March 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 3
|March 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 3|
Higgins Brothers Makes Life a Circus
Juggling Company Thrives After European Start
SELLING ON THE STREETS
I started selling juggling equipment in the market stalls of London. Juggling was picking up. People did it in their spare time. All the schools had juggling programs and there were 25 places in London where you could hang out and juggle. Glastonbury had a 20,000 sq. ft. tent dedicated to juggling and circus art.
I worked seven days a week selling nothing but juggling equipment. I taught thousands of people how to juggle, including Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
JUGGLING OVER TO TOY STORES
After four years in London, I returned to Canada and teamed up with my brother Dan. The market was not the same, but we knew what we were doing and we’ve done all right. We slowly developed products for toy stores. Demand for our products grew and people took notice.
In 1995 we designed a line of juggling and circus-related toys for retail and displayed at the Toronto Gift Show. I was awarded “Best New Booth,” and our juggling products became available coast to coast. Our new pupils included Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps and singers Amy Sky, Michael Burgess and David Cassidy of the Partridge Family.
DOING WHATEVER WORKS
In the early years of the business we taught in schools and at festivals and craft shows — anywhere we could show off and sell our wares. We eventually added diabolos, devil sticks and some other specialty juggling products.
We used the Internet and knocked on doors. We just did whatever was necessary to stay afloat. If wholesale wasn’t working, we went to music shows, concerts and folk weekends and just retailed it.
About six or seven years into the business we hired sales people. Higgins Brothers now employs 15 people and supplies about 1,500 customers in Canada and the United States.
PARTNERING WITH CIRQUE DU SOLEIL™
We also attended the American International Toy Fair in New York, which helped make the company internationally known. That’s where we forged a relationship with Cirque du Soleil — a Quebec-based organization that provides high-quality artistic entertainment around the world — to produce products for their extensive retail operations.
We recently joined forces with them again and signed a three-year licensing deal. Higgins Brothers will offer a line of Cirque du Soleil-branded juggling and circus toys to retailers across North America.
JUGGLING FOR SMARTS
The big question has always been, “Why juggling?” Volumes have been written about its benefits. It increases eye-hand coordination, stimulates right- and left-side brain activity and is a proven stress reliever. It is even proven to stimulate growth of grey matter in the mind.
Circus schools are springing up all over the world and parents are looking for new toys to encourage physical activity and stimulate their kids’ minds.
I would tell someone starting out in the business that you really have to understand your cash-flow situation. When you’re selling what we sell — and I would think this applies to other toy inventors and manufacturers — there’s no help from the banks.
Here are some Higgins Brothers’ products:
Made from Canadian maple, this Devil Stick is easy to perform tricks with because of the slow performance speed. It's decorated with glitter foil on the middle and both ends and is very durable. It comes with black rubber handsticks.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9390 (added 9/18/2006)
SKU or Item #: 1600
This kit comes with beautiful, eight-panel balls and an instructional booklet entitled "A Universal Manual of Stress Relief."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9389 (added 9/18/2006)
This professional-model plate is precision-made and has perfect balance. Made of heavy-gauge aluminum, it is designed to spin longer than the plastic version.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17482 (added 2/12/2008)
The 20.5”Circus Stage Club has a silver-wrapped handle that makes the club a bit heavier and can improve its responsiveness.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17483 (added 2/12/2008)
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Writer's Bio: Elizabeth Greenspan edits and writes for trade and technical publications. She has interviewed and collaborated with some of the top practitioners in their fields. She lives in Philadelphia and travels extensively for her work. Read more articles by this author
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