Toy company has global designs

Company's designs on overseas markets

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2014
Wishbone Design Studio
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
HAVE WHEELS, WILL TRAVEL: Wishbone Design Studio partners Jennifer McIver and Richard Latham with the toy company’s Wishbone Wagon which transforms from a pull-along trolley to a go-kart, then a car.

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Wishbone Design studio has a simple goal - to develop a new generation of classic children's toys for the global market.

By all accounts the Wellington-based company is hitting the mark with its range of transformational ride-on toys now stocked in 1000 shops worldwide.

The flagship product is the Wishbone Bike which starts with three wheels to help babies walk. It transforms into a pedal-less bike which itself can be adapted so it grows with a child to the age of 5.

Co-owner Jennifer McIver said the first bike was developed by her partner Richard Latham, for their young son, in New York where McIver worked as a lawyer at the United Nations.

"From the day that we had one for our son people were asking for one. We knew from the very beginning that we had something we could build as a product."

The family returned to Wellington where Latham, a qualified industrial designer, struggled to find a suitable job. They decided they should start the design studio to utilise Latham's abilities in 2008.

"He thought we'd have a company where he could design that bike that everyone wanted in New York. He probably would have hung a sign on the door that said ‘I make bikes'.

"But he was burdened with a wife who tends to view things globally . . . from the very beginning I thought that the planet was an appropriate size of market for us."

Two more products followed.

In 2011 they launched the Wishbone Flip, a transformational indoor rock and roll toy for kids aged 1 to 5 which combines a traditional rocking horse with an indoor ride-on.

Two years later they introduced the Wishbone Wagon, which goes from a pull-along trolley, to go-kart (or gravity racer), to a Flintstones-style of car with steering wheel.

All three products are made of bent birch plywood.

McIver said they had sold "tens of thousands of units", 90 per cent of them to foreign markets.

In the 2013-14 year they sold to 400 retailers and 19 distributors in 40 countries. Wishbone products are sold in 1000 stores worldwide.

"We have six warehouses globally, we sell in four currencies, we return tax in three jurisdictions."

Earlier this year Wishbone unveiled the Wishbone Bike Recycled Edition made out of recycled nylon carpet removed from homes in the United States and made into high grade nylon pellets in South Carolina.

McIver said it took 3.5 kg of carpet to make one Wishbone nylon bike. To make the bike from new would have required the use of 5 litres of crude oil to make the nylon.

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"So each recycled bike saves 5 litres of crude oil and 3.5kg of landfill."

Company progress is tracked using a Canadian system which, for a low cost, enabled the operating systems for the business to be on "one dashboard".

"Every day we are looking at how to make a complex set of processes simple. One of the answers is cloud computing and IT."

This also helps the company achieve another goal of running a "very lean business" - it has four full-time equivalents - engaged in "an expansive way in terms of global exports and sales".

"You can have ingenious Kiwi ideas go global within a small business footprint. You don't need to have enormous funding, staff, office . . . or capital investment. You do need great products.

"It is a characteristic of what we are doing."

Wishbone Design Studio is a finalist in The Dominion Post-sponsored Wellington Gold Awards, to be held this Thursday.

- The Dominion Post

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