By: Geri Stengel
Not everyone ignores women’s innovations. One trade group in the toy industry recognizes that women know what kids — and their parents — want. To encourage innovation, Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT) provides what entrepreneurs need: access to decision-makers and mentors to help them overcome obstacles.
As the primary purchaser of children’s toys, women are adept at perceiving market gaps and opportunities. “Our industry thrives on creativity and fresh ideas” said John Lee, cofounder and general partner of Bambini Partners. “Some of the most substantial toy and game brands in the market today were spawned by small, independent (female) entrepreneurs (Barbie Dolls, American Girl, Monopoly) who followed their passion and persevered in spite of daunting challenges to bringing their ideas to market.” Lee is a leader in the educational and developmental toy industry and is a WIT mentor.
But, as we all know, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” If you didn’t go to an Ivy League school or come up the rungs of a big company in your industry, you may not have an existing network to get you where you want to go. Mentors provide guidance, advice, and, yes, may even open some doors for you. Not to worry about finding that mentor. Many organizations, not just accelerator programs, but also industry specific groups like WIT connect you to mentors.
To make sure women get the opportunity to showcase their ideas, WIT brings women together for WIT Empowerment Day, to be held this year on Monday, October 2, 2017, the day before Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. Entrepreneurs at every stage of development — from idea on a napkin to prototype to in production — get a chance to sit down with top industry experts in areas such as manufacturing, sales distribution, product testing, licensing, marketing and more. “Empowerment Day gives female entrepreneurs amazing mentoring and solid business leads that can help them launch,” said Nancy Zwiers, CMO at Spin Master. As a mentor Zwiers, advises attendees on “play value,” which bridges the disciplines of evolutionary psychology, child development and marketplace analysis.
It’s not just that toy retailers like Walmart that get access to innovative products for children, they benefit from increased loyalty from the primary buyer of toys — moms, “utilizing female businesses increases brand loyalty and commitment to these women-supportive companies,” said said Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. in Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One. She is also president of Women Presidents’ Educational Organization, a regional affiliate of WBENC, an organization that certifies a business as women-owned. They show their gratitude with their purchases.
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