Avenue A – Manufacturing and Distributing Your Invention Yourself

Although this path is more time-consuming and costly, as well as requiring general business skills, it may lead to success and the personal satisfaction of establishing a thriving business of your own; or having a toy company purchase your idea after you have made it successful. Toy companies are more willing to purchase an idea that has demonstrated consumer appeal.  Many large toy manufacturing enterprises began as small entrepreneurial businesses.

If you decide to form your own business to manufacture and distribute your invention yourself, you must be able to: raise capital; contract for production services at an affordable cost; obtain orders from toy retailers and ensure timely delivery, and continue promotional activities to increase consumer interest and sales. You will face competition for retail shelf space, especially from major toy manufacturers who are well known for their competitiveness. Competition can also come from retailers’ own-brand toys.

Some other areas of consideration are: legal matters- patent and/or trademark protection is only one; safety- there are regulations covering over one hundred areas, including small parts, sharp points and edges, flammability, toxicity, electrical hazards, proper labelling, etc especially those intended for children under the age of three; product lifecycle and stability of demand; new competition; and distribution- making sure that as many retailers nationwide who sell toys are carrying your product.

Starting and maintaining a successful business requires many skills, but these can be acquired.

Proper planning is crucial. Create a business blueprint prior to introducing your product to help avert crisis later.

You must develop your product fully, determine cost-effective manufacturing, distribution and marketing strategies, and then project sales growth to avoid product shortage.

Where do you find help in learning these management skills and creating a business plan? For specialized information about the toy market, read the toy industry trade magazines- Toy News, Toys n Playthings, Toy World. You may also want to obtain copies of annual reports of publicly owned toy manufacturers and toy retail chains. Toy consultants, who may be listed in the yellow pages under that heading, offer varying services and fees, but they can usually provide information themselves or obtain it for you from other sources.

Manufacturers’ representatives for the toy industry, who are also known as sales or advertising representatives, may be available for consulting purposes. They are sales people who handle incoming orders for manufacturers and are usually located in all areas.

For general business assistance and information, try contacting the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills or your nearest “Business Link” or Chamber of Commerce.

Learn how to be a successful entrepreneur by studying how others have done it. Check your library for books & magazine articles written about and by entrepreneurs, and the Yellow Pages for inventors’ clubs, societies or associations in your area that you can join or from which you can request material. The British Inventors Society also list local area inventors groups on their website.

There are various publications aimed at new businesses available from the UK Government which may be helpful to you and which you can get through your local “Business Link” office.

Now you are ready to go into production. You may plan to purchase all the raw material (components) and assemble your product at home, or hire various suppliers and contractors to perform these services for you. Suppliers of materials and services can be found in the Yellow Pages or trade publication adverts.

Safety is fundamental to the development and manufacture of toy products, especially those items intended for children under age three. All toys must comply with EN71. The European Toy Safety Directive gives the regulation for most aspects of toy safety but inventors should also be aware of the regulations on general product safety and if relevant other directives for a particular product – for example regulation on electrical items if the toy has electrical components.  All toy manufacturers are required to place the CE mark on their products to denote conformity with EU regulations. Visit the toy safety pages of the website for more guidance.

How do you reach toy buyers? Traditional outlets are toy, game and hobby stores, large national chains as well as small, independent toy shops; discount, variety, department, gift/novelty and drug stores; and others, such as online, supermarkets, card/stationery stores and catalogue showrooms. Your product may also, or only, be suitable for sporting goods or book stores, museum shops, college bookstores, etc. After determining the best retail outlet for your product, you can sell directly to stores in your area.

Advertise in one or more toy trade magazine or other suitable magazines read by toy buyers looking for new products. You can target a large number of toy buyers by exhibiting at a toy trade show, especially the Toy Fair, the largest dedicated toy trade show in the UK. Toy Fair is held every January at Olympia in London and is organised by the British Toy & Hobby Association. It is a dedicated toy trade show and is a great place to meet buyers, licensors and retailers from lots of sectors ranging from multinational children’s product buyers to the smaller specialist retailer. Exhibiting at Toy Fair represents the most cost-effective way to present a product to toy retail trade. Very few industries provide such a relatively inexpensive method of entry into the marketplace. For information about Toy Fair visit www.toyfair.co.uk

UK manufacturers and importers of toys are eligible to join the British Toy & Hobby Association. Membership fees are based on a company’s annual toy sales. For membership information please contact:

Tracey Butcher, British Toy & Hobby Association 80 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 OEG Tel: 020 7701 7271 Email: tracey@btha.co.uk