Make48 Director Bob Coulston attended the 2017 NYC Toy Fair to promote his creation: Bandit Guns; he tells us about his experience at the fair (where he ran into another familiar Make48 face), and his journey bringing a toy product to market.
The 2017 Toy Fair New York took place on February 18-21st and housed “the equivalent of more than seven football fields filled with brand-new toys and games” (ToyFairNY). If you think this sounds like a kid’s dream, you’re probably right! Nevertheless, this event is actually not open to the public and not made for the kiddos (in fact, no one under 18 is allowed to enter). The event is a platform for retailers, buyers and sellers to connect, and a chance for all involved to see what is up-and-coming in the toy industry.
“You can see everything there is to see in the toy industry in just one building. It gives you an overall look at all the products,” Bob Coulston.
In order to secure a booth and display a product, a seller has to apply to the tradeshow, get accepted and pay a fee. This year, Bob attended the fair to help promote the toy he created, Bandit Guns, now owned and distributed through M&M Sales. Bandit Guns are assemble-your-own rubber-band throwing guns. They come in kits with different pre-cut wood pieces that fit together to make the rubber-band slinging gun. Ryan Fens from M&M Sales invited Bob to participate in promoting the toy at the NYC fair this year. Watch the Bandit Gun in action below:
“I am a woodworker and contractor. I created the Bandit Gun because my son wanted a rubber band gun, and also wanted it to be a kit you could build yourself. It’s not easy to figure out how to make a kit that an 8-year-old boy can build, but it didn’t happen overnight. Most successes don’t happen overnight, it takes persistence. I just didn’t give up for some reason.”
Bob tells us that once he created the product, he started selling it at craft fairs and eventually met Rich Brull and Curt McMillan (also from Make48), who encouraged him to try crowdfunding it, “We made an initial video for it, and made some seed money. It was all fulfilled here in the living room!”, he jokes. . After the product had some proven success in the market, Bob started attending tradeshows, and “every show I went to, Ryan Fern from M&M Sales was there. We became good friends and eventually, I made an offer and sold the product.”
Want your own Bandit Gun? Get it here.
Why Attend Trade Shows?
Bob tells us that trade shows can be a good way to get a product out there, once it has had some proven success in the market, “if possible I would do crowdfunding for a new product first because it validates the commercial liability of the product. You want to know if the public wants to actually buy it before you pay to be seen on a larger scale.” Bob tells us that trade shows can be a great opportunity to get your product in front of bigger retailers and to network, “you get to meet buyers first hand and ask what they’re looking for, and they can show you the ropes.”
During his visit, Bob also happened to run into Julio Aguirre, a two-time Make48 competitor from Team 801. “Julio is from team 801. They won our June competition last year in D.C. I was walking by and caught him out of the corner of my eye, he was talking to somebody else!”. Later that day, Julio shared the encounter on Facebook:
Want a chance to be on the next season of Make48 TV? Be sure to apply to our upcoming event on September 28-30 in the Kansas City Art Institute! Help us spread the word by sharing Make48 with someone you know! You can be any age and have any level of invention experience (including none) to compete. In fact, you don’t even need a team! We are now accepting individual applications. Just apply here and if you are selected, we will put you on a team with other successful applicants.