Kiddimoto is perhaps the most well known name in balance bikes and, with a little help from a television appearance on Dragon’s Den, is now one of the best funded for further boosting its market share. Mark Sutton speaks to founder Simon Booth about his grand plan for the business…
Tell us about Kiddimoto’s origins and the reason for building the first:
I was introduced to the concept of balance bikes back in 2003 and the first designs started out as a very basic balance bike. As a motorcycle enthusiast I immediately decided the bikes had to be mini replicas of different types of motorcycles – superbikes, motocross, scooter and choppers. I sent the first MDF prototype for safety testing, which failed dramatically. This made me redesign the whole product and to introduce the use of plywood. Plywood is very strong and much more aesthetic. This new design passed the testing and that was the birth of the product that has not changed much since then. However, there have been evolutionary improvements and developments to the bikes.
Has this been the busiest year in Kiddimoto’s history?
Every year has seen high rates of growth and 2011 has been without doubt the busiest. Not only have we had massive growth in sales, but we have introduced new products and we have gone from five employees to ten. We have also pushed very hard into a much broader spectrum of market sectors. These include not only the cycle market, but the motorcycle, toy, early years education and gift sectors.
Tell us a bit about the Dragon’s Den experience – how it came about and the resulting investment:
The Dragons Den was a roller coaster ride. I applied through the BBC website in early May and three weeks later I was filming in the Den. The whole experience was surreal, it was like stepping into a life sized HD TV. It was, however, an experience I will always treasure. I asked for £75k for ten per cent and was offered the full amount for 30 per cent by Duncan. He also offered half that amount, which left Hilary making a matching offer. At the time I just jumped opportunity to have two dragons on board.
Have Hilary Devey and Duncan Bannatyne offered much assistance above their investment?
I had quite a bit of contact with Hilary’s finance director and he was very helpful and insightful. The investment has not materialised. There was an issue with a minority shareholder that essentially skuppered the deal.
I also felt that Duncan’s advice of not giving away part of my business was invaluable and thus followed it.
You secured a fairly good deal by Dragon’s Den standards – did you have to haggle for this?
No haggling, just jumped straight in.
Tell us a bit about the bikes build and the materials:
The bikes are very well engineered and they are built like a piece of quality furniture. I pride myself on producing quality and unique designs and the materials are all high quality. The Birch plywood is from managed forests and all the paints are non-VOC, exceeding child toy safety standards. Quality and safety are paramount.
How can retailers take stock of Kiddimoto?
Retailers simply contact one of our sales guys and place a relatively small order. We try to carry a complete inventory, however, we have experienced unprecedented demand and seeing a lot of models going out of stock this year. We are doing everything to ensure retailers are getting some stock.
Where are the bikes currently stocked?
We currently have over 450 stockists in the UK. We also have partners in over 40 countries. These range from small independent stores to major national chains, such as John Lewis and Evans Cycles.
You’ve lots of licensed and signature products – how do you come by the inspiration for these?
The licensed replicas come from being involved in the sport. I make sure that I include the most popular, highly regarded and iconic riders from the sport of motorcycle racing. I am moving into the world of cycle heroes and will have some very famous names coming to the range in 2012.
Which bikes are typically the best sellers?
The Heroes range and scooters are very popular. The Kurve was introduced a few months ago and is becoming a major part of our portfolio.
What’s your growth curve like at present?
It’s doubling year-on-year.
What are your aspirations for the future of the business?
My aspiration is to make balance bikes the natural first bike option for all children looking to start rolling on two wheels and for Kiddimoto to be the number one brand name associated with the category.