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Eco Toy: create a business effortlessly

How Far Eastern wooden toys became known to the whole world

The small Far Eastern village of Chuguyevka never thundered to the whole country thanks to its products, but now they know about this village even across the ocean: the wooden toys “Kubi Dubi”, produced in this village by the Eko Toys company, have become popular in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and now conquer fans in other countries. Now the pilot enterprise will expand. Evgeny Korzh, founder and owner of Eko Toys, told EastRussia how to set up toy production and get support from the authorities and customers.

- Primorsky Krai is usually associated with seafood, coal mining, logging, but not with toys. How did you get the idea to set up such a production?
- Our company was established on the basis of the main company - “Tandem DV”, which for ten years has been engaged in logging and wood processing. Recently, our state has been drawing attention to the fact that loggers have to switch to processing, to receive finished products, to the fact that timber export will be prohibited. Many heads of logging enterprises thought about it, we also realized that we need to do deeper processing. Someone makes boards, someone veneer, chipboard, and we, going through ideas, stopped on wooden toys.
We drove through the countries of Southeast Asia. Studying the specifics, we learned that 95% of toys produced in China, there are huge enterprises for the production of goods for children. We visited many of them and came to the conclusion that we need to try ourselves in the production of wooden toys, because it will be easier for us to make it. In the same China, they need to buy wood from us or from the United States, bring it in, customs clearance. We are in the center of our taiga and these procedures are not needed.

- And how do your toys differ from the same Chinese ones?
- We decided that our toys should be no worse than the leading toy manufacturers in the world, while being interesting and different from others. Ecology has become our strong point. Basically, all manufacturers cover something with a toy - paint or some kind of transparent impregnation. In any case, it is chemistry. We, by processing, make our products environmentally friendly and safe. Many told us that it was important for children that the toy was bright, colorful, but we insisted on it, we stood the concept and realized that we took the right path, because the toys were in demand.
“Now Kubi Doubi offers 15 play sets and different types of toys. How to develop them, what experts attracted?
- They took several toys of famous manufacturers as a basis and modified them a little. Basically it was the designers. Initially, the function of a wooden toy is the development of a child, his thinking, imagination, and motor skills. Our hit - a toy "Aladdin" - the largest designer. We give 10-12 assembly options in the instructions and leave some part for the imagination of the child and his parents. 

We started with designers, but they are designed for children from three to six years. Now we have changed the concept and we want people to immerse themselves in “Kubi Doubi” from childhood. For this we need toys from zero years, which is why we have released a new series - rodents, pyramids. Now we want to go further in this direction, and are developing a project for wooden furniture for children. Also, the doctors came to us with a proposal to release toys for people who had had a stroke. Especially for this purpose they create a methodical development, because now these products have to be bought in Germany, Austria. For us, this proposal is very interesting.
- How did you choose the name for your toys?
- When we started producing toys, we wanted them to go under our brand. Koreans and IKEA put forward their proposals to us, but we realized that this would be a step back - we would get a small profit, and later we would not be perceived as a player. Understood that you need a bright and catchy name, announced a competition for advertising companies. We were offered different options, even the Brothers Struzhkina were, but we chose Kubi Doubi. It is remembered quickly, understood in any languages, and causes associations: “Kubi” is a cube, and “Doubi” resembles an oak tree to someone, although this is not so.
And Kubi Dubi is a character. Our logo shows a little man with his hands up. According to our idea, he plays with the child, solves game problems with them, cheers and develops. However, with the development of the enterprise and the concept as a whole, we realized that everything was a little different: Kubi Doubi is not just a character, it is the inner world of a child, his imagination, he appears when children begin to play.
- You noted that Dubi is not particularly related to oak. Still, from what material do you make toys and what equipment do you use for this?
- We take almost all forest. We started from linden, birch, oak, and now we take aspen and ash. Our know-how is the processing of all toys and their parts in pine nuts. There is equipment in which, as in a centrifuge, toys and their parts are thrown. There they are two hours, and the result is smooth as an egg, polished, and it also smells of nuts. 
As for the equipment, in no factory in any country there is equipment for the manufacture of wooden toys. It is based on other equipment, for example, for the manufacture of furniture or parquet. When you invent a toy, you buy a machine and separately order attachments that allow you to make one or another element of the toy.
When we first decided to engage in the production of toys, we built a workshop and called it experimental. They invited a technologist from China, bought a few simple machines and recruited people who had not worked with wood before. Quite a lot of time they studied. Gradually updated equipment. The latest came to us lasers and computers. Now we have a second workshop, and within the framework of the investment project we plan that practically a robot will work with us - everything will be even more computerized.

“But one thing is to make a product, and another is to sell it.” How do you work in this direction and what are the successes?
- For sales, we began to work with companies that are engaged in marketing, product promotion, advertising. They also went to salespeople because they understood that they needed to sell products through large federal networks. Now we are cooperating with Detsky Mir, Bubl Gum, Happy childhood. In Moscow, we are represented almost in 300 stores, and in Russia as a whole, our goods are represented in 60 cities.
- But you are not limited to Russia.
- We understood that crises are occurring in Russia, demographics are also complicated - we need to keep track of the birth rate, so we decided to go to foreign markets. Now our goods and catalogs are issued in two languages ​​- Russian and English. We work closely with Canada, USA, South Korea, New Zealand, recently made trial shipments to Australia, Mexico. We try for each country to do something interesting, but the fact is that we have a very limited number of forms. If it is possible to pour out almost any form of plastic, then we are limited in shape and size. In order not to repeat and be original, we invent something of our own. For example, for Mexico, our toy “Mayan Civilization” will be interesting. From the details of the designer you can assemble 12 structures that actually existed. For such toys, we give a description - playing cards. They say who the Maya are, when this civilization existed, what it did.   
- For goods for children always have high demands. How to check the quality of your toys, are you certified?
- We will pass certification. It passes rigidly, products are checked for everything: for a fall, for moisture, the content of chemical impurities. As a result, the certificate becomes the main use document. In other countries, this is a little different. In Canada, where we went initially, the certificates did not require, for them it was important that the toy was made of natural wood without the use of paint and varnish coatings. And in the United States they demanded certificates, and we did not pass on several parameters, which mainly concerned the fall. They checked every component, including boxes for storing toys. They have cracked from falling. We did not take into account these moments. In the end, all fixed, received all the certificates. We understand that this is very important. Now in the US and Canada we sell on Amazon. Internet market still replaces store shelves. We plan to visit in the near future on the Japanese Amazon.
- What will you do to conquer the markets?
- The main thing for us is to achieve recognition. In order for Kubi Doubi to know, moreover, in such a narrow sector as a children's toy, time and the right approach in advertising and promotion are needed. When people have an interest, we can endlessly produce toys, make their new options and update equipment. Now we use a lot of human labor, and if we do not make modernization in this regard, it will be difficult to approach some kind of profitability. To create more jobs, we want to increase production volumes: people will control computers and be able to make more toys without wasting time on any manipulations.
Due to the fact that before there was no recognition, we did not make sales through our official garden. Now they have completely modernized the site and signed an agreement with the Post of Russia. We will have two head warehouses - in Moscow and Arsenyev, from there we will send goods throughout Russia. And the cheap tariffs offered to us by Russian Post will help us lower our selling price and become even more competitive.

- What is the benefit for you in the status of a priority project?
“Today, even with small production volumes, we have to buy almost 60% of raw materials from third-party companies. The raw materials market has its own nuances, and for such production as ours it is important to be provided with forest. Our investment project allows us to count on the fact that, if implemented, our company will be provided with forest areas for 49 years. Investments in the first three years in infrastructure, in the creation of new processing facilities will amount to 503 million rubles. We also plan to create 200 jobs and increase production to 40 thousand sets per month. Now we are making five or six thousand toys. But these are general numbers, as we are expanding our product line.
- Your project is recognized as a priority, but you are not a resident of TOR or Free Port. Planning to get this status?
- We have not yet received the status of a priority project, the commission has passed, but there are still many stages of coordination in various departments. I want to do everything in stages. Of course, TOR - these are privileges, preferences, which we don’t have now, but I think that I can’t get resident status alone. TOP mode is needed for the whole Chuguyevka. Therefore, obtaining residency status is now considered running ahead. When we begin to implement the project, we will simultaneously discuss this issue. Now we are keeping up with the state and are trying to show that we both speak and do.
- What development plans does the company have in addition to this project?
- The main thing is expansion. When people ask me what I want, I answer: so that in every family where there is a child, there was a toy “Kubi Dubi”. It's loud, but probably good, because the more these toys are, the more they will be recognized. This will show that our products are really interesting and in demand. And, of course, another goal - the expansion of the product line.

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