After years of showcasing ideas through partners like Carterbench, toy inventor Charlie Bason has launched her own invention studio, Buzz Ideas.
We caught up with Charlie to learn more about how she got into the industry, how she fuels her creativity and what some of the benefits are in being both a Patent Attorney and an inventor.
Hi Charlie, so to kick us off, how did you get started in the world of toy invention?
I started out as a product designer working for a large design consultancy in London. In strolled Mary Danby, a hugely successful game inventor, to run a toys and games idea session. I couldn’t believe the job of ‘Toy Inventor’ even existed, beyond Tom Hanks in Big!
I had a chat with Mary and she invited me to visit to share some ideas, and that was that. The spark was lit, and under the wing of a really great team who helped me to get going.
You wear two hats; you’re both a toy inventor and a Patent Attorney. It seems like a great combination!
I became a Patent Attorney quite by accident! At the design consultancy I found a little niche tackling all of their patent searching, and took a Masters in IP to make sure I knew what I was talking about. I then moved to an invention house, dealing with plenty of perpetual motion machines, and lots of other interesting offerings from typical ‘shed inventors’. Before I knew it, I was qualified in the UK and Europe; so I guess that’s my sensible hat!
I have my own mini firm, and a bunch of awesome clients, with some really clever stuff; not toys, but medical devices, clean tech…brain engaging stuff! But that toy spark was still burning away in the background, and I couldn’t wait to put my creative – and slightly crazy – hat on.
And what does work look like with that creative hat on? How do you fuel ideas?
I scribble all sorts in the ideas book. I even do the typical ‘mad inventor notebook by the bed’. I woke up one morning so smug and pleased with myself remembering some middle of the night scribbles… a deranged looking horse, hmmm. Not quite the winning idea I had hoped for!
Ha! You’re not alone in that! And looking at how you juggle both the Patent Attorney work and toy inventing; did they inform each other? Does having that legal background help shape your approach to creating toys?
Yes, merging sensible hat Charlie with creative hat Charlie does come in handy! I can check out the patentability pretty quickly and make sure I have picked a name that’s sufficiently unique. Patent literature is also a really great resource for helping build new ideas.
Patent Attorneys can get pretty bad press; the myth being we all speak Latin and charge extortionate fees. I have even been put on a par with the tax man! But I’m always at the end of the phone for all my toy and game inventor friends and contacts, and it does come in handy in a pitch when the patent issue is mentioned.
Absolutely. Now, onto some exciting news, this year has seen you launch your own invention studio in the form of Buzz Ideas. What sums up a ‘Buzz’ idea and how are you looking to work with toy firms?
The name came about as it’s my daughter’s nickname – Edie Bea, also known as Edie Buzzy Bee or Buzz! I have been lucky enough to be in the toy invention bubble for the past 10 years, developing ideas and showing them through Mary, and also through Suzanne at Carterbench. I don’t think you ever really know that an idea will make it, but if it gives me a buzz it’s worth sharing!
I have had three children of my own over the past 7 years – my own mini toy testers, and biggest critics. They all seem to be carving their own role within the business… Ted likes to test prototypes to destruction, and note failure methods, Edie demands everything is pink and sparkly, even with two big brothers and Jack is apparently too big for toys now, aged 6!
Having three little monkeys seriously ramped up the ideas; we play a lot! The wish lists read so very differently now I am a mummy, but finding time to release them from the ideas book scribbles does prove tricky.
With Buzz, I plan to do exactly what I have been doing, coming up with ideas, and testing them out on my crew… only this time I will also be doing the pitching. I’ve always wanted to be at the coal face, and with the world embracing virtual, it has opened the door for people like me to be able to do so.
And we’re catching up virtually rather than face-to-face due to the pandemic. I’m interested, has lockdown changed how you ideate at all?
I don’t like admitting it, but lockdown did us a lot of good; I secretly loved it! We all hopped off the school run-footie match-kids party treadmill – we had so much fun!
All those times I have had the awful ‘mum guilt’ feeling of not having time to get the paints out, do that monster jigsaw, have a dinosaur battle or build the Death Star using every single piece of LEGO in the house… well we did them.
I find that by playing and engaging with little people, the ideas just happen and lockdown has made me remember the value in taking that time out. I even mastered the art of the in-house scavenger hunt, whilst sat drinking a nice hot cuppa. But I forgot that ‘putting all items back in the place you found them’ doesn’t really happen.
I try not to say ‘maybe later’ or ‘just after’ to my three now…seize the moment, the washing can wait!
And for anyone that wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to reach out?
I can be reached at email@example.com.
Great stuff, big thanks again Charlie – and good luck with all things Buzz!
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