing a loyal, engaged community.

Looking to the Future

Aaron shared his forward-looking perspective, admitting to living day by day while outlining short-term goals. Their primary focus remains on continuous business expansion, learning from each year’s experiences to enhance their offerings. Approaching the crucial fourth quarter, especially during the Black Friday shopping rush, they’re gearing up for increased demand. Additionally, they’re determined to engage with their audience directly by participating in more conventions and toy shows, having found Power-Con to be a significant event. They’ve expressed interest in exploring other conventions in the future. 

Hella Dope Toys’ long-term vision goes beyond their podcast. Aaron envisions creating a unified toy enthusiast community, uniting various sub-communities under the Hella Dope umbrella. Their goal is to establish an inclusive space where toy lovers of all interests within the toy world can coexist and collaborate. Aaron believes that their shared passion for toys unites people, both as kids and adults. He hopes to merge different toy-related communities and offer a platform for everyone to share their enthusiasm.


Aaron and Ted are aware that juggling their full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and their passion for toys and podcasting can be challenging. However, their unwavering passion, love for the toy-collecting community, and willingness to adapt drive them to continue. Aaron emphasized that when you genuinely love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work, and that’s what keeps them going. As they look ahead to the future, they understand that success requires providing value, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and keeping an open mind. They’re excited about what lies ahead and remain committed to their goal of building a thriving and inclusive community of toy collectors. Whether you’re a toy collector or simply curious about their journey, it’s clear that Hella Dope Toys is a company to watch in the coming years.

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Ryan Farnam, 3POA Podcaster and avid toy collector, interviewed by Rodney Ramlochan via 360 MAGAZINE.

Ryan Farnam – 3POA Podcast

Our head of Global Business Development and toy enthusiast, Rodney Ramlochan, has announced a new series. It will focus on the latest action figures and key manufacturers as well as retailers who are helping to shape a gigantic industry. Recently, Ramlochan interviews Ryan Farnam, a prominent connoisseur and 3POA podcaster about the evolution of his channel.

Combining two childhood passions to create a successful YouTube podcast is nearly unheard of, yet Ryan Farnam has managed to do just that. As the lead co-host on the 3POA podcast, Ryan has fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a talk radio host, all while indulging in his love of toys and modern toy collecting. The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions significantly impacted people staying at home, leading to an increased interest in collecting toys and a greater appreciation of action figures. By leveraging the mass adoption of live streaming, podcasters like Ryan have brought collecting to a greater audience, with accessibility and diversity like never before. 

At the start of 2020, Ryan, already involved in multiple action figure toy-collecting Facebook groups, was invited by a fellow collector to co-host their existing weekly YouTube podcast, the Infinity Equation. Without hesitation, he jumped at the opportunity and was the main impetus for them transforming the live podcast into cameras-on live stream. Ryan shared his insights on the modern state of the hobby for the next two years, incorporating his love of lines such as Marvel Legends and Star Wars (which dates to a massive acquisition of figures from his cousin’s collection for $50 when he was only 10). He helped broaden the conversation to include not only classic toy lines but also more recent companies like Mezco and Kickstarter projects like Valaverse: Action Force, as well as third-party and overseas manufacturers such as MAFEX

In 2021, Ryan co-founded the 3POA podcast alongside Bobby Vala, the founder and CEO of Valaverse, and Tony Roberts, an experienced vintage toy collector, and Palitoy Action Force toy line expert. It has never been explicitly stated, but viewers of the show understand that the acronym “3POA” stands for “three points of articulation.” The name has a clever double meaning for those in the toy world: it not only symbolizes the number of moving parts a figure has, but it also encapsulates the different philosophies of a modern collector, a vintage collector, and a toy designer/manufacturer collector. Led by Ryan, these three unique perspectives culminate in some of the most entertaining dialogue in the toy-collecting community, far exceeding standard review videos and garnering record-breaking live-stream audiences. 

Ryan and the 3POA demonstrate a dedication to creating content that surpasses the standard of toy reviews and news reports. As evidence of their painstaking approach, one of their episodes offers an in-depth exploration of The Batman Summer of ’89, providing listeners with a comprehensive overview of the topic and how the movie dominated cinema and pop culture that year. With Ryan at the helm, the 3POA also isn’t shy about engaging in thought-provoking and sometimes contentious issues in the toy community, such as reconciling the expectations of modern adult collectors with what Intellectual Property holders and toy manufacturers produce and charge for their products. Although Ryan and the 3POA are clear about their love for modern and vintage toys, they are part of a growing community of discerning toy collectors balancing what is in their wallets with the quality of the items they collect.

Looking to the future, Ryan hopes to further extend the 3POA’s stunning success by offering more pertinent live content, partnering with other producers and creators, and introducing new toy companies and businesses. Follow Ryan and the 3POA