Our football nearly didn't make the draft and an early version of our baby basketball would not have made it to the play offs! The lesson we have learnt is it is worth getting a toy right, before we launch it.
We believe there are three ingredients to a good sports toy which I am going to share with you now. We have stuck by these guiding principles since we started Little Sport Star ten years ago. I remember vividly the call with my designer when I explained the three qualities I was looking for and I can remember the conversation, like it happened tomorrow.
At the time I was juggling a day job with my new toy venture. I had a vision of how the toys should look like but I had found a really experienced toy designer who could help me, but I thought it was important that I should benefit from her creativity whilst guiding her with my vision. With my vision and her creativity, we could make the ideal sporty toy - that has always been the plan.
I had researched toy designers online and had found Caroline almost by chance. She is a freelance designer and by chance she had kids about the same age as mine, so already we were on the same wavelength. We were both juggling jobs and kids, both adapting to parenthood and we knew what toys entertained our kids. However, it was her design for liquorice packaging that caught my eye, and only when we chat did I find out that Caroline had also worked on the famous pig called Peppa.
My first phone conversation with Caroline was during my working day as I was juggling a day job with my new venture. I had to be quick and explain my vision for Little Sport Star as simply as possible so I broke my vision down into three manageable features. I was stood in the kitchen at work, pacing up and down, trying to explain Little Sport Star what I thought we needed in each Little Sport Star baby toy and we have stuck to the formula ever since.
“Caroline, the first criteria is really simple” I explained “each toy has to look like the sport”. This might seem too obvious, but I remember the first prototype of my tennis racket. It's not easy making a tennis racket in plush material. I showed my friends my first prototype and they told me it was great, but a better friend asked “what is it?”. I didn’t need to pursue the conversation any further and I certainly didn’t need to take it to a focus group. If it wasn’t immediately obvious what sport, then it wasn’t good enough. We went back to the drawing board to make improvements.
Our second aim was, and still is, always to make a toy that is unique. It has to have a "wow" factor. Wow is key. One of the reasons I started Little Sport Star is because there was too little “wow” - nothing i wanted to give as a present. No-one was making anything close to what I had in mind. I felt too many toys were pink and fluffy toys, generic rattles, maybe branded but boring, nothing really stood out. To be successful, I wanted parents to react with “Wow - that’s amazing”, “I’ve not seen anything like that before”.
The third criteria was that the toy had to be fun! And my definition of fun, is fun for babies. It is easy to make a plush baseball bat toy that appeals to the parents, but it has to appeal to their baby too. We pack each toy with sensory features such as squeakers and rattles, tags, bright contrasting colors, teethers to bite on, arms and legs to grab onto, and a recognisable smiley face because smiley faces always make other people smile.
And that in a nutshell, is the secret to our amazing toys. If you like it, please share it with your friends.