In 1995 we were looking to start our own business and had the inspiration when we noticed our neighbour’s 1 year old boy wanted to ride a toy just like his big brother. Unfortunately the only thing he could sit astride was his toy dump truck which had straight ahead wheels. He would happily push along until he met an obstacle then scream until someone physically pointed him in another direction. Needless to say it wasn’t long until the next screaming fit!!
The Design of our first Wheely Bugs- Ladybird, Bee and Frog, was inspired by a fridge magnet, an office chair and visits to Toy Museums.
We made a prototype which we took to a number of Child Care Centres to test and get some professional feedback. After a few small changes to the shape and the filling we had it safety tested and began making about 50 a week under our house. Initially we sold only to Child Care Centres because we felt they appreciated the robustness of our design, we hated seeing needless waste of cheap plastic toys ending up in the bin in less than a year! Eventually on one of our sales trips we came across a fantastic toy store which we felt matched our ethics and were delighted when the owner immediately bought 12 from us! From there it was simply word of mouth from one good toy store to another and the Wheely Bug was launched into the Australian retail market.
In 2000 we felt we were ready to move into export, we had bought land and built a workshop and with 5 employees were able to produce about 1000 units per month. Soon we began to make overseas contacts and by 2004 were swamped with orders!! We looked at expanding into an Australian factory but just could not afford it. Then we were lucky to find an American owned factory based in China, which understood our design ethic, insistence on quality and fair work practices. It was not long until they were producing to a higher standard then we could achieve! Also because of labour cost savings we were able to purchase better quality materials; for example the plywood base board has many more veneers than we could buy in Australia and the springs for the feelers went from nickel plated to stainless steel. This move also allowed us to concentrate on more wonderful designs which you see today.
Safety is our prime concern
We all know how quickly laughter can turn into tears if a plaything does not stand up to the use it was intended for. Of course Wheely Bugs adhere to the compulsory Safety Testing requirements for every country we sell to, so we regularly have the entire range tested to EN71 (Europe), ASTM/ CPSC (U.S.A.), AS/NZS ISO (Australia and New Zealand)... standards by a reputable Testing Lab. During these tests the Wheely Bug has to prove it will not tip over, ignite or smolder, have bits break off or become unstable during foreseeable use and abuse! All materials are tested for migration of elements i.e. no harmful chemicals are present and /or accessible to little hands and mouths. These include; to name a few well known substances such as lead, phthalates or formaldehyde but the list of elements tested is very long. If you are particularly interested we will be happy to send you a copy of the current test report via email. This however is still not enough for us, we also have every batch of covering material and ink tested for harmful chemicals. In addition our factory conducts an incoming material quality control as well as quality inspections at each and every production phase. Lastly before shipping a Final Quality Control report is compiled where a random 5% across an entire order is unpacked and thoroughly inspected and tested. These reports are linked to a unique batch code which is stamped into the base of the toy.
Our large, modern factory on the edge of Shenzhen city offers a pleasant work atmosphere where workers are paid above award wages with holiday and sick leave. All the employees are above 18 years of age and provided with accommodation and meals.