By Michelle Newman
“I made a very basic little field with two different types of grass on it and a few bits of timber thrown together. It wasn’t great to be honest but I’m very proud of it now because it’s what gave us the idea,” says Padraic Cuddy whose toy company, aptly named The Field, was created when he saw how much his son Tommy enjoyed playing with the original field. Tommy was just three years of age when his dad made him the first model but four years later The Field is nothing short of a home-grown success story.
Before 2009, Padraic was working as a civil engineering contractor however when the recession hit and the downturn came he found that he couldn’t compete with bigger companies and this led him to look elsewhere for work. “We started an artificial grass business in Portugal in 2010 and lived there for 10 months, but my wife was at home and that was difficult to say the least. At the end of 2010 we brought Class Grass here to Ireland and it has sort of got us back on our feet and we’ve done very well,” Padraic says, adding that between September 2011 and April 2014, he and his wife Anita had two children, Tommy and Ava.
“A few months before Christmas in 2014, Anita said to me, ‘Will you make a little field for Tommy?’ because he liked his tractors and farming and all that.” Padraic used spare pieces of material from Class Grass to create the prototype that sits in the Cuddy home to this day and ‘will never be thrown out.’ “Tommy used to sit into his field and he played with it more than he played with anything else. He didn’t watch television as much, he would be driving his tractor around the field and it just changed the way he played with [his toys].
“Then a demand came [with people asking] for a few bigger fields from Santa Clause and we thought about it over the Christmas of 2014. I said, ‘There’s something going on here, we might take this a bit more seriously. I would always say, ‘We’ as a business, Anita would definitely be very strong in the business, and the idea came from both of us.”
In early 2015, Padraic and Anita began the process of naming their product and discovered that they were able to register and trademark it in Europe. Next they began to design the product and how it would be presented which took them up until the autumn of that year where they officially launched The Field at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, county Laois.
“It went down very well, we got a lot of media attention. Then we put a package together of everything that we had done so far in its very short life and we sent it up to RTÉ for The Late Late Toy Show,” Padraic says of what would be the first of four appearances on the show. “Three weeks before the Toy Show the producers asked us to send up another one of them and that was very exciting because it now looked like our toy was going to actually feature. It featured with the rapping farmer Fionn Molloy from Tullamore in county Offaly and it kind of spiralled out of control for us for the remaining part of that December. Our sales were very strong and we still had only one product.
“We didn’t know how The Late Late Toy Show worked. We were very inexperienced, until the camera went on the product we didn’t know for sure, being honest and when it did, it was extremely exciting, a massive vote of confidence and a great achievement for something that was so young.”
This encouragement and success spurred Padraic and Anita to introduce The Field to an international audience and gauge the reaction in other parts of the world. In January 2016, they brought the product to a toy fair in the Olympia in London and three weeks later to the Davitt Centre in New York to a toy fair there. “I was wondering would I come away from these places thinking, we’re punching above our weight, we shouldn’t be here,” Padraic says of his fears before travelling overseas. “But the reaction to it was very strong and because of the interest, the following year we brought out a second product called The Field Farm because the kids wanted something bigger than the field, in other words, a double field.”
In total there are now eight products available which vary in design and price to suit everyone’s taste and budget and last year a social media competition gave one lucky customer the opportunity to name the latest product in the rage. “We were bringing out a new little field because we wanted to have something in the price range of about €25. A girl in Mayo came up with the name, The Half Acre Field and that’s what won that competition.”
Listening to what the children want to play with and taking feedback from shopkeepers on board plays a very important part in helping the business to grow and keeping their customers happy. It’s also very much a unisex product that young girls can enjoy just as much as boys. “Girls can use it for picnic areas and all that kind of stuff as well. The kids tell you the story and you have to listen to them. It’s all coming from the imagination of the children and that was the reason behind some of the products we have brought out. Using their imagination and creativity are the two core words of what The Field is all about.
“The other very novel thing is it comes with a certificate of title, so when you open your box there’s a land document in it. We designed it ourselves and it’s a piece of paper so the child can write their name on it and fill in the gaps in other words that they own their piece of land. When you own your land, you’re very proud of it, it’s a very Irish thing.”
For Padraic the business incorporates his own heritage too; he was born and reared on a farm, with his mother living ‘roughly 50 yards’ away from him, and his brother lives next door. “We live on the homeland,” he says. Tommy is now seven years old and even though he had a big role in making the business what it has become, his dad says that he very much takes it all in his stride. “It’s just a normal thing for him. He’s not overawed by it but at the same time he is very aware of the fact that he was the man who had the first field.”
For more on The Field see www.thefield.ie