Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Kiwi water balloon toy number one in US

Most kids and parents will be familiar with Zuru's Bunch O Balloons toy, capable of filling and tying 100 biodegradable water balloons in a minute - every child's water fight dream.

The toy has been the number one top seller in the US for the last three months over summer.

Not so well known however is that the company is founded and run by Kiwi sibling trio Nick, Mat and Anna Mowbray.

Nick Mowbray, president and director of Zuru said the idea for the company originally came from his brother Mat's science project, a hot air balloon kit set that won him a national prize and Mowbray said it grew from there.

"You have to start somewhere so it started really small, just knocking on doors, selling these little kit sets," Mowbray said.

"We started in a garage, the cliche, and then moved to selling them shop to shop and then from there Mat said let's move to China. I had just done my first year of uni and he said let's pack up and just go so I thought OK," he said.

"So we packed up, flew to China, set up and it went from there."

That was eleven years and several innovative, global-selling toys ago. The company is now turning over around half a billion dollars annually - boosted by the Bunch O Balloons craze, which has resulted in a Balloons product being produced every second of every day.

"It's pretty awesome," Mowbray said. "It's probably the number one toy in the world at the moment, [based on] official data out of the US it's been number one since March so it's pretty amazing. I think the next best toy on the list is selling two or three times less than Bunch O Balloons."

Sales numbers will likely decrease after the US summer but Zuru has other plans including its partnerships with Disney and Dreamworks for franchises including Finding Dory and the Trolls movie which is set to be released later in the year, but Mowbray admits it's not all smooth sailing.

"At the end of the day it is a commercial business and so while it's fun, there's also a lot of stress," he said. "It's a fashion industry - things are really hot, really quick and they get really big, but then they can drop off just as fast so you have to have your finger on the pulse all the time to keep the momentum going."

He may have the stresses of helping run a global company, but at just 30 years old, Mowbray's entrepreneurial journey has been one of success.

- NZ Herald

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