Inspired by childhood toy cars, ThoughtFull Toys has expanded its portfolio with the edition of Enduro, a line of toy vehicles boasting realistic driving mechanics. Here, Trevor Hite, the firm’s COO, explains the importance of sustainable toys, why crowdfunding sites are so crucial for small companies and the possibility of a monster truck.
How did you come up with the idea for Enduro?
Enduro was inspired by the toy cars of our childhood. When we were kids, we had these high quality metal toy cars that were also really tough. We'd spend hours in the backyard playing with them in the dirt, making jumps, and beating them up – some of them have survived to this very day.
We wanted to make a line of toy cars that was totally sustainable and would last for generations, because we are tired of seeing junk toys thrown away on a daily basis. Therefore we set out to make toy cars that don't break easily, and have a huge amount of play value.
Can you tell us a bit about the realistic driving mechanics in the cars? How does this work?
Enduro borrows the patented steering and suspension system that we created for our previous toy car line called Modarri. Although the system has been further improved with a tighter turn radius and much heftier, all-metal mechanics. We use a rack and tie rod steering system that provides dependable and accurate maneuvering for these vehicles, just like a real race car. We also use real suspension mechanics. The racer has a spring-actuated suspension (like coil springs), and the truck uses a heavy-duty leaf spring suspension, which is a spring-like curved plate of steel inside the truck that is attached to both axles (similar to the suspension system of most heavy duty work trucks).
As a driver of the toy vehicles, you can place your finger into the leather driver's seat of the racer and push in the direction you'd like to go, or grab the truck in any way you'd like to maneuver it. We use high grade bushings and bearings to make the driving experience ultra smooth, you could almost describe it as a gliding feeling.
You have smashed your target of $20,000. Did you anticipate this much interest in the campaign?
We did anticipate quite a bit of interest in this campaign, as we have been bringing our Enduro prototypes to toy fairs for a year now. It seems that everyone who lays eyes on them wants to touch them, and once they get their hands on them, they fall in love. We've even had retailers place pre-orders when we didn't have funding or manufacturing lined up for the production of the cars.
Will retailers in the UK be able to stock these toys?
It will be ready in the UK right off the bat. We have just recently setup European distribution for our Modarri brand, and we will simply add Enduro to this distribution.
Why is it important to offer a toy that is 100 per cent sustainable?
We feel that having a 100 per cent sustainable toy is important because it reduces the negative impact on our planet and our future generations. If we could make our toys out of completely natural, or recycled materials, why not do it? Making 100 per cent sustainable toys requires more work, but imagine if sustainable toys became the new standard for the toy industry? That would have a huge positive impact on our planet and possibly lead people to live more eco-friendly lifestyles overall.
Even more importantly though, is the idea of toys that have ‘sustainable play’. We believe the most sustainable toys are the ones that get used the most, and have the most play value. As toy makers and parents, we are sincerely saddened to see how quickly most of today's toys end up in a landfill – most toys don't last for more than a year in a household before being thrown away. This is due to the lack of play value and quality found in most of today's toys, with many of them having a single use, being made cheaply, or simply being a fad-toy that quickly gets forgotten. Our goal is to make toys that people will always care about, and are passed on to future generations – and if we can avoid hurting the environment in the process of building them, you can bet that we'll take that route.
What are your thoughts on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo?
We are big fans of crowdfunding and the sites that make it possible. The beautiful part of crowdfunding is that you are only building products that you know people want. It is simple social proof. At the end of a successful campaign, hundreds of people have handed you their hard-earned money and have basically said: "I really like your idea and I believe in you – take my money and make it happen. I'll wait patiently while you figure it all out."
Both of ThoughtFull Toys’ brands (Modarri and now Enduro) have been launched on Kickstarter for this very reason. It just makes sense for us as a small company. This way we know we aren't wasting our resources on something that we don't know if people will like or not.
What are your future plans for the brand?
Enduro is a brand that we see reaching a far larger audience than Modarri. It is very easy to understand, good for almost all ages, and it is beautiful, functional, and durable. It's pretty easy to sell – unlike Modarri which is much more complex to a new customer and has a smaller age range.
We plan on having Enduro on retailers’ shelves all over the world and expanding the vehicle line if things go well. There have been discussions about possibly making a monster truck.