Mike Howarth is not only an avid gamer, he’s a dab hand at construction kits too. Combining the two passions, three years ago he took to crowdfunding to bring PaperShooters to market. Robert Hutchins talks to him about the recent sell-out success of the blaster at RED5 and to find out his future plans
What is PaperShooters and how did it come about?
PaperShooters is a highly detailed construction kit. Users have to build all 138 components, including the air chamber, springs, and the trigger mechanism. The plastic ‘skeleton’ is then covered with interchangeable cardboard camo skins. The blasters are functional too, blasting biodegradable paper ammo, up to 100 feet. Users can make the ammo themselves from ordinary paper using the mould included in the kit.
What has early reaction been like?
Well, we sold out of our first shipment on RED5 within three days, and the retailer has ordered more already. But public and consumer reaction to the line has always been fantastic for us in general. We’ve never doubted the idea, and I truly believe that there are no limits to how far this brand can go.
From February, we will be catering to all audiences from younger kids to adults. By then, we will have a range of products from futuristic blasters, to almost replica like Call of Duty and Halo shooters, including a ‘design your own camo’ option.
Did the success of the Kickstarter campaign take you by surprise?
I’d had a couple of attempts at raising cash through Indiegogo initially. The first campaign was a big success, raising almost $20,000 but we didn’t hit the goal, so it was refunded back. We then tried again but none of the media sites such as Wired, Engadget or Gizmag would cover us again, so that campaign just fizzled out. It was third time lucky when we launched on Kickstarter.
We learned that success on Kickstarter is all about advertising. People who run campaigns typically don’t realise that you must have an advertising budget for your idea, and it needs to be a decent one. We got it right and it was a big success.
PaperShooters as we know it has been three years in the making. Can you talk us through the journey?
It’s been one hell of a journey. I had the initial idea for PaperShooters while watching videos on YouTube of people making cardboard guns from their favourite video games. That told me that there was a definite market for this kind of thing.
I had the idea of making a really cool cardboard kit that anybody could make, regardless of their creative skill, but it had to shoot. I initially worked with a small but talented product design firm in Surrey called Bang Creations to develop a working prototype.
At that point I tried various avenues for investment, and after many failed routes, eventually met my business partner.
Why should UK retailers be excited for PaperShooters?
I think PaperShooters offers something unlike anything that’s ever been seen before. The shelves are littered with plastic blasters that all offer the same thing. Whereas we offer something unique. We will be offering a range of designs from February and will be attending New York Toy Fair, where we are hopeful of securing some large orders.
What’s the next stage for you guys?
We see the US as one of our biggest markets, and have already been approached by a number of distributors there. We are hopeful that we will be stocked in a range of toy stores, sporting goods, airsoft and even gun stores too by autumn next year.
We are also targeting the big box stores like Target and Walmart, and have already been asked for samples from some of the big guys.
How can retailers get on board with PaperShooters?
We have product landing in the UK right now, and we are keen to hear from any potential stockists who can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We are really excited to develop this brand.