2006 - Wow! Stuff was born
The 3 founders, Richard North, Kenny McAndrew and Graeme Taylor, started inventing novelty gifts and gadgets. Our original best seller was a bathroom towel that was rather crude (but practical). It was featured on a British TV sitcom, decorated the interior of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia and was the star of an indie film, called Made in China, with Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey making a cameo. The invention was inspired by Graeme and Kenny’s requirements when they shared an apartment at University that had one bath towel.
Our 3rd licensed brand, Mensa, joined Science Museum and Natural History Museum when one of our founders bumped into one of Mensa’s senior brand custodians in a toilet in our home town. Serendipity. We were on our way to building Science Museum toys and gifts into the number 1 selling brand in its category at retail and we thought we could do that too with a range of clever Mensa puzzles.
We started winning Innovation awards for our products including ‘Best Toys and Gifts range’ at the European Licensing Awards for the BBC's Top Gear brand. Our toy demonstration team was now trading as the number 1 team at several major large toy stores in Europe and our company was growing fast. We achieved a Virgin Fast Track 100 award and had now sold over 2 million of our crude, but practical, bathroom towels. Our founder and CEO Richard North was featured on a British hit TV show called 'Secret Millionaire’ - like Shark Tank (USA)/Dagons Den (UK) for nice people who give their money to worthy causes.
We launched our second blockbuster item. It was called Airswimmers and it was an American inventor item. Whoops, nearly forgot, our first hit toy was a remote controlled robotic monkey. It also sold well. We called it Dave (well the name felt right at the time). Airswimmers was a remote controlled helium filled balloon, in the shapes of a shark and a clownfish, measuring 4 feet long. We also created a robot called MyKeepon which appeared on the front cover of Bloomberg magazine with the title of 'small british toy company to disrupt $80 billion toy industry’. And a 6 legged dart firing robot which we licensed to a big and brilliant toy company called Hasbro.
We learn about the problems that exist in the toy industry; you get copied a lot!
We sold nearly 500,000 Airswimmers in 2011 and our company blossomed.
We then had a Private Equity investor who loved our growth and supported us to buy a toys tech team.
We also hired some bad [email protected] lawyers to protect our inventions.
They, (our bad a*s lawyers), said they’d nail the baddies who copied us.
After all if a toy was worth making it was worth protecting... right?
The weird years.
We spent nearly all our money and lots of our energy on fighting the forgeries.
But in our spare time we invented a super cool race car set called Real FX.
Then a company who had silicon valley investment of $275m (yep, two hundred and seventy five million big ones) tried to stop us selling Real FX in America.
They said “Your product is cool and we have one that’s a bit like it. Stick to the UK, or our bigger than yours bad a*s lawyers will wreck your company”.
So we said that’s not fair, and we fought back against them too.
As they say, If you can’t beat them, join them. As we say, if you can't beat them, keep blo**dy trying. So we teamed up with a really, really big toy company called Mattel and they launched our Real FX in their fantastic Hot Wheels brand! Meanwhile we continued to shout at the baddies - who copied Airswimmers - through the toy industry trade magazines and started a ‘Fight the Fakes’ campaign.
We won! The Royal Courts of Justice, England stood by our patents for Airswimmers and awarded us damages and stuff, although by now most of the hundreds of importers had made their money, closed shop and gone on holiday. But we still celebrated our victory. Oh, and the silicon valley backed company that didn’t want our Real FX race car set in America spent all their $275m (probably on parties and advertising) and closed their company down. Their bigger bad a*s lawyers forgot to say sorry to us but we didn’t mind. We started getting back to innovating and chatting to the biggest and best licensed brands and re-energising ourselves (and innovating).
After loads of discussions we signed a big deal with Warner Bros. and launched loads of really awesome, on brand, in universe Harry Potter toys. We created an amazing Mystery Flying Snitch that sold over 30,000 pieces from just one shop in one year, wands that were simply, technologically wondrous, and more innovation in Harry Potter than you could shake a stick at. Or a wand at.
We also won Demonstration Team of the Year for the 4th time(!) at the Finest Toy Shop in the World; Hamleys.
Big year. Lots of investment in new Wow! Stuff'ers (awesome colleagues who are WOW!), new showrooms and an intensity of innovation in toys.
We even made an Invisibility Cloak.
No, seriously we did.
Yippee! We launch a whole big bunch of brilliant new brands and terrific toys that are; On brand. In universe. Always!
And in 2020 we are Bringing more Great Brands to Life than ever before with our brilliant demo team which aims to WOW! more kids and parents more often and sell more toys per sq. ft of retail space than any other toy manufacturer anywhere in the world!
(And then we had a virus).
Global pandemic, uncertain world? But one thing is continuing, our love of play and building great toys and brands. We passionately believe the next big brands are going to come from small and mid size innovative companies (like ours) and from the digital space first. So you early adopters who know your onion’s (that’s a British colloquialism for being an expert at something) and are reading this are right in your thinking; we’ve got you covered. Groundbreaking new toys and new category first brands are coming in 2022...