XXIV - 2015

Nick Mowbray of the toy brand Zuru wants to give something back after his early success


PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 12:04pm

With no money apart from a small loan from his parents and a strong dose of entrepreneurial spirit, Nick Mowbray moved to mainland China with his brother and sister to start a toy company when he was only 18 and straight out of high school. 

"It [grew from] a school project that my brother won as a student in New Zealand," Mowbray recalls. "The very first toy idea was a hot-air balloon kit set."

Eleven years later, Zuru is a global company with seven offices and 1,000 employees all over the world, and ships to nearly every major retailer.

At 30, Mowbray is still young and already giving back. Zuru not only aims to create toys and make children happy, but it also gives away toys around the world and is involved in different charities. 

"I want to do more with the time that I'm given," he says. "I'm always worried that I'm only young once, and I want to experience more and do more. The years just go so fast. I want to be able to do so much, to achieve so much."

One project involves building an entrepreneurial centre in Mowbray's old high school, where they can teach children that there's another path in life besides going from high school to university to a 9-to-5 job. Zuru also funds programmes for the underprivileged, and employees are encouraged to volunteer their time with disabled children. 

"[It's] not just about being really successful, but to give back as a result of being successful," Mowbray says.

When he started his venture on the mainland, it was a very different environment. Back then, "we lived in a little apartment on the eighth floor, no lift, and we lived on a dollar a day for food". 

"We had zero money. We hired our first Chinese employee from the Canton Fair and rented a tiny factory, bought our first injection moulder, started our first production line and made our first product." 

Zuru got its first big break was when it signed the David Beckham Academy. The company continued to grow and had a breakout success with Robo Fish, which sold over 30 million aquatic toys in a two-year period. 

These days, the focus is on forming the best strategies in an industry that is notoriously fickle, and timing plays a big role since toys are so trend-driven. "[We're] staying on top of trends, finding what's hot and what's new. Timing is important, and making sure that we are developing the right ideas and the right concepts," Mowbray says.

Zuru is known for being an innovative company that can rapidly turn things around for the global market.

"For Bunch of Balloons, currently the best-selling toy in the world, everyone jumped on it," Mowbray says. "We went into a bidding war with our competitor, because everyone wanted this product. We had it out very quickly, and within five months, we built a fully automated, fully robotic factory to produce this product. We can move very fast across the whole spectrum, from the development of the manufacturing to the automation to the market and global distribution." EN


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