As organizers we spend a lot of time talking about "stuff". We always try to direct our clients to experiences, consumables and items of quality. We spoke with Jim Barber at Luke's Toy Factory in Danbury, CT about their fun mission.
How did the company start?
The company consists of 2 father and son teams. Jim Barber and his son Luke, and Mitch Achiron and his son Evan.
Jim runs the business side, Luke does the toy design, Mitch handles package design and Evan does the social media and Public relations.
We all pitch in to build and package the toys.
We got the idea to make toys here in the US after the highly publicized toy recalls from Chinese made toys. In our research we found that almost all toys are made in China, with only a small percentage made in the US. We thought that maybe we could come up with something better. Luke made the initial designs on a computer, we 3D printed them and used these models to launch a Kickstarter fundraiser.
Can you talk about the importance of being made in America especially Connecticut?
Being made in America is a key component of what we do. By making it here, we can monitor production and assure safety. We can use a just in time production model so that we are not stuck with unsold inventory that we must sell cheaply after the holidays. There are over 40 people who have a hand in making our toys, including mold makers in Massachusetts, raw material suppliers in Michigan, and injection molding here in Connecticut. The packaging is also made in CT.
The level of technical expertise that we can draw on from sophisticated manufacturers here in CT is a key component of our success, most importantly with the help of Vanguard Plastics in Southington.
How is the company eco-friendly?
Our toys consist of 30% organic material ( sawdust from furniture factories ) mixed with 10% recycled plastic and 60% virgin plastic. This allows us to replace 1/3 of the plastic that would have been used to make the toy with recycled materials while still insuring product safety.
Now the fun stuff, how do you come up with toy ideas?
Luke had the idea of creating a toy that was more realistic than a "baby toy" but not as difficult to assemble as most toys meant for older kids. Luke has always loved trains, trucks and all kinds of vehicles, so he had a head start. He researched classic designs and and used these elements to create his trucks on a Computer aided design (CAD) program. Then he 3D printed them and we gave them to kids to play with, we used the feedback to refine and perfect the toys.
Which Truck is the most popular?
Our cargo Truck is the most popular. It has all those little boxes to put stuff in!
Any plans to bring new designs to market, or is it a secret?
We are expanding into the educational market, so we are working on some children's books to go along with the trucks, in addition to videos, posters and other fun stuff.
Luke also has plenty more designs on the drawing board which we are working on right now, including a tug boat and train designs.