My dad made toys when I was wee (I haven’t posted about that before and I will at some point). As a result I had access to some brilliant wooden toys that were loads of fun and really durable. Among the many kinds of toy he put together he made dolls houses (if I remember right he even themed them to the child’s actual house), farms, ride on toys, outdoor play equipment and little curiosity toys made with wood and string. His stuff was great and I still have my farm and one or two of the little curiosity toys which my sons now play with regularly. The sad thing was that my dad’s business, like so many back in the 80s, had a lot of trouble getting up and running. Possibly his biggest hurdle was that his toys couldn’t be sold as toys because they weren’t CE marked, from what I can gather there was a fairly hefty cost involved in getting products tested and without this mark my dad couldn’t sell his toys to toy shops. There are so many little extras that a company needs to get dealt with before they can get going that it makes you wonder just how many companies could get going if they had some means of gaining capital for their venture up front. Well thanks to this socially immersive internet age that (for better or worse) we all belong to this up front capital is slowly becoming a possibility.
I’m a huge fan of crowd funding, this is where a business idea is pitched on a web site and a distributed group of ‘backers’ provide capital for the fledgling business that most appeals to them. These sites are also often used as a means of helping a business get back on its feet after a fall (e.g. fire damage to premises). As I said I love the whole concept of this, doing away with bankers etc. and gaining the money you need directly from the people who want or use your product/service.
I typically spend about £5-£10 a month throwing small donations at various start up businesses etc. (this is the same amount I used to spend on lottery tickets, got sick of wasting money and despite the ‘charitable causes’ line that the lottery runs I thought I’d give my money directly to to someone who needs it). This isn’t a large amount of money but a lot of people do the same thing as me so the vast majority of the new ventures I support get themselves going. I’m always amazed at how quickly people seem to get themselves up and running (or in some cases back up and running) through this route. This brings me to ‘Jump Off‘, this is a new crowd funding site dedicated to ventures relating to kids (toys, games, etc. etc.). They just started a month or two ago so their site isn’t exactly heaving with ventures to fund (in fact when I checked the site today there wasn’t a single product or business to be funded). However, as with any social media product it is likely to take a while for them to pick up pace as word of mouth brings them to public attention.
This is part of what I’m up to today (just trying to raise awareness through all those who are good enough to pop by and read my blog) but also I want to point out to any potential toy producer, who considers using ‘Jump Off‘, just how much the toy industry needs shaken up. Every year we see innovations in toys, many of these are disappointingly just re-workings of old standards but some of them are genuinely intriguing. I should also point out that a truly innovative step which someone could take could be as simple as to actually manufacture their product in the UK, since barely any toy brands manufacture here any more, and we do get asked for ‘made in the UK’ and ‘made in Scotland’ toys a fair bit. Sadly for some reason too many of these truly unique toys seem to just disappear and I can’t help but wonder it a site like ‘Jump Off‘ could provide the needed capital for these companies to go the distance, either helping them with advertising or even with fundamentals like CE safety testing.
So here’s the thing, if you have a toy idea (or any idea to do with kids) that you have always wanted to try and get going there is potentially some financial aid at hand from people like me at a site like Jump Off. Speaking as a toy retailer I’m genuinely excited at the notion of anything different and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be able to get good visibility on the site if you sign up today. There is literally nothing stopping you from going there right now and pitching your idea. What’s more if you can find a way of manufacturing it in the UK you’ve got an instant selling point working for you.
I’ll be the first to defend the toys we sell in our shop, we pick them out carefully and we try our best to maintain quality levels in the toys we sell (though I should point out that this relies on those customers who have the gumption to come in and tell us if something is wrong with a toy they bought from us). However, the child in me is always looking for something new and often (though I should stress not always) toy companies play it safe. This is especially evident in this current financial climate where most companies are attempting to provide product on a budget and so innovation gets kind of left to one side.
This is the reason that a recession is supposedly the time to start a new company: while all of the other companies dig their heels in to weather the storm with products that worked in years gone by, a new company can look like a shining beacon of something new and interesting, something that might catch a customer’s attention and bring sales to retailers who are also weathering the storm themselves. However, the down side for a new business in a recession is that business loans and other means of raising capital to start up these innovative new companies are hard to come by. Well that doesn’t have to be a problem any more, you don’t need to pitch your idea to a bank manager who doesn’t know the first thing about the toy industry, now you can just ask us who are part of the toy industry for the money, and trust me we’d love to see what you have to offer. I should also point out that there will also be countless parents out there who, like myself, are always on the look out for something new and interesting. So please please have a go, if you do I promise I’ll try and promote your ‘Jump Off’ funding page as much as I can on here.
Do you have a toy/game idea that’s been burning in your mind for years? Do you have a small UK based toy making business that you want to build into a manufacturing business? I’m always on the lookout for something interesting or new so please post a comment bellow. Once again thanks for reading, Cheers, John