For 20 years, Keith Finch has been somewhat of a hero of the pop-up book scene. An origami entrepreneur, Finch has headed up his Paper Engine business since 2012, over which time he has designed and developed some of the most intricately striking imagery across the marketing and book publishing space.
Through the power of pop-up paper design, Finch has worked with the likes of Egmont Publishing and David Walliams – in partnership with Alton Towers – all through the medium of Paper Engine, an expert purveyor of the paper and board.
Come London Toy Fair 2020, Finch and the Paper Engine team made their first mark upon the toy industry with the grand unveiling of Build Your Own, an in-house off-shoot of the Paper Engine business with a mission to develop eco-friendly, STEM inspired children’s toys that kids and families could build for themselves from the comfort of home.
Having made its debut with the Build Your Own Telescope, and the subsequent launch of the Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher and Build Your Own Microscope, Finch seems to have found a home within the toy industry. Only last month, Build Your Own collected a Silver Award from the 2020 Independent Toy Awards – the independent toy shop-led awards curated by Toy Shop UK – in the STEM category for its flagship product, Build Your Own Telescope, proving that paper and card certainly have their space among the toy shelves of the 21st century.
ToyNews catches up with Paper Engine founder and man behind the award-winning Build Your Own range, Keith Finch to learn more about the company and its plans to inspire an industry with its eco-friendly designs.
Hello Keith, thanks for joining us. Can you talk to us about the Build Your Own brand? What are you guys bringing to the UK toy market?
Build Your Own are the creators of an exciting new range of eco-friendly, STEM-inspired children’s toys that you can build yourself. The idea for Build Your Own began in 2018 when I first started experimenting with making products in-house; designing and creating selfbuild toys from paper and board. Shortly after, Build Your Own was born.
Headed up by myself, we are a UK-based team of paper engineers with decades of experience engineering pop-up books, direct mail pieces, packaging and more. After many years designing and engineering for clients, we are really excited to now be making our own products. We launched at Toy Fair 2020 with our first product – the Build Your Own Telescope – and have since launched two more: our Paper Plane Launcher and Microscope.
Our paper engineers have been working in paper and board for many years, and we are incredibly passionate about creating cardboard toys that can be built as part of a family experience.
Build Your Own brings a fresh energy the UK toy market with our innovative toys. Our kits have been designed to encourage children to immerse themselves in the fun world of science and exploration, helping to reduce screentime and bring families together to create rich memories. Our goal is to inspire curious young imaginations through our fun and growing range of eco-friendly toys, to keep innovating and pushing design boundaries.
And so far it’s going very well for you. Congratulations on the recent award wins at the Independent Toy Awards this year. How does this reflect the growing popularity of the Build Your Own brand here in the UK?
Winning the 2020 Independent Toy Awards has been a huge pat on the back for us, and we are immensely proud of our achievement.
Build Your Own was built from passion and a vision to create sustainable toys, rather than experience in the toy industry; so, winning these awards feels like a rubber stamp of approval that we’ve got it right. We know from customer and reviewer feedback that the STEM and eco-friendly elements of our products are a huge part of their attraction. So, winning Silver in the STEM category and Bronze in the Eco category is fantastic for us, and fully supports the appeal and growing popularity of Build Your Own.
A key element of the Build Your Own brand is the sustainability of the product. How is the award win reflective of sustainability as a growing issue of importance among UK consumers?
Designing products from high-quality, sustainable materials is at the forefront ofour creative process. We use minimal plastics both our kits and packaging without compromising on integrity. Winning Bronze in the ECO category for our Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher is absolutely reflective of a growing movement of eco-consciousness, yes. We know that more and more consumers are looking for sustainable products, and want to engage with and purchase from brands that reflect their own values. The awards will help us reinforce our sustainability credentials to eco-conscious consumers.
Following Toy Fair 2020, the BBC featured Build Your Own with a focus on our eco-friendly credentials – it is great to see that further supported now with this award.
Why is that eco-conscious aspect such an important topic for you guys?
Being eco-friendly is at the very core of Build Your Own’s ethos. At inception, the team were concerned about how the majority of plastic toys eventually end up as landfill; we decided that cardboard was definitely the best way forward.
While unable to completely eliminate plastics, we aim to keep it as minimal as possible. Sustainable cardboard and paper will always be the core components of our products and packaging. We only have one planet, so we’re doing our bit to create toys that are not only fun, but sustainable too. Our company ethos is ‘Less plastic, paper fantastic!’, and we’re incredibly passionate about being environmentally responsible in all that we do.
How receptive has the toy industry and retail scene been to the sustainability movement? What – if any – sort of impact do you think the recent lockdown had on the message?
Consumers are definitely becoming increasingly eco-conscious and I think this movement will continue to grow. And rightly so. We are receiving growing interest in our product range from retailers looking for sustainable toys, reflective of consumer demand for eco-friendly.
Consumers have a wealth of choice available to them; many people are looking to buy from responsible, ethical brands with a story that resonates with them. Brands that they can trust. That’s of course why online product reviews and recommendations play such a huge part in influencing their purchasing decisions.
The recent lockdown has encouraged us to focus on and promote our eco-credentials with confidence; as a result, we have experienced a really positive response to this message from the media, retailers and consumers.
How has business been for you guys this past year? How have you met the challenges of the pandemic, and what opportunities have you spotted within it all?
The pandemic accelerated our product development plans. It pushed us to really focus on Build Your Own and fast-track ideas that had been in the pipeline for a while, and then to grow our team.
Demand for Build Your Own products grew as people were looking for fun and engaging ways to entertain their children. With schools closed, home-schooling and finding new and exciting ways to occupy active young minds became a priority for many parents. We focused on growing our online presence and PR support to drive sales. An incredible number of opportunities have followed and we are very proud of what the team has achieved in just a few short months.
It’s been a very exciting time for Build Your Own, and we’re looking forward to seeing our plans unfold as we enter into Q4.
How are you guys looking as we head into the Q4/Christmas season? What expectations do you have for the portfolio this Christmas?
We are extremely excited for Q4/Christmas. This will be our first Christmas and we have so much more to come. We have just released our Build Your Own Microscope, which has been received incredibly well by the trade.
The Build Your Own Marble Run launches in October and we’re delighted to have retail distribution underway and growing. It is a really fun product and will be a fantastic addition to the range. It’s our most technical build so far and gives children a light introduction to science and specifically physics.
We are supporting our full product range in Q4 with an integrated marketing campaign including digital, PR and social media activity, plus much more. We also have plans to create a fresh, engaging Christmas experience for consumers on our website.
And of course, we have a few surprises up our sleeve…
Oh really? So what are the next big plans for Build Your Own?
Our main focus is to expand our distribution. We are keen to build relationships with retailers and look at developing collaborations. As a flexible, agile business with full control of our own manufacturing, we’re also in a strong position to explore and develop fresh ideas and projects with others in the industry.
We have a number of exciting retail opportunities coming in Q4 and beyond; and we have ambitious plans to further expand this growth. The Build Your Own team is growing too which means that we are able to deliver focused, ongoing PR and marketing campaigns to drive brand growth. And there’s so much more to come for 2021. Watch this space.
Contact the Build Your Own team on 07484
543387 or firstname.lastname@example.org