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it's a family aff air


The Making Of A Classic Brand


Classic Brand “


Peter and Liz Ireland of Bigjigs Toys reveal how they built their family business into an award- winning company and how the next generation, at just two years old, is already helping out!


I used to get up early every Saturday and Sunday to drive up


to London, find some where to park set up the market stall, freeze during the winter and then drive home again! The one who did not go to London had to cut out 100 jigsaws!


a couple in Covent Garden Market, London, who made big jigsaws and wanted someone else to cover their pitch in the market. After a short while they decided to give it all up and Liz and I carried on. Liz: Peter completed a craft, design


and technology teaching course after Sam was born and he needed some help, so I decided not to return to my teaching post.


What were you doing before you got into toys? Liz: We were both teachers, I taught Geography (a very long time ago!) while Peter taught PE at a school in Dover that is now closed.


What made you go into kids' toys and specifi cally wooden toys more? Peter: I always had an interest in woodwork and my father was very good with his hands so I learnt a


lot from him. After I decided that teaching was no longer as much fun as it used to be (too many petty rules and regulations), I started making a few string puppets which I sold at craft fairs, on the beach and at markets. Liz and I expanded the range to include more wooden toys because they were quite easy to make and did not require plastic moulding machines and metal lathes etc. We started making jigsaws after we met


Where did the name Bigjigs come from?


Liz: Originally we made jigsaws with big pieces – hence the name Bigjigs Toys.


What were some of the hardships starting out? Peter: Getting up early every saturday and sunday to drive up to London, fi nd somewhere to park, set up the stall, freeze during the winter and then drive home again! The one who


42 Family Business


did not go to London had to cut out 100 jigsaws, which I used to sand in a small shed at the end of our small garden. Liz: Like most people starting out


we worked very long hours. It was also the days of exceptionally high interest rates so money was very, very tight.


Who was your key mentor or who did you go to for advice in the early days?


Liz: My sister, who also has a great business, has always proved to be a good one to talk to. Peter: One very useful person was


our fi rst bank manager, who had a hobby wood-turning, and attended many of the same craft fairs we went to. He understood why we needed to borrow money sometimes.


Were there industry bodies or groups that were helpful early on? Liz: Our local trading standards





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