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Get Eric to Thoelke know ] of Columbia, Ill. by tony di martino | photo by bill barrett WHAT I DO President of TOKY Branding + Design, a brand consultancy in St. Louis and Washington D.C. We also own TOKY Properties, which develops properties in St. Louis and Illinois. WHY I DO IT Clients come to us when they want to communicate a new product or to market themselves clearly and memorably across all media. WHY I’M GOOD AT IT I love unlocking solutions to business problems and expressing them in memorable, beautiful words and images. I also enjoy finding the smartest people in town and putting them together on a team. ORIGINS I grew up on old Route 66 in southern Illinois, where my parents owned one of those 1960s motels with Sputnik-era signs. FAMILY My wife, Mary, is my best friend and business partner. We have four kids. EDUCATION I went to Harvard for about 15 minutes before coming back to the Midwest to study design at the University of Illinois. YOUTHFUL AMBITION I thought architecture was my path, but eventually realized I loved solving branding problems even more. THE BOY I USED TO BE The things that make us outsiders as kids are what we make our living doing as adults. I was president of the high school science club, but also the best artist in our class. My friends made fun of me for giving in-depth reports on some random fact I’d learned. Now I get paid to do the same thing. FIRST JOB My brother and I worked the midnight shift at the Nestea factory in Granite City In., packing and crating shipping cartons. There was so much powdered tea in the air we’d be buzzed for hours afterward. FAVORITE MOVIE The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, extended edition. FICTIONAL CHARACTER I MOST ADMIRE President Bartlett on The West Wing. HERO Thomas Jefferson, for his curious mind and love of life in all its diversity. MY OTHER LIFE I’d like to write more, both novels and nonfiction. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT ST. LOUIS I’m not a big fan of labyrinthine politics. Less gets accomplished than it otherwise would. TIME TO UNWIND I enjoy happy hour with the TOKY team at the Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square. VACATION ESCAPE Saugatuck, Mich., Washington, D.C., and Edinburgh, Scotland. MOTTO Make the world a better place than you found it. No excuses. GOALS Build a business that does well and does good. Raise great kids. Tell my wife I love her every day.