Going it alone: Why toy designers should head out on their own

Three years ago, Sarah Greenswell took the gamble on breaking the toy industry with her Elf for Christmas concept, which went on to scoop multiple awards.
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Going it alone always seems like a daunting prospect, particularly when you’re trying to break the toy industry.

In fact, as a mother to a newborn child, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole idea is a little crazy. But it was something I was determined to do.

I put pen to paper with the idea of Elf for Christmas in 2014. I was on maternity leave, it was approaching December and I was thinking about the Christmas traditions our little family could start and I did some research online.

I was looking for something endearing, with style and that would help me instil some good old- fashioned values. Despite having no experience in product design or in the toy industry, I decided, in my ‘new baby-haze’ it was a good idea to invest our life savings, and create something myself.

I spent about six months designing Elf, writing the magical rewards kits, coming up with my concept and figuring out the story around the brand. I had spent ten years running a branding agency so I knew the importance of getting the brand story and the product perfectly aligned.

I was on the arc of every steep learning curve, and about to embark on a very exciting journey.

I had spent a lot of time getting product made up and shipped over and by autumn 2016 I launched our website. When the orders started coming in from retailers, I slowly began to realise the potential.

But the big breakthrough moment came when we visited London Toy Fair with the idea of researching distributors that would be able to help us navigate the move into retail.

Appointing Asobi as our UK distributor was a great breakthrough moment for us, they have really got behind the brand and have taken us into some leading retailers. We are now increasing our range and expanding into exciting new territories.

The whole experience of going it alone has been challenging, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. When I look back from where we are now, I am glad I took that chance on an idea, despite the challenges.

If you’re reading this and you have a strong idea, I’d say go for it. The hardest part is just getting started. 


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