Bringing joy through colourful puzzles
Creating digital art was a hobby for Bob Williams until a friend suggested his colourful designs would make good jigsaw puzzles.
“I got curious and just started to investigate the jigsaw puzzle world and then became quite fascinated by the history of it — it goes back to 1760 and it's a huge business internationally,” he says.
The former builder and developer then took his passion to the next level and started Mr Bob Puzzles four years ago, initially designing cardboard puzzles manufactured in Thailand before deciding to take production in-house.
“We didn't want to be an importer, we wanted to be an exporter, so we explored how we would make jigsaw puzzles in Australia,” he recalls.
He did away with cardboard and decided on wooden puzzles — a quicker and less costly point of entry and a niche product that had traditional charm.
The Bunnings deal
In 2020, Bunnings became aware of Bob’s puzzles and commissioned 53,000 custom-made wooden jigsaw puzzles for the company’s staff Christmas present.
The project required 8 million individual jigsaw puzzle pieces to be laser cut, which is the equivalent in kilometres of a round trip from Perth to Albany.
“We had a limited timeframe, only about three months to actually produce them,” he says. “For one month, we worked 24 hours a day producing over 1000 jigsaw puzzles per day. So we quickly went from a cottage industry to what we are now— the largest in Australia with the capacity to do very large quantities.”
Since then, they have had other notable orders including customised wooden jigsaw puzzles to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The business, which makes puzzles ranging from 21 to 1275 pieces, only uses Australian artists, rather than stock images, with about 19 artists on the team.
“We're very proud of that because what it does, is it gives them as artists exposure of their work, and they thoroughly love being involved with us,” Bob says.
Scaling the business
Bob, who runs the business with his youngest son Chris, says they are now focused on scaling the business by expanding their corporate customer base and, shortly, moving into the wholesale retail space.
Chris says they are particularly keen to tap into a growing trend where companies are offering space in the office for staff to relax — in this case to work on a communal jigsaw puzzle.
“If someone is having a bad day or someone is feeling stressed, then they can get up from their desk and go and work on the jigsaw puzzle for five, 10, 15 minutes, and just de-stress and relax again and then go back in doing what they're doing,” Chris says.
Bob adds: "It's a joyful business to be in, because what we're producing is a product that brings joy to people and they express that back to us when they receive our puzzles and give us a review saying how fantastic it was to do."