Environment | Build Your Own: “There’s real desire from retail and consumers to support sustainable”

Paper Engine’s Build Your Own division of eco-focused STEM crafting kits has only been on the scene one year, but it’s impact is already being felt industry-wide, having secured no fewer than four awards and celebrated a ‘hugely successful Christmas period’ last year. 

ToyNews catches up with founder and origami expert, Keith Finch to cover the big topic of sustainability and how to make a success of it in the 21st century toy market.

By its own admission, the past year has been to Paper Engine, the team behind the award-winning Build Your Own STEM activity kits, what Mr Fox is to Roald Dahl, or what the Four were to Stan Lee; which is to say, nothing short of ‘fantastic’.

Born of a company that has firmly established itself within the paper crafting and pop-up book publishing sectors for the past eight years, it’s difficult to believe that Build Your Own only made its debut at the start of 2020. Furthermore, it’s spectacular to think that within that first year, the children’s STEM kit brand has swept up no fewer than four industry awards.

A solid marketing campaign, supplemented by a strong PR push, helped Build Your Own secure strong brand visibility and product sales across what it called ‘a hugely successful Christmas period’ last year, and one that has in turn “opened up many new exciting opportunities for the team” as it continues its charge headfirst into 2021.

So now, with all of this in the bag within the first 12 months of the Build Your Own brand establishment, you’ll forgive Paper Engine founder, Keith Finch, the moment of excitement he deserves as he looks towards 2021 as “another year of growth” for the business.

But success to Finch looks like more than just year on year growth, because at the core of what Build Your Own delivers to the market is the message of eco-consciousness and sustainability; a drive to do away with the plastic that ends up as landfill and prove that a business dealing solely in paper and card has every means to thrive in the 21st century toy market.

Here, ToyNews jumps into the big conversations with Paper Engine founder Keith Finch, about the importance of being sustainable, and the greater importance of showing how successful it can be.

Hello Keith, forgive me for jumping straight into the meaty topic, but you guys have made such success of bringing sustainability to the STEM and arts & crafts market in the first year of business alone. Why is this so important to you?

Being eco-friendly is at the very core of Build Your Own. At inception, the team were concerned about how the majority of plastic toys eventually end up in landfill; we decided that cardboard was the best way forward.

We absolutely thrive on working with paper and board; and are always striving to be greener in all that we do.

We only have one planet, so we’re doing our bit to create toys that are not only fun and educational, 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.

That’s great to hear. So what effect do you think the pandemic has had on consumer mind-sets and their relationship with sustainability?

Since the onset of the pandemic, consumer mind-set has most definitely shifted towards being more eco-conscious. Making more considered, green choices has become of greater importance and we have received 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 they can trust.

A recent Brandwatch report highlighted that 57 per cent of consumers want businesses to focus on sustainability and the environment more in 2021, and that is exactly what we intend to continue to do – as we have done since brand inception.

So what does the team do to ensure that Build Your Own upholds sustainability in the toy space?

Designing products from high-quality, sustainable materials is at the forefront of our creative process. We use minimal plastics in both our kits and packaging without compromising on integrity.

We use FSC paper and board to make our Build Your Own products and packaging, and promote recycling the (minimal) packaging waste on pack. Every part of our packaging can be recycled.

Consumers love that our cardboard kits can withstand the tough handling of children, yet still reduce impact on the environment.

Can you talk us through your current portfolio? What have you got to excite retailers working with you for 2021?

There are four kits in Build Your Own’s current range: Telescope, Paper Plane Launcher, Microscope and Marble Run. Each kit has a unique function and its own fun build challenges to encourage children to learn through play.

We were delighted that our award-winning Telescope (our first product to launch) featured on Channel 5’s The Gadget Show back in December, this was a huge opportunity for us. 

The Build Your Own Paper Plane Launcher remains our stand-out top seller, a fantastic kit that provides hours of entertainment – enjoyed by big kids too! 

Launched in August 2020, our Microscope and has already picked up two awards. With spring just around the corner, we see great opportunity for this kit as children get outside more to explore nature.

Finally, our newest launch – the Marble Run – is our most technical build so far with 153 slot-together pieces; it provides the perfect activity for quality family time and encourages children to use their imagination and problem-solving skills. Plus, they learn about physics and kinetic energy as they play. 

We have four fantastic Build Your Own kits available for retailers, but we are not standing still. The reaction we’ve had from consumers, retailers and the media to our products has been incredible. We really believe that there is a desire from retailers and consumers to support sustainable products, and we hope that our range of Build Your Own kits gives choice and shows that truly fantastic toys can be made out of sustainable materials.

Buoyed by our fantastic first 12 months, we’re excited to launch our next series of STEM-inspired, educational and eco-friendly kits later this year. To compliment the current Build Your Own range, we are launching our new series of Mini-Builds this summer. The Mini-Build kits will be 100 per cent sustainable and retail for under £10; helping pockets as well as the environment. 

What do you think the future of toy retail and the sustainability message looks like? How important will it be when we emerge from the pandemic?

As we emerge from this pandemic, protecting our environment and the drive for sustainable products is going to become an increasingly important part of everyone’s lives. Without a doubt, retailers see sustainability as a growth area for 2021 and beyond.

Our top-selling Paper Plane Launcher won in the ECO Category of the 2020 Independent Toy Awards, fully supporting the growing movement of eco-conscious consumers. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Build Your Own, and we will continue to innovate and challenge ourselves to bring new and exciting eco-friendly toys to market in the years ahead.

What’s the next step for you guys in the STEM/arts & crafts space?

We’re excited to be launching our new Mini-Builds early summer – four innovative Build Your Own kits that children (and their grown-ups) will love. Each kit comes complete with an informative, STEM-inspired educational piece too.

We also have a further four new Build Your Own kits launching based on the success of our existing products. These will extend the STEM element of our designs, and bring exciting, fresh innovation to the toy industry.

Our launches will continue to be supported with marketing campaigns including digital, PR and social media activity plus much more. We will be developing bespoke POS for our independent retailers, and building on our range of resources available on our website that encourage children to get outside and explore their world; explorer activity cards, fun makes, how-to videos and more.

The Build Your Own team is growing too, which means that alongside our dedicated sales and after sale support, we are able to deliver focused, ongoing PR and marketing campaigns to drive brand growth. We are also adding to our team of paper engineers which is an incredibly exciting milestone for our young brand.

Contact the Build Your Own sales team on 07484 543387 or email jason@paperengine.com for more information. www.buildyourownkits.com

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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