Kiddimoto was born in 2003 when founder Simon Booth built a wooden prototype of a balance bike in his Axbridge flat. Fast-forward to 2017 and the Cheddar-based brand is now seen as the UK’s original balance bike company, with a host of products – and awards – under its belt. And Simon? Well his tiny one-man show is now a successful global operation, and he has even made a winning appearance on the BBC show Dragons’ Den.
Simon: “In 2002 I was a market analyst working for a San Francisco international stock trading company. The next step in my career was to either move to a major city like London, Paris or New York, however I wanted to stay in beautiful Somerset. So to achieve my dreams I started Kiddimoto. With my company I hope to build a famous brand that produces the best quality and sustainable products of any other Somerset-based toy company.”
With a life-long interest in engineering, Simon says that it’s the desire to know “how things work” that fuels his Kiddimoto product development. He creates the majority of the brand’s designs and concepts, and much of his ideas come while on his travels, both in the UK and abroad.
Simon: “I enjoy designing new innovative products. I think of my product designs as trend-setting and, in some cases, pioneering. My current favourite is our Karbon – the balance bike made from carbon fibre. This was launched at the Cycle Show back in 2016 and has been of massive interest ever since. All the Kiddimoto products are designed with children and parents in mind. They have to be functional so that children get full benefit of using them. They must be made with the best materials that are from sustainable sources. They must be aesthetically attractive. And finally, but not least, all Kiddimoto products need to be affordable.”
All Kiddimoto’s award-winning products – from balance bikes to scooters – are designed and developed in-house. Simon says that production has been moved from the original small in-house facility in Cheddar to China, mainly due to economies of scale and efficiencies, but it’s crucial for him to work with local people.
Simon: “Kiddimoto employs 15 people from the Cheddar area and works with 10 different factories in China. Most products take three-months to manufacture and then they arrive in our Cheddar warehouse, where we then ship to all corners of the world. The first of a string of accolades came in 2006 with the prestigious Hamleys One of a Kind toy of the year award. Kiddimoto won its most prestigious accolade yet in 2015, with the Queen’s Award for International Trade.”
One of Kiddimoto’s most recognisable collections is Heroes, a range of balance bikes that feature the exact designs of some of motor racing’s most famous bikers – including Valentino Rossi, Carl Fogarty, Barry Sheene, and Evel Knievel.
Simon: “I was approached by the widow of nine-times World Champion Mike Hailwood to make a bike for their grandson. This made me think that we could make replicas which started the whole Heroes range. They are the only balance bikes in the world that look like motorcycles and have the Hero licenses. Also the Karbon is the lightest bicycle in the world, and the most expensive balance bike in the world – that’s quite different.”
In September 2011, Simon braved the unforgiving entrepreneurs of the Dragons’ Den and emerged having tamed not one, but two Dragons. Hilary Devey and Duncan Bannatyne were impressed with Simon’s pitch, and his balance bikes, and made a joint offer of a £75,000 investment for a 30% stake in the business.
Simon: “My experience on Dragons Den was exciting, scary and quite an adventure. I was elated when offered the investment and I learnt that you should never be afraid of anything. And that you should always take the leap into the unknown.”
So why does Simon love Somerset?
Simon: “Somerset is the best place in the world. It is beautiful, safe, and the air is clean. We have amazing rural countryside and beaches. We rarely get stuck in traffic, unless you meet a tractor or heard of cows. We have an international airport, making it easy to get anywhere in the world. We have a great transport network, allowing us to get to London, Birmingham or other major cities in approximately three-hours. Somerset is home. We love Somerset.”