Young children are an age group that has been overlooked during most of the pandemic. It’s easy to ignore them, but we must remember that lockdowns have been hard on them as well. Socialization with other kids their age is crucial, and so is playtime. Matt Filart spoke to Jerome Hajek, owner, and founder, along with his wife Monika of Jouets Kimboo, a Quebec-based toy company. We asked them about their business and how they have adapted to the pandemic.
What is Kimboo, and why did you start it?
Our business adventure began when my wife was pregnant with our first baby, Amelia. At that time, our pediatric neurologist friend told us, “my piece of advice to you as young parents is: “NO SCREENS BEFORE AGE TWO!”
After this, I conducted my research and realized the studies clearly stated that early exposure to screens could have long-term adverse effects on young children’s development. Some likely problems include attention disorder, language delay, myopia, and even depression. To avoid risking Amelia, we kept screens away from her for at least the first twenty-four months.
We decided to share our experience with other parents as well. However, we wanted Amelia to have fun with toys that would help improve motor skills (agility, balance) and gain confidence. Most of the searches led us to toys sold in Europe! and realized a significant gap in the Canadian marketplace and KIMBOO™ was born in late 2018.”
Who is your primary clientele?
Our main clientele are parents of babies and toddlers between ages one to eight. We also notice that more grandparents gift our products to their grandchildren. Our products are Made in Canada, in line with the “buy local” trend across provinces. An independent Canadian laboratory tests our toys for Health Canada standards in the toy category. We sell across Canada, exclusively online. Our main markets are Ontario, Quebec, British Colombia, and we plan to enter US markets later in 2021. We received quite a bit of exposure, mainly in Quebec, as we appeared in May of 2020 in the popular Quebec TV show “Dans l’oeil du Dragon” (Quebec version of Dragon’s Den).
How has the pandemic affected your business?
The pandemic affected us in a positive way, as children were “stuck” at home. The parents were looking for ways to entertain them and keep them off screens as much as possible. As our toys are manufactured locally, we could respond relatively well to the rapid spike in sales in March and April 2020. Our competition was affected significantly by production/shipping from overseas.
GO CANADA GO! We are proud to be making a dozen individuals work on our products during these difficult times. The hard part was to work from home all the time, last spring, with a baby and dog around – but we managed to survive as most of us did.”
How have you adapted to the pandemic?
As the online trend was gaining speed in 2020, and the giants of this world were gaining market share, we decided to be up to par and ship our products as fast as we could after receiving the order. Our products are shipped within 24-48 hours and usually arrive at their destination within a week. We have also hired different carriers to optimize pricing and shipping time.
Our shipping is always free, again to be up to par with the reference in the market. We continually strive to deliver excellent customer service, which is evident on Google Business and other marketplace platforms with 5-star reviews. We want our customers to know and feel confident that we are always here to help, while providing them with an upscale quality product and fast delivery!”
What Are Your Hopes For The Future?
Our primary purpose is to make as many children happy and make them move while playing with their Kimboo toys. Usually, it makes parents happy as well and gives them a little bit more free time. Our growth was robust in 2020 as we multiplied our sales by a factor of 6 from the previous year.
We intend to grow our sales in 2021 as we will double our product lineup. Moreover, we are also planning to wholesale to daycares. Entry to the US market is also planned further down the year. Finally, our close-to-heart purpose is to giveaway products to charities/community centres as much as we economically can. We have started doing this in 2020 and intend to increase our toy donations in 2021 significantly.
Jouets Kimboo has recently launched its newest toy, the KIMBOO Rocker, and has more toy production ideas. Despite most businesses suffering losses due to the pandemic, the toy industry has experienced growth. This growth is mainly due to the increase in toy donations in 2020, as parents know that their children will need something to keep them occupied if they stay at home all day.
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