It's an early morning in the late 1970s. The day has barely dawned. Sven is sitting in the boiler room at his home before the working day starts at Micki. He finds peace and quiet to think here, while getting the boiler going so that his wife and three children wake up in a warm home. His mornings in the boiler room are moments when he can let his thoughts wander. He has solved numerous problems here on the chopping block. Right now, it's the baby walker that Sven is thinking about. The cart rolls so easily that the child can't keep up. Sven needs to figure out a way to slow it down. Maybe, if it was possible to...
Sven Aronsson has spent just about his entire life in the toy factory. He was 10 years old in 1944 when his father, uncles and aunts founded Micki Leksaker together. Sven's father, Georg, was the oldest of the siblings and Micki's first manager. Sven remembers what it was like to grow up in a world of enterprise, toys and heated discussions between the siblings.
"There was always a fantastic unity. Of course there were arguments and discussions, but they always arrived at joint decisions. My aunt Göta kept the brothers together and raised the two of them as well as us children," Sven says.
Ingenuity was the key to success
Sven started his career at Micki as an errand boy. By the time he retired in 1999, he had had time to work in the warehouse, be a traveling salesman, workshop manager and production manager. For many years he was also the person who drove the bulk of the product development at Micki.
Developing our own products has always been a central part of the business. Adding something unique to the product was an important part of Micki's success from an early stage. The imagination and ingenuity that permeates the company gives the toys something that the competitors' toys do not have.
The baby walker sees the light of day
In the late 1970s, Micki developed a prototype for a new product: a baby walker. However, the prototype tipped easily and also rolled so fast that the child couldn't keep up. Sven, who was production manager at that time, continued to work on the baby walker.
"We moved the centre of gravity from the handle down to the wheels, so that it wouldn’t tip so easily. It then occurred to us that we should slow the wagon down a bit. I realised that if you drilled a hole in the hub and screwed in an iron screw, you could tighten the rear wheels in some way, thus braking the cart. However, once the children had driven it a few times, the iron screw scratched the axle which meant there was no braking effect," Sven says.
The next step was plastic screws, which can brake without scratching the cart’s axle. That was the solution to the problem! The new baby walker with braked wheels came on to the market in 1978 and was a success. The lbaby walker cart has acted as a stable support for the first steps of lots of children throughout Sweden and the world.
Micki's baby walker has been produced in numerous versions over the years. Different colours, accompanying puzzles and a handle to turn the trolley into a trailer are just a few examples. Micki has also been manufacturing the EKORRE baby walker for IKEA for many years.
The baby walker is still around today, in Micki's range as well as in many people's homes. The device that Sven invented to brake the wheels is still an important part of the baby walker’s functionality.
"Toys facilitate play and the imagination"
Sven has devoted most of his life to toys. But as a child, he played very little with purchased toys.
"It was wartime and black-out, and things were very turbulent. We were very poor and I didn’t have any toys at all. Me and my sister Elizabeth, who is three years older than me, played school, shop and doctor. Back then play was all about the imagination," Sven says.
Although Sven has devoted his entire life to toys, he does not regard them as central to children's play. The imagination is at the centre.
"Toys facilitate play and the imagination. Play is an arena for boundless imagination. A toy stove is an imaginary arena where you bake, make invitations, talk, donate and spend time. Imaginative play is highly developmental," Sven says.
"I knew I could influence our situation – it gave me security"
Of course, growing up during the war has left its mark on Sven. He says that as a child he helped to collect firewood by taking in waste from nearby shops and factories. He also sold newspapers so that the family could raise money for food.
“I was needed. I've always been told that I WAS CAPABLE. It gave me an underlying sense of security in that I was given tasks and was able to influence our situation," Sven says, adding:
"Children need to feel that they are needed.”