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“I worked for Disney for years and my life was a misery,” says toymaker and entrepreneur Robert Beecham, who has gone it alone and launched Dudebox, a brand of limited edition figures designed by street artists.
Beecham claims its ethos of unbridled creativity is in contrast to his previous life of working at a global corporation with strict boundaries in terms of its licensed properties.
As well as working at Disney, Beecham bought the original rights to manufacture Star Wars-themed children’s toiletries in the UK and Europe, and eventually sold that business to Hasbro.
He says that Dudebox has something that those established brands may lack – the credibility that comes from shunning mass-market awareness and big commercial interests.
Dudebox is targeting an audience that likes contemporary and urban art, so the brand is only likely to gain traction if it is perceived as authentic, independent and true to those tastes.
Fed up of the strict brand guidelines that applied to his former business, Beecham has drafted in 52 artists from around the world to come up with new figures. He claims to have cut the Dudebox designers free from all constraints by not giving them rules because he wants “to see them express themselves”.
Beecham wants a return on his investment, so the figures need to be commercially viable. But the designers have a vested interest in ensuring that they are because they receive royalties from sales rather than a flat fee. It is a popular model among the artists, who are often exploited by business, he says.
Dudebox’s commercial strategy is to provide collectible art at an affordable price, while Beecham hopes that it becomes compulsive for a small set of enthusiastic fans.
He has a detailed business plan laid out until mid-2013. The next stage of development will be to release a collection of designs known as ‘monster fiends’, appearing in around four months’ time.
Beyond that, Beecham says, “we will make it up as we go along”. In the short term at least, Dudebox is unlikely to lose its edge within its niche market, because only a limited number of each design will be made. But while he admits that the key to making the business work is to constantly strive to be new and different, Dudebox is not trying to be seen as edgy – just creative.
Beecham says: “Our strapline is ‘Inspire to create’, and that sums up exactly how I feel, how the team I’ve got on board with me feel, how we motivate everybody.”