Play Pouch Australia — We Speak to Kate and Kate

Kate Campbell and Kate O’Donoghue founded Play Pouch in 2011 with the goal to create a fashionable, practical and sustainable product to organise children’s toys. Now, from selling six Play Pouches at a local craft fair, the company is now fully established and selling high-quality licensed products globally! The Bugg Report speaks to Kate and Kate about Play Pouch and their journey from having a concept all the way to a fully operational Australian-owned business.

Kate Campbell and Kate O'Donoghue
Kate Campbell and Kate O’Donoghue

Hello Kate and Kate! Can you tell us about yourselves and how you ended up here, running Play Pouch Australia?

We met each other in 2008 through mutual friends over a coffee with our toddlers in tow. Having children the same age and shared interests & passions we quickly became the best of friends. In 2011 Kate C had tried to locate a vintage toy bag and mat she had as a child to assist with the LEGO® that was overtaking her home before the arrival of her 3rd child. When it was nowhere to be found on the market and nothing was available after searching online, she called Kate O with her idea who was also pregnant with her 3rd child. Before the babies arrived, together we set about re-designing the concept to make a more functional, stylish & durable version for families of today. Kate O dusted off her sewing machine and many prototypes were made until the design was perfected! Our first product, the Play Pouch, was born.

I believe that Play Pouch started off with product using your own designs and has now evolved into the licensed products business. What was the driving force behind transitioning Play Pouch into licensing?

Yes this is correct. We have designed all products ourselves and continue to create our own designs for our speciality/premium range. After experiencing exponential growth in the Australian market, we quickly learned that partnering with brands would help open doors to mass retail on a global scale and allow us to own the category and reach new markets. We continue to nurture our speciality B2B and direct customers who have been the backbone of our business, however securing licenses for our products with some of the biggest toy brands in the world has been our greatest achievement yet and is instrumental to scaling our business.

Can you tell us about the Play Pouch concept and how the products fit into the toy category of products?

The Play Pouch is the ultimate play mat and toy storage bag in one and really is an extension of play! The natural synergy between the branded play scenes on the inside of the Play Pouch supports the matching branded collectible toys that inspire self-guided play for children. We are delighted with our partnerships, and we are so pleased that our licensed Play Pouch range will help encourage young children to further explore the themes of role play, imaginative play, teamwork and self-expression. Parents also love the Play Pouch for its portability, quick pack up and compact storage it provides.

The Play Pouch is the ultimate play mat and toy storage bag in one and really is an extension of play!

Kate and Kate

In terms of licensing, can you give us an overview of your current licensing program and what you are looking for as you expand your licensed range offering?

Our first licensing partnership has been with Mattel and we’re fortunate to have partnered with such loved evergreen brands that translates beautifully into our product. With Barbie, Thomas, Hot Wheels, and Little People we have a Play Pouch offering for kids of different ages and interests. We’re also really excited about our partnership with leading preschool brand PAW Patrol. The PAW Patrol Play Pouch inner features a gorgeous interactive scene of Adventure Bay allowing for hours of play with the PAW Patrol toys. Brands with an element of collectability and imaginative play align perfectly with Play Pouch and this is certainly true of our existing licensing partnerships. Just in time for the Australian summer we are extremely proud to have secured the Surf Life Saving Australia license for our Aqua Pouch. The Aqua Pouch is the ultimate waterproof mat and carry bag in one! Partnering with Australia’s peak coastal water safety, and rescue authority and the SLSA community is a perfect alignment for the Aqua Pouch. 2023 will see an expansion of our existing partnerships into new product categories as well as new partnerships — watch this space!

From a retail point of view, how do you manage this and are you currently looking to expand your network of stockists?

We manage our existing business in Australia ourselves but have been fortunate to partner with Imagination Entertainment in the USA who are expanding our business throughout the territory. We also have fabulous partners in China, Japan and Korea. We are always looking to expand our stockists locally and internationally and are currently seeking a mass retailer in the UK market.

We look forward to speaking to you both around March in the lead up the 2023 Toy Hobby & Licensing Fair in March. Will you be attending the show in Melbourne?

Absolutely! We are very excited to be attending our first trade show post the pandemic. After two years of selling in via zoom calls, we realise there is nothing like connecting through face-to-face meetings. Our stand is across three stands — D34, D36 and D38, so we welcome you to drop by and say hi and check out our latest licensed products. Please also feel free to contact us prior for a meeting via the details on the right!

This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 42