BCU staff member and entrepreneur launches Kickstarter campaign

Birmingham City University (BCU) alumna, current staff member and design extraordinaire Niky Szabo is on a new mission, launching a Kickstarter campaign in order to create an exciting new product, a plush toy made of sustainable materials.

Posted 05 December 2022

Niky Szabo with her plushie (left) at the recent STEAM Hatchery awards presentation.

A business that continues to boom

Alongside her BCU career, Niky started her own business, Toslisy, in June 2021.

“I had been dabbling in graphic design and illustration for a while, but I finally decided to open up my own business and turn my ideas into a reality,” Niky explains.

“I wanted to use cute illustrations in order to bring joy and promote wellbeing, which then led to making products based upon those illustrations.”

It proved to be a wise move. Within a year of trading, Niky broke even and Toslisy continued to grow, having its own pop-up shop in Digbeth.

That’s when she decided it would be sensible to seek some professional guidance.

STEAMhouse launched its Hatchery programme around the same time, which was perfect,” Niky smiles.

“It proved to be exactly what I needed. I received access to business mentors, core lessons covering every aspect of running a startup and I nearly won one of the prizes!”

A fulfilling, rewarding journey

Niky balances Toslisy with her career at BCU as a Project Officer and Student Success Advisor in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment.

Her job sees her liaise with and provide support to students who sometimes wrestle with not fitting in, something Niky has experienced herself.

These struggles have inspired Niky’s most exciting and adventurous product to date, a special ‘Square Bear’ plushie, which bears the slogan “in a round world, he’s square. But that’s ok, because he’s a bear.”

“Square Bear’s story focuses on the inherent nature of not fitting in and being on this journey of self-acceptance and growth,” Niky explains.

“I hope that people owning Square Bear and following the illustrated bear on his journey will feel like they can accept who they are and have the confidence to build their own story.”

The bear will be made of entirely sustainable materials, another concern that is close to Niky’s heart.

“I feel very strongly about doing our very best in our life to do as little harm as possible,” she explains. “(Making the plush toy sustainable) is a step in the right direction, with the potential to maybe influence a whole industry.”

A much-needed kickstart

In order to create the Square Bear plushie, Niky has launched a Kickstarter campaign for people to donate.

The campaign began at the start of December and will run until Sunday 29 January, with the goal of raising £3,000. It raised over £200 on its first day and Niky is offering a range of rewards and incentives for people to donate.

As for the future, Niky has some exciting plans.

“I want to see the Square Bear plushie out there in the arms of people,” she beams. “I also hope to expand my product range to include sustainable clothing and 3D printed home items.”