“Grassy knees and nettle stings, remember those? Remember feeling like a voyager, poking snails and mixing up mud pies?” This poem of sorts comes from toy company Wicked Vision.
Its sole purpose is to bring back the phenomenon of “outdoor play”. A rebellion against the concept of watching Dora the Explorer on a phone, yet not going out and actually experiencing the adventure.
“Call us Luddites,” founder and managing director David Strang said, “but we believe that active, outdoor play is good for the mind and spirit. We want kids to put down their tablets and turn off the telly. To throw caution to the wind and exercise their legs, not just their fingers.”
In an effort to do just that, the company puts innovative spins on traditional outdoor toys, making the likes of sky spinners and boomerangs. Children world-wide – adults included – have grown enamoured with the products.
Indeed, the company exports to over 35 international markets. Every year, more than 5 million tri-blade boomerangs are sold – a particular product close to Strang’s heart, having grown up in Australia.
Talking about his business journey, Strang explained the dream had always been to produce boomerangs and export them internationally.
In fact, when Strang became the latest business owner in the hot seat for our Black Cab Entrepreneurs series, he unveiled the boomerang as his own favourite childhood toy. We also caught on film his thoughts about who would play him in a movie. View the video below:
Upon arrival in the UK, Strang identified his gap in the market – “none of the boomerang’s actually worked.” The boomerang has since become Wicked’s flagship product. There have been significant uplifts in sales during the last year for the toy, including an 800% year-on-year rise in export sales.
That he maintained his passion and vision throughout concept and scale was key to this achievement, he said, Persistence was another crucial factor.
“If you are convinced your business idea or product is a winner then persistence is important,” said Strang. “Because you may be knocked back and rejected at the beginning of your journey, especially if your idea is new or unorthodox.
“I’ve had to be prepared for this. After all… if it was easy… everyone would be doing it.”
That’s not the only lesson he learned along the way. From his time selling UGGs to becoming toy exporter extraordinaire, Strang has collected invaluable pearls of wisdom.
Meeting like-minded souls, even if they’re in different industries, helps keep you inspired and in the loop. In Wicked’s case, The Supper Club – an exclusive community of high-growth entrepreneurs – provided such opportunities.
Being able to trust your gut and believe in yourself were cited as valuable tools. He also praised the benefits of surrounding yourself with great people.
“Ideally, you want people with more talent than you in every position within your business,” Strang explained, “Another big lesson in business is not to take it (or yourself) too seriously and try to have fun along the way. Most decisions and situations in business are not life threatening. So, try to enjoy the ride.
“Of course, setting up and running a business doesn’t come without hard work, stress and hassle. But for me, the fun part is definitely the team. It’s very rare that my day isn’t filled with laughter and general shenanigans in the Wicked office.
“Watching a business grow from just a simple idea into a successful international business has been incredibly exciting. Knowing that there really is no limit as to where the business could go gives me a sense of excitement on a daily basis.
“It’s like buying a lottery ticket every day… there is always a feeling of anticipation that you could hit the jackpot at any time – while hitting smaller jackpots and having a load of fun every day.”
One thing’s for certain though, active fun seems to have come back into fashion. While there will undoubtedly still be a place for consoles, mobiles and virtual reality – they’ve simply become too ingrained in our lives – the nation’s push for physical and mental wellbeing has seen parents cautious of leaving children in from of a screen for hours on end.
“The toy industry is going back to basics,” Strang echoed. “and as a company we have to stay ahead of the game as more competition presents itself in ‘our’ sector. Long live innovation!”
Strang also suggested that the demise of Toys R Us has left shockwaves through the industry.
“Whether this is a sign of things to come, is yet to be determined. Kids will always need/want toys, so from a supplier/inventor/producer stand point – there will always be a market for toys. Online retailers will definitely take market share away from bricks and mortar retail.
“However, there is still something magical about a toy store that ordering off a screen can never replace.”