Chris Ihle, a 1993 Ballard grad, risked almost everything when he started a company that specializes in life-size LEGO statues. That was a little more than a year ago, and since then Ihle’s business, WeBuildU, has been contracted to build statues for several famous people, including Pres. Donald Trump, John and Matt Altman from Bravo’s hit-series “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” and Simon Estes, world renowned opera singer and Iowa native.


Several months ago, Ihle struck a deal with a Las Vegas casino to open up the first-ever LEGO statue gallery.


“It will be the only place in the world where you can walk in and order a LEGO statue of yourself or someone you love,” Ihle said.


The Circa Resort and Casino is currently being built where the Las Vegas Club previously stood, at 8 Fremont St. in downtown Las Vegas. This week Ihle’s space in the casino was given its official name: BlockHead Workspace by Chris Ihle.


The casino and Ihle’s studio are scheduled to open in December.


A few months ago, Ihle had an idea to attend the Westminster Dog Show in Manhattan, N.Y.


It was a longshot; the prestigious dog show had never had a LEGO artist in attendance, and, perhaps more importantly, Ihle had never created a LEGO dog.


Once Ihle was accepted as a vendor, he knew he’d have to figure out how to make one.


Ihle created a life-size wire-haired fox terrier, fashioned after King, a dog that had won Best of Show in the 2019 Westminster Dog Show. Ihle also had a large Best of Show trophy and ribbon made of LEGOs.


The dog was made of 22,000 LEGO bricks and took 70 hours to create.


Ihle showed up at the Westminster show to find his booth in the corner of an upper level. He didn’t exactly have the spotlight — yet.


There was a lot of excitement for Ihle’s work. In just two hours, he gave out 500 business cards.


Dog show officials moved Ihle’s booth to the main floor, just a few feet away from the show ring.


He was one of just two featured artists highlighted during the show.


He had a spotlight — literally. So much light, he actually got a sunburn from it.


“You could see me from everywhere in the room,” he said. “They put me right under the lights.”


It was hot, draining work — 12 hours a day for four days. “But there were so many awesome people to visit with. It was a hoot. And you couldn’t ask for better exposure.”


Since the show, Ihle’s business has been “cranking out dog statues as fast as we can,” he said.


He’s been working on some big deals for Purina Dog Food.


“The sacrifices I made to get to New York were real,” said Ihle, who was working for Wells Fargo in Des Moines when he had the idea for the LEGOs. “I had this idea and risked everything to make it work.”


You can find Ihle, who lives in Story City, and WeBuildU on Facebook and Instagram.


“The Lego company’s motto is: Everything is awesome,” Ihle said.


“And my motto is: If you’re awesome, we can build you. And if you’re not awesome, go do something awesome. And if you can’t do that, go ask your mom because she thinks you’re awesome.”


Or maybe you have an awesome dog.