Ryan McFarland from Strider Sports International Inc. has won South Dakota’s Small Business Person of the Year. He will join winners from the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C., from May 15 to 16. At the conference, a National Small Business Person of the Year for 2014 will be chosen and the winners will have opportunities to meet with top SBA officials and national business leaders.
The Toy Book is so sorry to hear about the passing of Leslie Berger, founder of Cardinal Industries.
In 1944, Les Berger founded the company with a dream and knowledge of plastics, on the corner of Keape and Hope Streets in Brooklyn, N.Y. The first product that he produced was dominoes. Now Cardinal Industries games and puzzles in some of the most popular licenses, while maintaining business in core basic games, such as dominoes. Berger continued to work, and until very recently, was still coming into the office to work. He was a true pioneer in the business.
Berger lived his 95 years surrounded by a loving family. His son Joel and daughter Bonnie, who have take over and grown the company to a very successful privately owned toy company that is committed to making family-friendly, challenging, and innovative games and puzzles that are affordable for everyone. His wife Sylvia has been his partner in life and business for 64 years.
He will be profoundly missed by his entire family: Sylvia, Joel, Bonnie, Jody, his grandchildren Carly, Ilana, Justin, Perri; and his numerous friends and countless associates in the toy industry.
The Woman in Toys Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Ashley Mady as the organization’s new president, effective April 1. Mady is currently president and founder of Brandberry Inc. In addition, she has been an active board member of the South Florida Chapter Chair, co-chair of the Wonder Woman in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards Dinner for several years, and chairs the Web and Social Media Committees.
The announcement coincides with the 10th Annual Wonder Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Awards. Joan Packard Luks, president of Woman in Toys since August 2010, will receive the 2014 Presidents Award. Mady is Luk’s successor as president of the organization.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sherry Gunther-Shugarman, CEO of Popstar Club, which is the manufacturer of the fresh, new doll line, The Beatrix Girls. Sherry gave me an overview of what makes her doll line so unique, and why girls are going to be clamoring for them this holiday season.
Where did you get the idea for Beatrix Girls?
The Beatrix Girls came out of the idea of tying music and dolls together. Ultimately the approach to this was to create a multiplatform brand that really reaches kids everywhere that they are, recognizing that kids are not just watching TV and they’re not just playing with dolls or toys, they’re not just online playing games or being social, they’re doing all of the above. A forward-thinking property really needed to have presence in all of those mediums and to have an integration between all of those formats ingrained in its DNA.
The webisodes are done in a very unique way. How did you come about using that style?
It’s interesting because the natural for me was to go with animation as I spent over 20 years in animation, but there were a lot of things that attracted me to doing it this way, creating webisodes that have the dolls featured interacting in real life. It comes out of the fact that the concept itself has the girls as real. So they’re real and they interact in our world. They’re a real pop star band, we’re creating real music, not composed music like we would for a toy property or an animated show, but real, credible, pop music written by a platinum-winning writer/producer, mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, so this is really relevant, today, great music and so we really want to sell them as true pop stars.
Animation oftentimes, especially when doing them based on a product or especially dolls, skews a little bit younger, and we really wanted to have the cool factor and have these be edgier. The medium that we used felt so much more current and fresh and innovative and YouTube generation-like and it felt much more fitting to the brand itself. It gives the dolls the credibility of being real in our world. They have a real human manager, they perform in real venues, so it allows us to play up that real factor for them. And then the scale gives us a lot of humor opportunities for 12-inch dolls interacting in a life-size world.
The really nice side effect that we found is that girls are really responding to the fact that they can relate to the way it was done because it was shot on purpose with hands showing and manipulating the dolls. The idea was that kids could really relate to it and feel like I can do that, I can get four dolls and with my friends create a scene and a scenario.
For some reason it reminds me of Mr. Bill, the old SNL skit.
That’s kind of what we were going for. We were going for rather than just sort of just straight, weak, almost too young-skewing animation. We wanted it to be edgier and quirky and fun and hilarious and this medium allowed us to do that, to have that feel to it.
The Deadliest Game, Hal Ross’s new thriller novel published by Titletown Publising LLC, incorporates Ross’s 35 years of toy industry experience in this suspenseful crime narrative. In the frightening tale, protagonist Blair Mulligan must make a decision between saving the life of his own daughter and the lives of thousands of other children after a terrorist plot against U.S. toy consumers.
Readers will get an exclusive insider’s perspective of the competitive toy business in The Deadliest Game, which will be released on November 6. Ross has even teamed up with the advertising agency Creative Bube Tube to market the novel through social media, TV, and various contests with awards to range from a Kindle Fire, signed copies of the book, and an Amazon gift card.
Toys “R” Us Inc. has named two seasoned executives with deep international and domestic retail expertise to lead the global franchise and its domestic business. Antonio Urcelay has been named CEO, Toys “R” Us Inc., effective immediately, after serving as the company’s interim CEO since May. Hank Mullany, an experienced retail executive with a strong background in operations, finance, customer service, and strategic planning, has been named president, Toys “R” Us, U.S., effective November 5.
Urcelay, 61, a respected global retail leader, joined Toys “R” Us in 1996. Over the course of his tenure with the organization, he has held roles of increasing responsibility. He will continue to provide worldwide leadership in driving key strategies and growth initiatives in the company’s more than 1,500 stores in 36 countries and jurisdictions worldwide. Known for building strong teams, implementing best practices across the organization and focusing intently on customer service, Urcelay has been instrumental in creating strategies to drive growth in global markets by placing an emphasis on thinking locally. Prior to joining Toys “R” Us, Urcelay spent the majority of his career working in the retail and consumer packaged goods industries, including Spanish dairy company Leche Pascual, Dutch supermarket chain Royal Ahold, and the Spanish subsidiary of Procter & Gamble.
Mullany, 55, has an established track record of developing and executing strategies, revitalizing underperforming businesses, and consistently delivering results. He previously served as CEO of The ServiceMaster Co., one of the world’s largest residential and commercial service businesses, and prior to that, was executive vice president of Walmart U.S. and president of Walmart’s northern business, with operational responsibility for more than $90 billion in revenue, more than 400,000 associates in 1,300 stores and 28 distribution centers in 19 states. In his new position at Toys “R” Us, Mullany will oversee all merchandising, marketing, e-commerce, and store operations responsibilities for the 878 U.S. store division. He will report to Urcelay.
Saban Brands has promoted Frederic Soulie to senior vice president of global distribution. Soulie will continue to oversee the worldwide distribution strategy Saban Brands’ properties across the TV, home entertainment, and digital platform categories. While managing ongoing and collaborative efforts to distribute the company’s entertainment properties, he will also work closely with Saban Brands’ President Elie Dekel and Chief Operating Officer Janet Scardino.
Soulie joined Saban Brands two years ago with experience overseeing digitial distribution and business development for Cookie Jar Entertainment as well as Endemol USA—the largest independent TV production company in the world.
Douglas Co., known for their plush toys and plush accessories, has appointed Tara Rubino to the position of National Sales Manager.
Rubino has had more than 20 years experience in plush sales and management, having worked for two other plush companies prior. All Douglas employees have passion for what they do and take the mission seriously to promote imaginative play and emotional connection for children of all ages.
Douglas products are sold at specialty gift and toy stores in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
In a move to strengthen its Canadian sales force, TCG has promoted Laura Giger to vice president and appointed Moe Merali as sales director. Giger has nearly 20 years of experience as a senior-level consumer packaged goods sales executive, more than half of which have been at TCG. Prior to joining TCG in 2003, she held the positions of national account manager for Hasbro Canada and sales representative for Hugh McIvor Agencies. She will oversee all account relationships in the Canadian market.
Merali joins TCG with more than 10 years of experience in the consumer packaged goods and IT sectors. Prior to joining TCG, he served as sales director Canada at Innovation First International.