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Friday, October 19 Business

Luke’s Toy Factory trucks to be sold in Europe

From Danbury to France … or Spain, Italy and Germany, for that matter.

Luke’s Toy Factory, a Danbury-based small manufacturer of educational toys, announced its products will be distributed in Europe for the first time after the company was discovered by a Belgium-based toy distributor.

“It’s very exciting,” Luke Barber, part owner co-founder of Luke’s Toy Factory, said. “It’s a big market. It’s always been in the back of my mind to export.”

Luke and his father Jim Barber founded the company in 2014 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $15,000. From a small manufacturing facility not far from downtown Danbury, the Barbers produce simple, eco-friendly, multipiece trucks aimed at children 3 to 5 years old. The pieces are interchangeable with the various trucks produced.

The toys are made from a composite that reduces the use of plastic by 30 percent. Recycled sawdust from furniture factories and polypropylene pellets are combined to make the toys, allowing the colors to be molded into the truck and wood fibers to be visible, but not felt. No paint is used, and the toys contain no BPA or phthalates.

“The (safety) testing in Europe is much more stringent than in the U.S., especially regarding the use of chemicals and metals,” Jim Barber said. “But we got through no problem.”

Safety has been a cornerstone of the company since it was founded, Barber said. In fact, Jim Barber started thinking about forming the company following a massive recall of Chinese-made toys in 2007.

Another company pillar is that the sources come from America. Jim and Luke Barber do the manufacturing and packaging from their Danbury facility.

To sell in Europe, the Barbers had to revise their packaging to eliminate wasted space in the boxes. They also had to change the print on the packaging to include information in six languages, including English. The Barbers used a Google translator to convert the information and then sent it to the new distributors to fine-tune the syntax.

Luke Barber said the company would also like to export to China, a country in which many wealthy residents crave products made in the U.S. or Europe.

Luke’s Toy Factory is expanding in other ways, as well. After a successful trade show in Atlanta, the company is marketing its products to the educational community. Teachers, Jim Barber said, understand the toys right away and get the value in the design.

“The big thing about our toys is they are aimed at an age before they get into video games. When children are 2 or 3 their biggest desire is to manipulate objects, but their hand-eye coordination is not refined,” Jim Barber said. “A toy like this is good because the pieces don’t have to fit perfectly — there’s a little wiggle room. Toys like Legos can be frustrating for small children.”

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Barber said the toys are becoming popular in classrooms where teachers use them to introduce concepts such as counting and colors.

The Barbers will attend the Nuremberg International Toy Fair in Germany this winter. It is known as the biggest toy fair in the world.

In addition, the company is soft launching a new product: a stake (or farm) truck. Its product line also includes a dump truck, recycling truck, fire truck, cargo truck and tipper truck.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338.

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