29 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
David Strang is the Founder/CEO of Wicked Vison and the owner of global sports toy brand Wicked. Born in Glasgow and raised in Australia, David has always had a passion for selling, landing his first “job” spruiking outside a doughnut stand in a shopping centre at the tender age of 14. Though payment was in the form of sugary baked goods as opposed to cold hard cash, the thrill of the sell and the sense of achievement had him hooked! Over the next six years, he did every job going from selling suits to conducting market research on the street to mopping floors as a cleaner. By 20, he had obtained a Bachelor of Business degree with a Double Major in PR & Marketing from Curtin University in Perth, graduating in the top 1% (across all university faculties!).
Since then, David has attempted to import UGG boots to the UK (unfortunately it was over a decade prior to the sheepskin boots becoming the hottest must-have for fashion-conscious teens), owned a cocktail bar in Lanzarote, and filled a tiny rented London flat with massage sandals, all before founding Wicked and turning it in to a global success story! The entrepreneur has come a long way, and proven his aptitude for taking a product from concept to reality to international acclaim, with Wicked celebrating 21 years in business this year.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Founded in 2000, Wicked brings the very best in active sports toys and games to the global toy market and is the world’s biggest manufacturer of boomerangs, even selling them back to the Aussies! Innovators of fresh, original toy crazes as well as putting a modern twist on enduring classics, Wicked’s awe-inspiring products are designed to get kids (big and little) off their screens and up on their feet, enjoying some active fun!
Exporting to over 30 major international markets, Wicked has sold millions of its innovative tri-blade boomerangs. Its extensive range is sold in a wide variety of retail outlets, from toy stores and department stores to major supermarket chains and gift shops to online and on TV. In addition, the world-famous Wicked Booma is demonstrated in some of the world’s premier flagship stores and tourist attractions, captivating the attention of millions of tourists every year. What’s more, with over 80% of today’s toys manufactured in China, the firm is proud to produce many of its products right here in the UK!
Also under the Wicked Vision umbrella is Suneez – the world’s number one sunglasses for cool kids. Virtually unbreakable, they’re made from a flexible material which allows them to bend without snapping and feature polarised lenses which offer UV400 protection blocking out 100% of harmful UVA/UBV rays.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
From a young age I had a burning desire to create something of my own. I was born in Scotland, and grew up in Australia. After leaving Australia at the age of 20 I arrived in the UK with the idea of importing successful, quality Australian products into the UK. My adventures lead me to the Canary Islands where I founded and ran a number of businesses including a cocktail bar, a pool cleaning business, a T-Shirt business and a sun-cream distribution business. After arriving back into the UK I began importing massage sandals and then successfully launched Street Flyers (trainers with drop down wheels). My ‘eureka’ moment came on a chance visit to a kite shop to buy replacement string. I discovered the shop had a whole host of flying toys but no boomerangs – and as it turned out, neither did anywhere else! I found my niche and the Wicked brand was born!
How did you achieve awareness?
As we are based in London and we had a highly demonstrable range, I was keen to leverage the power of in-store demonstration to help drive sales. To this day, Wicked’s small army of demonstrators can still be found in the likes of Hamleys, FAO Schwarz in New York, The Science Museum as well various stores and tourist attractions around the world, creating the same awe and amazement that I felt upon first seeing a boomerang appear to ‘defy gravity’ and return to the thrower.
Experience also taught me that PR plays a huge part in the success of any business. We’ve always worked hard on the brand’s publicity, turning our toys in to newsworthy talking points, securing invaluable media exposure and personally making regular TV appearances and selling via the home shopping channel QVC.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Contrary to many other businesses, Wicked has been completely self-funded from the start and throughout the journey and has grown organically over its 21 years. We have never looked for outside investment or got ourselves into debt in order to fuel growth. Creating new products, manufacturing our ranges in the Far East and the UK and them selling globally has had it’s cash-flow challenges but being self-funded and growing organically has given us control with steady solid growth.
What are the key successes?
The 21-year journey has been dotted with both small and very significant wins and successes along the way.
Our first retail account was Harrods. This was not a fluke – but a very focussed approach in order get a ‘famous’ retailer on board early in the hope that others followed. It worked! Getting Harrods to commit was as easy as picking up the phone, speaking with the correct buyer, arranging a meeting for later that day, jumping on the tube, meeting with them and getting a purchase order the very next day.
In the early days it was all about sales and marketing. Getting retailers on board and then pushing our products to be featured on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers – in order to raise our profile, fuel product/brand awareness and sell-through. This helped us get traction from the get-go.
Other key successes were securing demonstration in some of the most famous and busiest retail locations and tourist attractions in the world, including Hamleys in London, Madame Tussauds, The Science Museum and FAO Schwarz in New York.
Securing our first multiple product listing with the world’s largest retailer Walmart in the USA was also a proud moment. International expansion by selling directly to large retailers and through distributors has enabled the company to grow rapidly.
Being mentioned by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson many times in his speeches when talking about British exporting success stories would also count as a highlight.
Another key success has been to be able to continuously manufacture many of our most successful products in the UK. This has enabled us to keep production and quality control, shorten lead times and reduce our carbon footprint.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As with any business – we face challenges daily. One thing that is certain, these will continue throughout your business life. It is how you deal with them that tends to become easier as your experience and knowledge grows.
In the early days – the main challenge was getting appointments with major retailers. This can be tough with no real history or credentials for you, your products, or your brand. Fake it ‘til you make it was definitely a mantra back then. Persistence, creativity and having a thick skin were the key for overcoming this.
At the start, one of the biggest challenges I faced was tackling the common misconception that boomerangs were hard to throw and make return, unfortunately, we all have memories of throwing a two-blade boomerang as a child and it failing miserably! I set out to dispel this myth and create a range of incredibly accurate indoor and outdoor versions of the toy, that absolutely anyone can master. Now of course, videos and all the social media platforms really help with showing the world our products in action.
As is the same for many businesses, the past year has proved tricky to say the least! Prior to the pandemic 85-90% of our business came from bricks and mortar retailers. We were forced to adapt quickly, seeking out new markets, primarily online and retailing direct-to-consumer. Reacting with speed, certainty and conviction is the key during any crisis or major challenge.
Keeping your eye firmly on the prize (whatever that prize or goal may be) – is the key for overcoming challenges along the way. Having a clear dream and goal that you are trying to achieve allows you to consistently find ways to jump over the hurdles and climb the mountains that constantly present themselves.
What are your plans now/for the future?
This year has been a ‘re-birth’ of sorts for Wicked. Although our purpose and values haven’t changed over the years – 2021 was a real wake-up call. It has enabled me to roll my sleeves up and get very involved in the running of the business and then take a huge step back to see where changes need to be made.
We are celebrating our 21st year in business and to mark the occasion, we created a 90 second video to celebrate, reaffirm our mission and introduce our new strapline, Active! Fun!
Our mission today remains the same as it was when I founded the firm, to get kids active, having fun, learning new skills and get off screens! Screens back in 2000 were mainly computer games and TV. Fast forward to 2021 and screens are more a part of kids’ lives than ever and so the brand’s purpose is even more important. We hope the video will help to generate conversation around the subject of screen time, and get consumers and retailers talking and thinking. It is probably the worlds first toy company video – not to feature any toys.
We are set to embark on a period of rapid growth starting this year. A combination of re-invigorating the Wicked brand, new product development, international expansion, growing our team and adding new ranges under our ‘Brands with Purpose’ strategy. Even though the world has been turned upside down over the past 12 months… we are very hopeful and positive for what the future holds for Wicked Vision.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
All the cliches and sayings about ‘you only get one life’ and ‘life is not a dress rehearsal’ are true. Life is short… so if you have an idea or a burning desire to start a business – just do it! Talk to as many business owners and entrepreneurs as you can and learn from other people’s mistakes as well as their successes. Many people will doubt your ideas along the way (some may be right) – but stick to your guns if you know you’re onto something great!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Love what you do, be passionate about what you are selling and enjoy the journey!
I have three major passions in business – people, product and selling. Looking back, it is these three things that interconnect every professional experience I’ve had. I never started business only to make money, I just do it because I truly enjoy it and the buzz of closing a sale never gets old. It’s that simple. I believe you must be passionate about your brand, product, purpose and overall business. The journey won’t be easy – but your passion will give you the energy to keep going when things get tough.
2. Be persistent and don’t give up at the first hurdle!
Not everyone is going to buy into, or even understand, your vision. You’ll inevitably get a lot of NO’s especially when starting out. Equally, never be too proud to listen to feedback or take constructive criticism. Play to your strengths. To quote a family friend and extremely shrewd business-man – “persistence is omnipotent.” If your idea ticks most of the key boxes, go for it and never give up.
3. Never stop learning!
“Never wish life were easier, wish that you were better” – Jim Rohn
In order for your business to grow, you must continue to grow and learn. Business is a continual learning curve and the faster the growth, the quicker you have to learn from your mistakes. After all, we learn just as much, if not more, from our previous failures.
4. Hire the best people and invest in them!
Employing second rate people will cost you much more than it will save you.
CFO asks CEO: What if I invested heavily in my staff and then they leave?
CEO: What if I don’t – and they stay?
5. To those thinking of setting up a business, I would advise thinking very carefully about your reasons.
Financial reward is a welcome result of passion and good commercial sense, I would never advise going into business with the sole purpose of making money. There are years of investment and hard work before it all starts to pay dividends. If you are not passionate about the business, the product/service, and its values and if it doesn’t make money overnight… you will lose interest fast.
6. Don’t be afraid to be different or try something new.
I love Henry Ford’s saying, “If I listened to what people wanted, I would have invented faster horses”. I truly believe that it is the job of the entrepreneur to create something from nothing, something that is yet to be dreamed of.
7. Just make a start and keep it simple.
Making a start is often the hardest part of your business journey. Your idea doesn’t have to be perfectly crafted at the beginning, just get things moving and it will start to take shape and gather momentum. Don’t over complicate it! Most businesses are relatively simple at their core. I shall pass on some wise words from one of my old university lecturer, the late Bill Mitchell: “Get it right. Tell it right. Make it pay”. Three simple steps to success in business.
8. Give back.
Giving back and paying it forward doesn’t have to be financial. During your business journey many can benefit from the knowledge you have gained and the lesson you’ve learnt along the way. Of course, it’s always a thrill to be able to help others financially as well. Spread knowledge and wealth where you can.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
· Richard Branson – (Virgin): The master of growing and leveraging a global brand. @richardbranson
· Sam Walton – (Walmart): Building the largest and most successful retail business in history – while remaining humble and true to his values.
· Sam and Sonya Strang (My parents): A constant source of knowledge and inspiration.
· Prince – (Musician): One of the world’s most talented song writers and multi-instrumentalists. Incredible passion and life-long dedication to his art. @prince
· Tony Robbins – (Motivational Speaker): A wealth of knowledge in business and life, and has had a hugely positive impact on many. @tonyrobbins
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“To set the world on fire, first you must strike a single match.”
“If you are the most interesting person you know, it’s time to get new friends.” – Unknown
“Get it right. Tell it right. Make it Pay.” – Bill Mitchell
“If I listened to what people wanted, I would have invented faster horses.” – Henry Ford
“Never wish life were easier, wish that you were better.” Jim Rohn
CFO asks CEO: “What if we invested heavily in our staff and then they leave?”
CEO: “What if we don’t – and they stay?”
“Persistence is omnipotent!” – Harvey Wolfinger
“Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit”.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-strang-5b02a61/
Facebook – @wickedvisiontoys / https://www.facebook.com/wickedvisiontoys
Instagram – @wicked_vision / https://www.instagram.com/wicked_vision/
Twitter – @wickedvision / https://twitter.com/wickedvision
YouTube – @wickevisiontv / https://www.youtube.com/user/wickedvisiontv