For more than 40 years, GPI Inc. (Grand Prix International) has been the best-kept secret in the toys and games industry. The company is made up of a team of experts to provide custom manufacturing and product sourcing services to its clients worldwide. GPI brings to the table its depth of expertise for a wide range of services, from playtesting to freight and logistics. The Toy Book caught up with David Blanchard, vice president of business development at GPI, about the company’s history, its recently launched product development team, making sure the “spaghetti sticks,” and more.
Toy Book: Tell us about GPI‘s history and background in the toy and game industry.
David Blanchard: GPI got its start back in the ’70s when John Fisher left Milton Bradley and began supplying plastic components, such as dice and poker chips, to other companies in the industry. Years later, after the company was taken over by his son Mike Fisher, GPI’s manufacturing capabilities broadened drastically. What started as one compression mold in a garage in China has grown into a network of turnkey factories proficient in printing, injection molding, intricate die-cutting, complex assembly, and QC.
TB: GPI’s roots have been in helping its clients manufacture, test toys and games, and handle freight. How do these services help your clients take their products to the next level?
DB: With more than 40 years of experience managing production for companies of all sizes, we’re fully aware of how easily little “oops” can turn into big “uh-ohs.” Whether we’re recommending cost-saving materials or production efficiencies, troubleshooting a design flaw, ensuring proper safety testing is being conducted, or simply making sure all shipping and logistics paperwork is in order, when GPI manages the production of a game, you’re getting a team of people that have your back and help take the headaches out of overseas production.
TB: GPI sold its sister company, the Haywire Group, to University Games in 2018, but retained its staff. What are the advantages of having this staff being part of GPI?
DB: GPI has always strived to be more than just a manufacturer. It’s no secret that there is an abundance of factories overseas that can produce tabletop games so our focus on customer service has always been extremely important. By retaining Haywire’s employees three years ago, we’re now able to offer additional services that leverage the expertise and experience these people gained on the front lines of design, development, sales, and marketing, and put their knowledge and connections to good use for our clients.
TB: What kind of services does your product development team offer?
DB: Our product development team has a portfolio of products already developed and playtested that are just waiting to be matched with the right publisher. Of course, we can also design to spec if a company has a sales opportunity but not enough bandwidth to handle the product development internally. Beyond ideas, we also offer in-house graphic design and playtesting services to ensure your product looks and plays great. Pair all of that with our well-established manufacturing, capabilities and we’re basically a one-stop shop, getting products from early ideation to final destination.
TB: What are some of the products that GPI has helped bring to market?
DB: Aside from the countless games the Haywire Group directly developed and brought to market, we’ve also produced several items on behalf of our clients for major licensors like Disney, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, and manufactured evergreens like Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin, Bananagrams, and Carma Games’ Tenzi. Currently, a number of items we’ve either produced or had a hand in developing the art, gameplay, or packaging for are all over the shelves at Target and Walmart. It never gets old walking down the aisle and knowing all the items we’ve been fortunate to be a part of, one way or the other. But even more rewarding is when we take a step back and appreciate how those products have led to so many great long-term relationships, personally and professionally, some going back 10, 15, and even 20 years!
TB: What are GPI’s Spaghetti Sessions?
DB: We love throwing ideas around with our clients almost as much as we like making stuff for them. Have you ever heard the expression, “let’s throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks”? It’s one of the most frequently used expressions around the office (aside from “pressure makes diamonds”) and how we summon the team for brainstorming sessions. When we schedule a “Spaghetti Session” with a client, the meeting is held virtually over Zoom, during lunch, while eating spaghetti that we’ve had delivered to both offices. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing quite like carbo-loading midday over the internet! Whether the end goal is to come up with a new game idea, help develop a new sales strategy or figure out how to package someone’s amazing new invention, our hope is that by the end of one of these lunch sessions, spaghetti isn’t the only thing off your plate!