This Hugely Successful Toy Company Loves Inventors


(upbeat instrumental music) – Hey everybody, Stephen Key here and I have a special guest that’s just gonna blow your mind. I have CEO of Zuru, it’s the fastest growing
toy company in the world. I have CEO Nick Mowbray. – Zuru, we’re one of the fastest growing toy company’s in the world known for our speed to
market and innovation. (melodic instrumental music) Let me show you what the
team at Zuru is all about. (melodic instrumental music) – Being based in China does
create a huge advantage for us. We currently employ more than 3,000 people and have a footprint in
all of our key markets with 10 offices worldwide. Additionally, we indirectly employ more than 10,000 people in China and continue to grow
fantastic partnerships with our Orient factories. Everyday at Zuru we are
manufacturing over 400,000 toys. – Since 2015 we have more than doubled our international business and now distribute to over 120 countries and there’s no signs of us slowing down. Our products are available
in all major retail stores and we work closely with our retail and distribution partners. – In the great USA we have
98% distribution coverage through our partnerships
with all our major retailers. With the opening of over
10,000 square foot of showroom space in LA,
Bentonville, and Minneapolis, we will continue our USA growth. – Creativity is the heart of what we do. We bring a new approach to design and shape our brands from the ground up. We’ve built a world class team of illustrator, designers, and engineers and continue to grow our
development resources year on year. – [Nick] Zuru follows a
three-pronged approach to business: innovation, value, and licensing. – Zuru remains at the
forefront of product innovation by working with inventor
companies from around the globe. We identify promising concepts and develop these into marketable brands. Bunch O Balloons is the perfect example of how we took a great concept and brought it to market in the right way. Within six months we developed
the automation machines that are now responsible for making over 270,000 bunches everyday. (upbeat instrumental music) – We love ideas with real imagination. We’re always asking
what if or imagine that And nobody brings creativity
to life quicker than Zuru. – [Renee] We believe in telling stories. It’s the stories behind our products that fuel and encourage
the imagination of kids. But how we tell these
stories is rapidly changing. At Zuru we build diverse and
effective marketing plans that create billions of touch points with our brands every year. – We’re really excited about the future. Come play with Zuru. (upbeat instrumental music) – Great, thank you for coming on. – No worries. Nice to see you this morning. – Well Nick our audience, our
inventors, product developers, we have a lot of toy inventors out there, that would love to know more
about you and your company because I know you’ve
got a ton of hit toys. You seem to have these hit toys coming out year after year after year. So let’s turn it back for
just a minute and talk about, let’s talk about Bunch O Balloons. Cause that’s still on fire today, is it? It is, isn’t it? Yes, I think it’s four years in a row now, or five years of number one
selling spring/summer item. And three of those five
years it was the number one selling toy in North
America, all categories. Which is pretty amazing cause it’s a spring/summer item. It only sells for six months of the year and it’s been over taken by LOL
in the last couple of years. But two or three years it was
number one in North America. And of course still number one for summer category every year. – So basically tell me how
many units have you sold? – Total, well we sell about
30 million packs a year. So that over the last, I don’t know if it’s four years or five, how many years it’s been in the market. So it’s a lot, it’s a lot. About three billion
balloons a year, I think. – That’s just a year?
– Yeah, correct. – Okay wow, but you got a new product out that does something a little
bit different with balloons. Let’s talk about that for just a minute. – Yeah, sure. So it’s Bunch O Balloons Party and so of course after the success and continued success of
Bunch O Balloons water, we were looking to the obvious thing to look at was party balloons. And same kind of challenges,
difficult to blow up. So we basically designed
Bunch O Balloons Party. We fill, tie ribbon and string, and seal 40 party balloons in 40 seconds. So you can fill a whole room,
literally in five minutes. So it’s a real game changer. – Very, very fast. Now I was looking at all the toys that you’re company’s creating
and bringing to market. And it’s all over the board. I mean it’s not just one area. Could you go through a couple of the other products that you have? Some of the other hits cause I looked at the list of all the toy products and it’s staggering. – We have a very defined strategy and because we built the business, essentially out of Asia. We moved to China when I
was 18, my brother was 22, and my sister was early 20s as well. And we built the whole
business out of Asia and we tried to build this
really core competency in building a complex
automation of robotics to build products. So half our business is really, 54 acres of our own factory, which half of it is automated. So part of our business is
looking at established categories and saying how do we develop
and build a value driven brand, which is as good as the market
leader in that category? And deliver more margins
with our retail partners and deliver a real value
and wealth to the consumer. We look at our X-Shot brand, which is over 55 million
dart blasters a year. That’s a great example. We’re doing it in a number
of other categories. For example, die cast with Metal Machines. So we automate the whole
factory with bricks. So there’s that value
portion of our business where we can disrupt it from
a manufacturing standpoint and then there is the core
innovation part of our business. So brands like Bunch O Balloons. Brands like Rainbocorns, Smashers, Robo Alive, Pets Alive, things like this. So we have sort of this very strategic parts of our business. We did a lot of licensing. We’re doing less of that now, only very particular things. For example this year we had
a big launch of Baby Shark, which was just huge. We’re very selective when it
comes to licensed products and mainly focus on innovation and value. – Now you’re also in 120 countries? That you’re selling.
– Correct. – And you have 18
offices around the world, is that true too?
– Correct, we do now yes. So we have three in the U.S. Our U.S. head offices in
L.A., and then Minneapolis, and a little bit lesser outside of Target and outside of Wal-Mart. Then we have four of our
own factories in China. Our head office is in Shenzhen. About six or 700 people in Shenzhen, I don’t know the exact number, but our head office is there. I have offices all around the world. – Okay, so everyone that you’re listening, this company’s on fire and they’ve disrupted the toy industry. As you can tell, I’ve been in the toy industry for a few years. I started with Teddy
Ruxpin, with Lazer Tag. But those were, I don’t even know if you were born back then, Nick. Those toys go back so long ago. Tell me this, are you
inventor friendly company? Do you like inventors? – Absolutely, if you look at our business, Bunch O Balloons obviously
came from an inventor. One of our first major hits, Robo Fish must be eight years ago now, but that took us to our
first hundred million I think at that time. And that was an inventor product. The hit from year before last, with the fidget trend
started with the Fidget Cube which came out of the two guys who had the second biggest
Kickstarter of all time. I think it raised $9 million
on Kickstarter the Fidget Cube, and we licensed that,
that was huge that year. We licensed basically, a lot of ideas if you look back at our history. We’ve licensed dozens and dozens of ideas. Not all of them are as
successful as others. But that’s part of the
toy game as you well know. – Okay, so my audience always
wants to submit ideas to you. Do they just go on your website? Is it easy to submit ideas to you? – It is, yeah. We have an area on our website, but also I know a lot
of inventors work with our Head of Inventor Relations, Zack. So, [email protected] if you can get a hold of him. But he’s filtering through ideas everyday. And looking at them and
bringing them to our attention, the ones that he thinks are good. So we’re constantly looking at ideas, you never know where the next
great idea will come from and that’s something I definitely
learned pretty early on. Where it would come from, whether it’s a crowd funding
campaign or an inventor. The Mayka tape which we did last year, I think it was one of the
Kickstarters ever as well. It went viral, it was in
over two or 300 media outlets around the world from the
movement of the Lego tape. It wasn’t as successful in the end but I think it had billions
of media impressions. It was in Time, the
front cover of USA Today. So sometimes they come from crowd funders. Sometimes they come from inventors. Sometimes you just find
ideas from retailers. Sometimes you see them
in a factory in China. You just never know kinda
of where idea come from. We’re always open to new things. – Okay and what do you usually need? Do you need a prototype,
a sell sheet, a video? What do you like to see
to discover that magic that inventors come up
to submit an idea to you? – I think yeah, normally
we want to see a prototype. To be honest we want to be
able to visualize something and see that inventors
actually gone that step to realize it and have proof of concepts. So I think that’s important. – How important is a patent? Do we have to have a patent or
can we have a patent pending? What would you like to see? – Look, it depends on
the innovation I guess. Sure it’s nice but I don’t
think it’s essential. I think if you’ve come out
with something truly innovative that you know has that magic, that’s gonna resonate
and work in the market. But I think its really
important for me to try and stay on trend as well
and move with the trends. It’s pretty obvious where all the trends are at any one time. You know the multiple
surprises and layers, that’s a huge trend right now. So it’s staying on those trends as well and trying to add more magic to sometimes what is existing on the market. How do I make that even more amazing? We’ll do something more magic
than what currently exists. – The big question it seems like inventors always are asking, they submit an idea to a company, how long does it take for
you to get back to them? Is it two weeks, is it
three weeks, is it a month? Because they’re not very patient, Nick. So what should they expect? – So if we like something we’re normally back pretty quickly. So that’s a good indication. Then if it’s something
that’s not going to fly, I mean normally within a couple of weeks I would send out our
team to come back to you and tell we’re not interested. But generally speaking if
you’ve got something good you’ll hear back pretty quickly. That’s been my experience, we wanna jump on something that’s strong. – Well, Nick thank you
very much for coming on and I know you’re extremely busy. You’re doing so many different things. I just want to tell everybody
I love this company. They’re on fire, they’re
doing things brand new and it’s just a pleasure to
have you here with us today. Nick, so thank you very much. – Thank you, I appreciate the time. (upbeat instrumental music)

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