Family business: Steve of bopster

Steve Finch co-founded bopster in 2005. He says, “We’re a family-led toy and leisure company based in Dulwich, London. We stand for timeless, family fun and as you can imagine, Christmas is a very important for us! 

“We create and supply our own brands and products under brands like boppi (for 3 – 8 year olds), bopster and just be…, continually sourcing new items as well as developing our own trending toys, puzzles, and playthings. We also sell ranges of similar brands such as Playmobil and Candylab. We’ve been delivering smiles up and down the country and across the globe since 2005.  

“Our toys and products focus on the early years of a child’s development, through to active and imaginative play, across the teenage years and to adult focused fitness and leisure items.” 

Founders, Ian Finch and Steve are cousins. Seven of their family members work together, alongside the rest of the team including brothers, cousins, nephews and parents!  Steve says, “At home, my wife and I have three girls, so we’re kept on our toes!”

Ian started selling when he was just 16 years old. He asked his parents to help him buy and sell products in the Loot, and was always in trouble with Royal Mail for stuffing too many packages into their letter boxes! Steve says, “I gave up my career in the City to join Ian and inject a bit of structure and order to what he was doing. I always wanted to be creative in a business sense. I love having the freedom to try new things, finding out if that idea you’ve had can become a reality and strengthen the business you are trying to grow. I also enjoy finding and developing a product and bringing it to market.  I love working in a family-friendly company and I’ve never looked back – even through all the challenges of the last 18 months. 

Initially the cousins sold on eBay and Amazon and had smaller video gaming clients. Steve says, “Within just a few years we were growing so fast that we needed to bring in a team of reenforcements.  Family, friends, and new colleagues joined forces with Ian and me to help achieve our vision of delivering quality, fun, and where possible sustainable products to businesses and customers throughout the UK and Europe.  Creative Director, Lee Wright, joined the ranks in 2014 bringing with him the invention of the  boppiband. ”

Reflecting on the business, Steve says, “I relish being able to live our core values, every day; Timeless Family Fun. For 16 years we have worked as a family-led business, and everything we produce doesn’t leave our office until it’s been family-tested by our own children. That’s very special.” His least favourite part is the financing. He says, “It is still very difficult to get funding from banks and I think governments should do more to help companies like ours expand into new markets. I would give out business grants for taking part in trade shows around the world. The more exposure good products get, the more they will sell. 

Working with family members, Steve says, “We’ve had our ups and downs through Covid, but the strength of being a family-led business with our core values is what’s helped to get us through and remain strong. We can be honest with each other, which is so important, and we know we’ll always be family.”

A key strength for Steve is, “Hiring people who do the things I’m not good at! That’s the key to making the switch from a small business to a larger one. Bringing in talent and developing talent is so important.  Also, having people around who think differently to you. You need that diversity of thought, and people you can trust to run with new projects.  Not being afraid to make a mistake has also been really important. You have to have faith in your instincts and go with a new idea, even if you haven’t tried it before. In the end, that’s what makes your business, and your products stand out.”

To fit in work with family, Steve says, “I don’t allow myself to get overwhelmed with the jobs and tasks that need doing within the business.  This gives me the time and space to enjoy my wonderful family. Once a week, I take my daughter swimming. Sometimes I will do the school run in the morning or the post-school drop-off at various clubs and make up the time with the odd early morning or late evening, when the kids are in bed. Building a fantastic team has allowed me to do this. Three or four years ago it would have been more difficult because we didn’t have so many brilliant people in key areas. ”

Flexible working is part of the bopster ethic. Steve says, “We have let people work flexibly for a while now. Team members with family outside London can visit their loved ones for a decent length of time. They take some days as holiday and work remotely on others. People can come into the office a little earlier or later, within reason of course, and opt to work from home one or two days a week if they need to. Five or ten years ago that sort of thing was rare. But I think it’s important to help people stay connected with their families. The fixed nine-to-five is a thing of the past. The pandemic has just sped up a change in working habits that was already underway. ”

Find out more: www.bopster.co.uk 

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