The Kent Excellence in Business Awards is an annual awards scheme staged and produced by KM Media Group and Kent County Council to recognise and reward excellence in Kent’s businesses.
This year’s winner of the Success in International Trade category is Bigjigs Toys.
Bigjigs Toys was born in 1985 in Peter Ireland’s garden shed. He was learning to be a craft design teacher and began making wooden toys in his spare time. Friends and began making wooden toys in his spare time. Friends and family were so impressed by his wooden creations that they kept asking him to make toys for them.
Peter began making wooden jigsaws from floorboards, which he and wife Liz sold at craft fairs all across the UK. Then, during one school holiday, they made the decision to give up teaching and pursue the toys business full time. Bigjigs Toys was born.
Initially sold through mail order – at its peak during the 1990s it was printing 500,000 catalogues every year – it began to supply other toy shops and retails – making trade and B2B sales its biggest income.
Three years ago, it launched its B2C website – allowing the public to also buy direct.
Today it operates from a large warehouse in Folkestone; distributing toys worldwide to over 100 countries, and employing close to 50 staff. Peter and Liz still run the company – with their two sons also now directors. It works closely with a number of production facilities in the Far East – which are regularly visited to ensure they operate ethically and are committed to the quality expected.
Even during the pandemic it has seen consistent grown internationally – with new ranges coming online and being set up through regular video calls.
Its direct-to-store business across the EU was impacted by Brexit – but it restructured its shipping process to ensure customers have seen no material difference. It hopes to double its B2B business in the Middle East and grow its B2C business in the EU to in excess of 1m euros. For the B2B business in the Middle East, it currently has two distribution partners that target the educational market with the aim to find two more that target the retail market.
When travel restrictions ease, it intends to attend international trade shows in a bid to boost its growth further.
The other finalists in the Success in International Trade category were:
- Hornby Hobbies
- Viking Maritime Group