Creating a Global Personalised Toy Brand – Interview with Lee White
Lee White started Cubbies, a personalised children’s toy product from his apartment in Canada with a vision in mind to put smiles on children’s faces. Here, he shares his challenges of growing a global brand.
Q: Lee, thanks for joining us. Please tell our readers what Cubbies is?
Cubbies make a large range of stuffed animal teddies that can be personalised for any occasion.
Q: How much has the personalised gift industry changed during your last decade running Cubbies?
It hasn’t – I haven’t seen anything new or unique since we entered the market.
Q: How did you grow the brand in the beginning? Was it completely bootstrapped or have you taken funding?
I had no funding for marketing, all my funds went into inventory. My first customers were US Distributors who resold the product–this helped indirectly advertise my brand to potential prospects who may wish to buy from me directly.
My direct marketing strategy was pretty simple, I would spend time looking for my ideal prospect on Facebook and contact them with a message introducing Cubbies and how they could help their business. It had decent success.
Q: How has the product evolved over the years from your original idea? Has customer feedback always been positive?
We have created four ranges of Cubbies, but the originals are still the best sellers. My customers did not all like the “signature” line I had created in 2017 and felt they were too ‘cartoony’. I always said I was aiming for the Disney look and felt we made create improvements on the range, but customers preferred the old classics and were very frustrated when I discontinued old outdated designs.
Q: Has the focus always been from the outset to focus on the B2C channels or has B2B been something you’ve always planned to explore when the time is right?
I started the business focusing solely on B2B. However, the end goal has always been B2C because that is how we can make it big. Having to rely on trade suppliers to sell my product is never going to be successful unless your trade account is very big–if they were, they’d probably knock you off anyway.
Q: Your store is built on WooCommerce. How has this been for you as an e-commerce platform and what has your experience been like?
Not brilliant – plugins keep slowing the site down and I keep throwing money at it in the hope that it improves. Next time I will use Shopify as I’ve only heard good things.
Q: Which marketing channels have been effective for Cubbies & which ones less so?
In 2014/2015, Facebook was amazing. Boosting posts to 100,000 for $5! But they have constantly changed their algorithm and now there is no ROI. We’ve recently been pursuing Google Shopping ads and Google Smart Shopping has been giving us a decent return, although the impressions are low. We cannot seem to spend more than £10 a day.
Q: What advice would you give to new e-commerce store owners or product developers looking to cut their teeth?
Don’t do it…
But, if you had to… make sure whatever you are selling is what people want and there is little to no competition doing a better job. I found success selling unique product in a niche market. It seems for every commodity there are 100 manufactures/brands trying to sell it and get their product best placed either in an online search or a retail shelf. If your plan to beat the competition is that you plan on spending a lot of money on Google or Facebook ads, you’ll lose all your money. You have to have a product that has a clear USP that benefits the consumer–only once that is proven is when you start investing in e-commerce and marketing.
Q: Lastly, what does the future for Cubbies look like?
We are currently in discussions to license a very well known brand. If that gets accepted that could be a game changer. If we can expand our search terms on Google and still be profitable, then there’s no reason why we cannot spend £500 a day on ads. Providing there’s always a return there’s no limit. I’ve spent six years and hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to get consumers to convert from our website. But I’ll keep trying…
Adam is a digital marketing entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in the industry. His copywriting has contributed towards building multimillion £/$ e-commerce brands with proven email marketing strategies. Today, Adam is fiercely passionate about helping SMEs optimise their customer value journeys with effective content marketing and scaleable digital strategies at Magnet Monster.