Ryan Gunnigle may be 46, but he’s just a big kid at heart.
That becomes obvious if you visit the four-story headquarters of Buckhead-based Kids II Inc., and see the toy company’s employees sliding through a two-story stainless steel tube or playing with pinball machines.
But he’s also a businessman, running a toy designer and manufacturer that had revenue last year of $250 million. With 450 employees and 13 offices worldwide, Gunnigle said he expects the company’s revenue to hit $320 million this year.
Q: Where do you make the toys?
A: We have two factories in Asia that we own and also use some third-party factories. Our two factories are in south China, and 100 percent of the production belongs to Kids II.
We have 125 Kids II employees in China and almost 30 in Hong Kong. We also have joint venture partnerships in Asia and two in the U.S., where a lot of our large plastic pieces are made.
We design all of our items in Atlanta, but we have designers here from all over the world.
Q: There’s been considerable news about recalls, especially toys made in China. How do you deal with this?
A: Our products go through six levels of evaluation on testing. We have a team in Atlanta and Asia to make sure new products are monitored and tested. We have inspection teams that we send out and inspect all goods before they are shipped. It’s a very detailed process.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: We sell to more than 76,800 retail outlets worldwide. Key retailers in the U.S. are Babies R Us, Walmart, Target and dozens more. Other international retailers outside of the U.S. include Argos, Baby City, Coppel and Giochi.
Q: Do your employees design all your toys?
A: Yes. We have five brands of our own and we license Baby Disney and Baby Einstein from Disney. We pay them a license fee for the right to use their artwork on products, like Winnie the Pooh. We design the products for our brands, as well as the products of the names we license.
Q: How many different items do you sell?
A: We have 400 items we sell globally. We sell baby and toddler toys, which is half the business, and the other is baby gear like swings, bouncers, play yards, gyms and high chairs.
Q: Where do you get designers?
A: Our designers come from various industries, companies, agencies and schools from experienced to right out of college.
Many students come from SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and Georgia Tech, as we have partnerships in which students are able to receive real world training and, in some cases, class credit. In turn, we have access to some of the best talent coming out of school.
Q: Describe your work environment and what you look for in employees?
A: Our employees collaborate beautifully. And we keep it fun. How could we not keep it fun? After all, we make toys.
I want to hire people who fit our culture, want to be here and continue to be inspired every day. Currently, we have 37 positions open in the U.S. and 32 more across the globe.
Q: How do you figure out what kids want?
A: We have focus groups supported by teams of experts that understand the needs of our consumers. We solicit feedback from diverse groups. We are in constant communication with parents, as some of our best ideas have come from moms.
The only way we can constantly deliver fresh products is to give our designers the ability to take ownership of their business area and run it as if it’s their own.
Q: What’s your growth rate?
A: We grew 20 percent last year in the U.S. market and 25 percent outside the U.S., and have consecutively grown by 20 percent for the last several years. A lot of that goes back to our innovation.
Q: Do you have plans to go public?
A: No, we have no plans to go public. I own the company.
Q: Who are your main competitors?
A: Fisher Price, Graco, Dorel, Infantino and a few others. Most of our competitors are publicly held with large dollars and a massive staff.
Q: Name a few of your products that parents might recognize.
A: Our brand portfolio consists of household names familiar to anyone with a baby or toddler in their lives. Bright Starts, InGenuity, Comfort & Harmony, Disney, Baby Einstein, Oball and Taggies. From baby teethers, bouncers and swings, to play gyms and toddler learning toys, our products are for every child from zero to 36 months.
Q: What’s the top items you sell?
A: Our top selling product categories are our peg toys, activity centers, box toys, infant seats, play gyms and play mats. These in total make up about 60 percent of our business.
Q: How many countries do you sell in?
A: More than 70.
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MEET RYAN GUNNIGLE
Job: CEO and president of Kids II
Family: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Emory University
Hobbies: Avid cyclist and big sports fan