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July 2013

19 July 2013

Custom Roman Legion

Custom Roman Legion scene

Creative wizard, Michael Heald has lent his creative skills to the world of LEGO; creating this spectacular LEGO Roman Legion. Here’s what he had to say about the project:

“The story of this little project is all tied into a game I’m currently working on and along the way I decided that I’d LOVE to visualise part of the game in the Lego universe. Now as the mini figures ranges have now had 3 different Romans, I figured this was perfect…all I needed was 80 Legionaries, a Signifer, Tesserarius, Optio (those three ranks are yet to be distinguished from the other troops), a mounted Centurion and a small outpost building.

 LEGO Roman Legion

As the original Roman Legionary mini figure is very expensive (when you need 80!) and comparatively rare, I decided to bulk the century out with the recent series 10 Centurion, only removing his crest to keep them in line with the other legionaries.  These guys are abundantly available at a low price when bought in bulk.

LEGO Roman Legion 

With all these dudes together, I modified one of the Lord of the Rings buildings slightly and used that as an outpost.  In an ideal world I’m aiming to make a section of Hadrian’s Wall…but that’s going to take time, money and lots, and lots and lots of grey bricks ;)

 

Keep your eyes peeled, as once I’ve customised a few more game characters, I’ll be re-creating scenes from the game :) “

If you'd like to see more photos or just to find out more about Michael, check out his website: Fully Illustrated

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posted by FireStar Toys
11 July 2013

A rare view at the inner workings of FireStar Toys

We were recently interview by Ingenious Britain, as they’ve selected us to be their ‘Small Business of the Month’.

Here’s a snippet of how things went:

When was it set up, and what inspired you to start it up?

I have always been fascinated with collectable toys and have been buying and selling them on eBay for the last 10 years as a hobby. In 2008 I was a Sales Manager for Stratstones selling Aston Martins; this was the time when the financial markets collapsed the demand for high-end sports cars disappeared overnight.

I decided the only way I was going to be sitting on the other side of the desk, buying an Aston Martin, was to start my own business.  I started with a small amount of stock in my loft in October 2008 and in February 2009 moved in to a small warehouse in Borehamwood. LEGO was a perfect product to specialise in as it offers so many opportunities for customising and adding value. As the other toy brands became harder to sell, due to the growth of the giant online stores like Amazon, we built a business around selling LEGO in a very different way, catering to the huge fan base of enthusiasts and collectors.

It’s quite a niche business. Did you find that a challenge when trying to build up custom and exposure at the beginning?

There are a number of small hobby sellers in this niche selling on eBay and Amazon, which is really where we started out. However, we’re the first LEGO specialist to develop our own successful website which now accounts for about 80% of our turnover. We realised very quickly that we had to create an environment totally dedicated to providing a massive range of minifigures and parts along with exceptional levels of customer service.

The more products we added to the website, by continually reinvesting profits, the faster our customer base grew and we’re still adding new products at a frightening rate. We also have exclusive deals with many of the leading custom brands so our website is the only place in the world where you can mix multiple custom brand orders with genuine LEGO parts.

What other challenges did you experience along the way, and how have you overcome them?

Every month is a challenge for a fast growing business! We’re still trying to grow the business at the same rapid rate as when we first started; cash flow and costs have to be constantly monitored. We never get complacent with previous months results, each month starts fresh, and so we continually work hard to ensure that every customer has a great buying experience.

Who makes up the FireStar Team?

We’re a micro-business made up of just 4.5 big kids:

Paul Charalambous (who you’ve heard from) is the Grand master/ Yoda of the company with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things LEGO and Star Wars.

Danny Lezer: Who awkwardly has to write his own description (modesty was never my strong point) is the (awesome!) business development manager. With an unhealthy love for LEGO and a unique view on how businesses should be run, Danny has helped transform Firestar Toys into a fun and exciting company & brand. When you interact with us on Twitter and Facebook he’s usually the one at the other end.

Matthew Nickels: Dispatch Manger. He’s the fastest picker and packer in the west (He could probably do it blind folded) and has helped to ensure the customer experience is perfect from start to finish!

Thomas Pearson, the youngest and newest member of our team. He’s currently learning the ropes via our apprentice scheme (9 months in) and we’re pretty sure he thinks we’re a few bricks short of a LEGO set.

Benji, the top dog (literally) of the company; he’s a much loved member of the team, despite the mess he makes!

 

What triumphs have you experienced in your business journey so far?

For a micro business (just 4 members of staff) based in Hertfordshire we have a client list that’s more star studded than Simon Cowell’s Phone Book! We’ve proudly supplied huge corporate companies such as; Google UK and Fox Studios with custom LEGO minifigures and other bespoke LEGO products. For a company as small as ours that’s a pretty big achievement for us and we’re experiencing steady growth with have a customer and fan base that spans the globe, so we’re pretty proud!

Describe Firestar Toys to us in three words.

Awesome!

 

… Can I get a refund for the other two?

…Unfortunately not.

 

If you'd like to read the full article and to view all of the lovely photos of us, head over to Ingenious Britain.

firestorm.jpg

The FireStar team: Middle – Paul Charalambous – Director; Right – Danny Lezer – Business Development Manager; Left – Matthew Nickels – Dispatch Manger

 

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. This rings very true to our Small Business of the Month for July, FireStar Toys, who have created a fast-growing business from, of all things, LEGO.

Mark Twain famously said: “There are two certainties in life: death, and loving LEGO.*”

And so, we thought we’d embrace the inner child within us and speak to Danny Lezer, FireStar’s Business Development Manager, on the inspiration for the company, how they’ve achieved 2,000 new Facebook likes this week, and how they’ve made a success of a niche market through e-commerce.

*Not entirely true.

Hi guys, and congratulations on being Ingenious Britain’s Small Business of the Month for July! So, tell us a bit about the business. Who’s the mastermind behind it?

The business is owned by Paul Charalambous, a 42 year old LEGO nut.

When was it set up, and what inspired you to start it up?

I have always been fascinated with collectable toys and have been buying and selling them on eBay for the last 10 years as a hobby. In 2008 I was a Sales Manager for Stratstones selling Aston Martins; this was the time when the financial markets collapsed the demand for high-end sports cars disappeared overnight.

I decided the only way I was going to be sitting on the other side of the desk, buying an Aston Martin, was to start my own business.  I started with a small amount of stock in my loft in October 2008 and in February 2009 moved in to a small warehouse in Borehamwood. LEGO was a perfect product to specialise in as it offers so many opportunities for customising and adding value. As the other toy brands became harder to sell, due to the growth of the giant online stores like Amazon, we built a business around selling LEGO in a very different way, catering to the huge fan base of enthusiasts and collectors.

It’s quite a niche business. Did you find that a challenge when trying to build up custom and exposure at the beginning?

There are a number of small hobby sellers in this niche selling on eBay and Amazon, which is really where we started out. However, we’re the first LEGO specialist to develop our own successful website which now accounts for about 80% of our turnover. We realised very quickly that we had to create an environment totally dedicated to providing a massive range of minifigures and parts along with exceptional levels of customer service.

The more products we added to the website, by continually reinvesting profits, the faster our customer base grew and we’re still adding new products at a frightening rate. We also have exclusive deals with many of the leading custom brands so our website is the only place in the world where you can mix multiple custom brand orders with genuine LEGO parts.

What other challenges did you experience along the way, and how have you overcome them?

Every month is a challenge for a fast growing business! We’re still trying to grow the business at the same rapid rate as when we first started; cash flow and costs have to be constantly monitored. We never get complacent with previous months results, each month starts fresh, and so we continually work hard to ensure that every customer has a great buying experience.

Who makes up the FireStar Team?

We’re a micro-business made up of just 4.5 big kids:

Paul Charalambous (who you’ve heard from) is the Grand master/ Yoda of the company with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things LEGO and Star Wars.

Danny Lezer: Who awkwardly has to write his own description (modesty was never my strong point) is the (awesome!) business development manager. With an unhealthy love for LEGO and a unique view on how businesses should be run, Danny has helped transform Firestar Toys into a fun and exciting company & brand. When you interact with us on Twitter and Facebook he’s usually the one at the other end.

Matthew Nickels: Dispatch Manger. He’s the fastest picker and packer in the west (He could probably do it blind folded) and has helped to ensure the customer experience is perfect from start to finish!

Thomas Pearson, the youngest and newest member of our team. He’s currently learning the ropes via our apprentice scheme (9 months in) and we’re pretty sure he thinks we’re a few bricks short of a LEGO set.

Benji, the top dog (literally) of the company; he’s a much loved member of the team, despite the mess he makes!

How did you/do you market Firestar Toys?

The company has always grown organically; we offer a unique range of products and our promise to provide customers with an awesome customer experience, has meant that our customers have been our main marketing force; sharing links, telling friends etc. and we’ve grown year on year because of it. We don’t actually have a marketing budget.

That’s not to say we throw money at it, like it were a stag-do in Prague. It’s just that we spend virtually nothing on it at all. What little marketing we do, is done in-house via social media, for which, other than spending a few minutes of each day, is completely free.

You were telling us that you’ve had a surge of Facebook followers over the past few weeks. Do you have any particular ‘tactics’ for encouraging engagement with your customers?

Keep it simple and crammed full of personality, some of our best-received social posts have also been our silliest. Social media is about being sociable online. Getting sales from it is just an indirect benefit and shouldn’t be the core driving force behind using it. We share content that makes us go ‘wow!’ or burst into fits of laughter; we don’t share content just because we haven’t posted anything for a while. It’s a pretty simple way of working and one that has worked out really well for us.

We don’t always get it right but the experience and the lessons from it are exciting and ultimately our customers benefit from it! Our Facebook page is currently achieving around 2,000 new likes a week (roughly), with a total currently sitting at 40,000 likes. Our Twitter account is equally achieving great things, with 2,500 followers, growing at about 200 new followers per month. The content for Facebook and twitter is kept separate, as we found that the desires for content are completely different for each network and what’s an instant hit on Facebook might not go down so well on Twitter and vice versa.

What advice would you give to fellow e-commerce businesses?

We’re quite unique so it’s difficult to give advice to other companies that don’t follow or possibly even understand our way of thinking and working. To sum it up: we run a serious business just not in a serious way.

 I think it’s easy to fall in to a mind set of “If it worked for them, it’ll work for me”.  Sometimes it’s best to just ignore how other businesses are run and just keep things simple and fun.

Learn from them, just don’t copy them!

The Customer should always come first; ensuring that they have an amazing customer experience is our top aim, sometimes we get it wrong but we make sure we correct our mistakes and learn from it.

What triumphs have you experienced in your business journey so far?

For a micro business (just 4 members of staff) based in Hertfordshire we have a client list that’s more star studded than Simon Cowell’s Phone Book! We’ve proudly supplied huge corporate companies such as; Google UK and Fox Studios with custom LEGO minifigures and other bespoke LEGO products. For a company as small as ours that’s a pretty big achievement for us and we’re experiencing steady growth with have a customer and fan base that spans the globe, so we’re pretty proud!

What are the future plans? Are you planning to diversify into other markets, for instance?

This summer will be very exciting for us; we’ve recently announced our ‘face lift’ (brand re-launch) for August, which will be accompanied by a huge upgrade and expansion of our website and product offering, the likes of which hasn’t been seen before, so expect to see even more amazing custom LEGO minifigures!

We’ve released a teaser video for the re-brand to encourage discussion and make our customers drool with excitement! You can view it here:

We also plan to expand our offering for businesses as we’ve seen an increase in demand for our products from companies wanting to spice up their marketing and customer interactions with some of our custom minifigures.

Describe Firestar Toys to us in three words.

Awesome!

 

… Can I get a refund for the other two?

…Unfortunately not.

- See more at: //www.ingeniousbritain.biz/weekly-news/reader-stories/boys-with-toys-julys-small-business-of-the-month-firestar-toys/1014/100108#sthash.Ks81bNgY.dpuf
Category: Site News
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posted by FireStar Toys
9 July 2013

Press Release: Firestartoys, shortlisted as one of the top small UK businesses

We've been shortlisted for the Nectar Business Awards 2013

Awards nomination is no miniature feat for FireStar Toys 

Elstree business on national awards shortlist 

 

Paul Charalambous, founder of Elstree-based business, FireStar Toys, has beaten hundreds of small businesses to be shortlisted in the national Nectar Business Small Business Awards 2013. FireStar Toys is just weeks away from finding out if it will win the Small Business of the Year category, which is judged by a panel of experts including leading businesswoman and star of BBC1’s The Apprentice, Karren Brady.

If successful, FireStar Toys will win £2,000 cash, 50,000 Nectar points and the prestigious title. What’s more Paul will be invited to the Nectar Business Round Table event, which will take place in September, where he will meet and get business advice from lead judge, Karren Brady.

FireStar Toys is a specialist website that is crammed full of custom designed and printed LEGO figures. Having sold collectable toys on eBay for the past 10 years, four years ago, Paul took the plunge and decided to leave his job and focus on turning his hobby into a business. A huge success, FireStar Toys is now the world’s best source of collectable LEGO minifigures and parts.

Committed to matching the passion of its LEGO enthusiast customers and with a business ethos of fun and hard work, FireStar Toys has impressively earned a huge global clientele amongst both corporate and consumer collectors that continues to grow.

Paul Charalambous commented: “I’m delighted to be shortlisted in the Nectar Business Small Business Awards. I am so proud of our achievements and, as with most small businesses, we have been faced with many challenges along the way so to receive national recognition is amazing and makes all the hard work worth it. I think Karren Brady would really appreciate our approach to business so attending the round table and receiving advice from her would be great to help us advance to the next level. The £2,000 prize money would be put towards marketing materials such as business cards and branded shirts, and the 50,000 Nectar points would be very useful in keeping the office biscuit tin topped up!”

FireStar Toys will now be judged by a panel of business experts, including Karren Brady, Nectar Marketing Director, James Frost, Brakes Marketing Director, David Hughes and Chris Li, founder of Luxury For Less and winner of the Nectar Business Small Business of the Year Award 2012.


James Frost, Marketing Director at Nectar says: “The standard of entries into the Nectar Business Small Business Awards has been exceptionally high this year and with an 80% increase in the number of entries, competition is clearly fierce. The Small business of the Year award is looking for an exceptional small business able to demonstrate excellence and innovation in its field. We wish all the shortlisted candidates, including Firestar Toys the best of luck.”

 

For full information on the awards please visit www.nectar-business.com/sba2013   


-Ends-


Contact

Niall Hughes on 020 7343 3228 and clarionnectarbusiness@clarioncomms.co.uk

 

Notes to editors

 

About the Nectar Business Small Business Awards 2013

  • The Nectar Business Small Business Awards 2013 provide small businesses with the opportunity to gain the rewards and recognition they deserve
  • The Categories include:
  1. 1.             Small Business of the Year  
  2. 2.             Start Up of the Year (Under one year trading)
  3. 3.             Innovation of the Year 
  4. 4.             Entrepreneur of the Year
  5. 5.             Tradesperson of the Year 
  6. 6.             Contribution to the Community
  • Awards 1-5 are judged by a panel of experts which include Karren Brady, 2012 winner Chris Li, David Hughes of Brakes and James Frost of Nectar Business
  • The sixth award, the Contribution to the Community award, will be open to public vote at  facebook.com/nectarbusiness between 24 June – 4 August
  • The six winners of the Nectar Business Small Business Awards will receive £2,000 and 50,000 Nectar points
  • Case studies of the 2012 Nectar Business Small Business Awards winners are available upon request

 

About Nectar Business

  • Launched in January 2005, Nectar Business has over 600,000 business collectors
  • Nectar Business partners include: Viking, Dulux Decorator Centres, Brakes, BOC, Hertz, American Express and DHL Express
Category: Site News
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posted by FireStar Toys
4 July 2013

Press Release: Brand Re-Launch

We're getting a face lift!

Here at Firestar toys, we've got a face only a mother could love. Whilst its done us no harm so far, we want to create a customer experience thats more than just about visiting our website. So we've traveled the interwebs and saved up our pocket money to bring the Firestar Brand into the 21st Century and beyond!

We don't do things by half measures, so to build the excitement we've created our own mini Blockbuster teaser trailer:

 

For all press related questions: sales@firestartoys.com

Category: Site News
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posted by FireStar Toys
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