Saturday, 28 November 2015

An interview with Craig Randall, founder of Bitzbox

Hi Craig. You run the website Bitzbox, a supplier of individual plastic parts from Games Workshop kits. What gave you the idea to start up this site?
I was only 19 when I first started Bitzbox and didn’t have much experience behind me apart from working as a self employed web developer for a while. Ironically at this time I wasn’t really into the hobby. My friends stopped playing when we went to college and I still had loads of spare bits lying around from over the years of collecting so I thought I would use my web development skills to create a website to sell them on. At the time there was no one in the UK selling bits online and only Battlewagon Bits in North America.

Forge World's Roboute Guilliman, from Craig's personal collection

I notice you already have parts from the new plastic Horus Heresy game, Betrayal at Calth, up on your site. More and more product is moving into the plastics area. What effects does this have on your business?
The amount of plastic kits has increased so much since I first started and that has been fantastic from a business point of view. There are downsides of course, such as trying to keep so many different products in stock and finding space for them all. I have pretty much stopped selling any large monsters, vehicles and flyers due to lack of space and they are also not very profitable. Smaller kits are much easier to store and I have plenty of room for many more releases.

Do you run Bitzbox alone, or are there others who help?

The business is owned and run by myself mostly. When the company was first started it was a partnership between myself and my best friend who I also ran a web development business with. After about 3-4 years he left to do his own thing, but we are still great friends. I have a volunteer who does a few hours each week. My girlfriend works at a school so she doesn’t work during school holidays and usually ends up giving me a hand with work. My social media is mainly handled by my friend Wayne who also films battle reports for our YouTube channel. Running Bitzbox is my 9-5 job so with the amount of orders and stock that requires cutting off sprues each week I just about manage to fit all the required tasks in but as we continue to grow I will certainly be looking into hiring more helpers.

Another model from Craig's personal collection

Got any tips you’d like to share?
In regards to modelling and painting almost everything I’ve learned recently has just been from blogs and YouTube tutorials. It’s amazing how much we can learn online these days. I don’t consider myself an amazing painter but I like to think my quality is just above tabletop standard. When it comes to running a business you just have to have patience. I wasn’t taking any money from Bitzbox for the first 2-3 years and was lucky to be in a position that I didn’t need to rely on it’s income. It usually takes a while to really get up and running but there’s so many great online communities in this hobby that it’s not too difficult to start getting your name out there. Also when you work for yourself I think it’s best to get into a routine so you don’t start getting lazy or end up putting things off.

Many games companies are based in Nottingham. Are you in that neck of the woods? Does your location confer any benefits or leave you at any disadvantage?
Bitzbox is based in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk so we’re a good few hours away from Nottingham. The wargaming scene around here is quite large though and I’ve met loads of wargamers through the local game stores. It’s certainly a benefit having so many local wargamers as many of them have been customers at one time or another.

Do you go to conventions?
I have never been to any conventions. I’ve had plenty of invites to set up stalls but I don’t think it’s that feasible for my type of business. If I do go to one in the future it will just be as a regular Joe.

Craig's Harlequin Wraithknight

How did you first get into the miniature war-gaming hobby?
I first got into the hobby when I was about 10. One of my friends from school was into 40K and he got me into it. He had Orks, Dark Eldar and Tyranids and we used to play games with his miniatures to begin with. I remember my dad getting me the Warhammer 5th edition box set (with Lizardmen and Bretonnians) for Christmas and then for my birthday a couple of months later he bought me my first 40K models, the 7 man metal Chaos Space Marine squad and 5 Chaos Terminators. I then got other models such as Khorne Berzerkers, Kharn and Abaddon for that army. My cousin also got into the hobby at the time and had a really nice Dark Eldar army. Over the next few years several of my friends would get into the hobby and we had loads of games of 3rd edition 40K in my garage.

Do you still pursue gaming and modelling as a hobby today?
Absolutely. I love the painting and converting aspect of the hobby. I do try to game when I can too. I have several 40K armies. My largest is my Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons. I also have Space Marines, Orks, Tyranids and Eldar. And I play a little bit of Malifaux and am now getting into the Horus Heresy stuff too.

Imperial Knight Warden from Craig's collection

It sounds like you're more into 40K than Warhammer Fantasy Battle. What other sci-fi and fantasy inspires you?
Weirdly I love fantasy universes more than sci-fi on the whole but in regards to wargaming about 95% of it is 40K. I never really got into Warhammer Fantasy much but have started playing Age of Sigmar. I’ve always been a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and love The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. I’m also a big fan of Game of ThronesI do love sci-fi too. I love Aliens and the original Star Wars trilogy plus many others. Both genres are great but I think I prefer to see a good sword fight. Star Wars is great at offering that in a sci-fi setting which is why I love the films so much. I don’t play video games as much as I used to when I was younger. I tend to lean towards games like the Final Fantasy series, SkyrimGTA V and Fallout 4 these days. I like games I can sink hours into.

A video game inspired Ork Meganob?

Interesting point about Star Wars being a fantasy film in a science fiction setting. Which scene from the Star Wars series would you say is your favourite or most memorable?
For me the moment that stands out the most in the Star Wars saga is at the end of Return of The Jedi when Vader kills Emperor Palpatine. Vader was a great villain throughout the whole trilogy but during that scene we start to see a side of him that shows remorse and although "he’s more machine now than man" and he’s fallen to the dark side, in the end it’s his human emotions that win. Even with his helmet on you can sense the pain Vader feels from seeing Luke on the verge of death from the hands of Palpatine.

Just a few days now until the release of the next instalment. The excitement is mounting. But talking of the future, what would you say it holds for you? What plans do you have?
My house came with a large extension that was unfinshed that I always planned to use for the business. This is now being worked on and I hope to have the renovations done by the new year. This will see me being able to increase storage space for Bitzbox as well as be a really cool gaming area (hopefully). I want to eventually hire some helpers so we can stock loads more and quicker too. Our YouTube channel has really grown over the last year also and we’re going to be working even harder to bring more bat reps and other videos over the next few months as we really enjoy making them. Next September will also mark 10 years of Bitzbox so something very special will be happening then I’m sure.

Craig, thank you for taking time out to speak to me, much appreciated. Craig's site, Bitzbox, can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment