Scraps of Fun

Brian Yanish Designs is putting a fun face on recycling with its Scrap Kins character property. The Scrap Kins, a group of creatures that live in a recycling center and build their world out of things people throw away, were launched in 2006, and the property has been gaining steam.

Designed for kids ages 3 to 8, the six characters foster eco-awareness and encourage children to use their imagination by creating things from recycled materials. Scrap Kins creator Brian Yanish has been taking the characters' message into the community through educational programs in schools and fun events. The company recently staged an eco-fashion show in Brooklyn in which kids modeled costumes made from recycled materials.

"We're at an exciting stage in our development, where consumers are embracing our green message, and kids are engaged by the hands-on approach to being creative," says Yanish. "Our success with school visits and festivals, where we teach kids eco-creativity and resourcefulness through recycled arts and crafts, has driven demand to tell the stories of the Scrap Kins and their adventures in the recycled world of Scrap City. The Scrap Kins' do-it-yourself resourcefulness empowers children to create and make a difference in their environment."

Yanish says parents and teachers respond to the back-to-basics aspect of using recycled materials to create something new. "Kids spend a lot of time with electronics, so it's important to refresh this idea that you can use recycled materials, and you don't have to spend a lot of money to create something. These projects embrace a simple use of imagination and resourcefulness," he says.

The company plans to expand educational outreach. The character Web site, www.scrapkins.com, offers downloadable recycled arts and crafts project ideas for parents and teachers, as well as cartoons and information about Scrap Kins events.

Demand for the characters is definitely building. Fun monster characters engage children through stories that are used as a way to send a message. The characters themselves are based on monster drawings Yanish made when he was in elementary school.

"What's great about the characters is that it's not just a story, it's a story and a craft," says Yanish. "Our added value is that we offer a hands-on activity to engage the kids, as well."

The franchise already has caught the attention of licensees. Fine Line Stationery has developed a line of recycled paper stationery, paper portfolios, theme books and lunch kits that are being sold at Rite Aid, ShopKo, Albertsons and Supervalu for back-to-school 2009. "We've had some major support from some major retailers," says Richard Litvak, Fine Line's president. "This is a unique license that comes from someone's imagination. Not only do the characters tell kids a cute little story, they teach them how to save the planet. Truthfully, this license has life because it's based on something real."

Somé Publishing is producing 2010 sticker calendars that are interactive and fun for kids. "Scrap Kins caught our attention because the concept was great—teaching parents and kids to care about the environment by recycling and through purchasing products that are eco-friendly and fun—not like other boring green products. We feel Scrap Kins has great potential," says Cora Fung, creative director of Somé Publishing. "Our sticker activity calendar is specially designed for families with young children so they can learn to be more eco-conscientious through fun activities, such as a sticker reward chart where a child can add a sticker after a specific task has been completed. You can even reuse the cardboard stiffener [a requirement for all calendars] to turn it into a trading card box. All the pages are printed on recycled paper."

Lafayette Puzzle Factory is bringing a line of puzzles and educational flash cards to market, and Mighty Fine is producing a line of tees and fleecewear for toddlers, young men and juniors. Yanish said a line of plush toys is in the development stage. "We're looking to expand in publishing with activity books and story books," he says.

More licensing agreements are likely to follow as the characters get wider exposure. "We definitely see television as a possibility," he says.

Yanish's company, Brian Yanish Designs, is a New York-based design and illustration studio specializing in kids' character design and content creation. Yanish trained as a special effects moldmaker, has written and performed comedy, designed educational CD-ROMs and developed products for major children's brands. He brings more than 10 years' experience working in illustration and licensed product design to the business.

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