It is perhaps no surprise that the CFO of the UK’s fastest-growing toy company is a big kid at heart.
Dave Chattaway has been spearheading Toikido’s finance function since April 2022. But when he’s not buried in financials, he can be found reading books on BMX bikes – a hobby from childhood he has been reluctant to give up.
BMX bike riding and finance, while appearing to operate in distinct realms, share several remarkable parallels. The world of BMX biking epitomises the concept of calculated risk-taking, mirroring the decisions finance professionals make daily.
Just as BMX riders meticulously plan their stunts, assessing potential hazards and rewards, financial experts similarly analyse markets and investment opportunities, constantly adjusting their strategies in response to shifting conditions.
It is perhaps unsurprising then that Chattaway has helped Toikido sell over 20 million toys across 100 markets in the last 12 months.
“We have invested in an amazing team of creatives who continue to dream up new worlds, characters, tech, and content like no other company. Like a modern-day Disney! Quality in, Quality out,” he tells The CFO.
“As a business, we are built for speed and delivery – In a world where kids are immersed in new content and updates 24/7, you need to move at the speed of culture.”
Chattaway had lofty goals when he assumed the role of CFO. Before, Toikido’s finance function had not been formally managed. His first goal was to bring processes together, implement the right systems and prepare the company for growth.
“I don’t have any hard or strict numbers to chase,” he says. “Business-wise, our goals are focussed on continuing to get the business ready for growth, so we are busy laying down the foundations, as well as building an amazing team that is focused on quality over quantity– so we are always ‘ready for the rush’”.
The winning formula
Chattaway attributes a lot of Toikido’s success to CEO Darran Garnham – a veteran in the kid’s toy space. He founded the company in 2020 to build remarkable brands, whether developed in house or as part of the effort to help external brands gain more traction in the global market.
Despite starting the business mid-pandemic, and scaling against the backdrop of supply chain disruption and growing political tensions, together Garnham and Chattaway have managed to steer Toikido in the direction of success.
“We are very focused on what we do,” Chattaway says. “We resist temptation.” A ferocious reader, Chattaway is quick to spot trends and ensures the business maintains momentum.
“Our focus is on how we can get a product to market quicker, working closely with brands to build better opportunities. We are a small team, but work closely and faster together. I’m constantly asking – how can we move faster, bob and weave our model is fluid.”
This ability to move quickly, and with agility, is crucial when providing products for children, Chattaway says. “Kids want everything now,” he explains.
However, when scaling, keeping the ability to move at pace as well as the start-up mentality, can be lost.
Chattaway spent four years working for Ring, a leading manufacturer of home security and smart devices. During his stint there as business development manager he helped bring the world’s first video doorbell to the UK.
He says he “aimed for the moon but ended up at Amazon.” Ring was acquired by the US consumer giant in 2018 for somewhere between $1.2 and $1.8 billion.
“When I worked at Ring, we firstly moved at hyper speed. When we were acquired by Amazon, everything slowed,” he says, adding that it is not uncommon for the pace of innovation to slow at start-ups when they are acquired by a big incumbent.
So how will Toikido manage to retain its start-up magic? Staying true to its mission and not being distracted, according to Chattaway.
“We have so many exciting opportunities to explore – but whilst we can do anything, we can’t do everything – so we focus on where we can have the most impact,” he says.
“We want to be true to ourselves and not get caught up in the hype – take a step back occasionally. We always want to look forward to Mondays and enjoy the weekend.”
More than child’s play: maintaining culture amid expansion.
Ensuring that the right team is in the driver’s seat has enabled Toikido to remain true to its roots. Chattaway says the current team does not need a target to chase and is instead fuelled by their love of creating.
While Toikido’s current team is small compared to its rivals – only 12 people at present – the depth and breadth of expertise is mighty. “We have an amazing team, they are the best in their class, and many of us have worked together before,” says Chattaway.
While the team are remote most of the time, they recently all gathered in London for a few hours to brainstorm and discuss Toikido’s future. Chattaway says it was refreshing to see everyone fall into step so easily on meeting in person.
“It was a really special time,” he says. “The team gels, there are no egos.”
On a role: the rapid growth trajectory
Like most businesses, Toikido measures its success by monitoring it’s top and bottom line. While Chattaway doesn’t have strict KPIs in place, he does have a strong finance plan and budget.
However, he says the company’s real metric on success is more qualitative; gauged around the quality of the inbound hits that Toikido receives and converts, the magnitude of its partners, and the active conversations being had.
Focusing on quality rather than quantity means Toikido has been strategic about which markets it breaks into. Among its current partnerships are the likes of Netflix, Apple and Skydance, as well as three major gaming studios.
Chattaway says the business’ trajectory is heavily impacted by toyetic play patterns – the idea that content drives toy production. As a result, the company is hoping to break into the gaming and music industries in the coming years.
“We believe the kid’s space for music is underserved today,” Chattaway says. To help them enter this sector, Toikido has recruited a Grammy-winning rockstar and given them full creative freedom to pull together a plan and deliver an album.
“We strongly believe in giving all our team the space and support to create and do what they know and love. It’s amazing what results and progress you see from giving individuals the trust to see them fly,” Chattaway says.
Given its ambitious growth plans, Chattaway has ensured sustainability is fully embedded within its strategy. All Toikido’s manufacturing partners align with pushing sustainability goals, ensuring that recycled materials are used and sustainable practices are adopted wherever possible.
Instead of worrying about the recyclability of Toikido’s products, however, Chattaway says the route to a greener toy sector is manufacturing toys that last. “Sustainability is paramount to the toy sector,” he states. “We do some of the obvious – recyclable packaging, sustainable plastics etc – but the discussion has to move further than that.”
Where Toikido is trying to have the most impact is making sure that it creates toys that bring joy to kids; toys that are played with constantly, collected and treasured. Ultimately, toys that are kept or passed on to younger siblings. “I think that is where we can have real impact,” beams Chattaway.
From a CSR perspective, Toikido is also on sound footing. From day one, Chattaway has proactively set aside a buffer of runway cash, something Garnham has pushed for.
“We owe it to our staff – they give everything to Toikido, the least we can offer back is some certainty and security,” Chattaway says.
He has also structured the business for profitability to try to mitigate risk where possible. This frequently means that Toikido leaves some money on the table instead of taking a bigger share. “We are happy to stay lean and sleeping well – we don’t want warehouses full of stock,” Chattaway says.
From a social perspective, the company has worked for different charities (the Teenage Cancer Trust and Black Dog key among them) – not only offering support in the form of cash but also donating their creative services.
Looking beyond the toy box
The global kid’s toy industry has undergone significant changes over the past decade, marked by a profound shift from traditional, tangible playthings towards digital and integrated play experiences.
This evolution has been influenced by the growth of e-commerce platforms, which have drastically expanded market reach and altered consumer purchasing habits. Yet, sustainability concerns and an inclination towards ‘conscious consumerism’ have also shaped the industry, leading to a rise in eco-friendly toys and packaging.
Despite the evolution, the industry’s core principle remains unaltered: creating toys that inspire creativity, foster learning, and most importantly, deliver joy to children around the world.
“Kids are not giving up on playing yet,” says Chattaway. “Naturally the physical and digital worlds of play are getting closer. We do note that increasingly kids have lower loyalty and expect more content. This all plays nicely into the need for more creativity and speed in the toy sector,” he says.
Thankfully both attributes are built into the DNA of Toikido.
“We make toys, we are not saving the world. We want to bring joy to children, and we want to make fun things,” Chattaway says.
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