Sunday, February 15, 2015

NY Toy Fair

Jake and I flew to NYC on February 12th.  Our flight was overbooked so we volunteered to get bumped.  We each got $1000 vouchers for future flights, so it was definitely worth the longer day and the extra layover.  We arrived at Christian and Amy's house in Brooklyn at about 10:30 Thursday night.    

On Friday we took the train into Manhatten and Jake helped me find the Javits center and my booth locoation, then he went into the WAFRA office to work.  The Launch Pad, which was the area I was in was still not completely set up so I had a couple hours to kill while I waited.  I walked around and checked out the enormous booths upstairs being built like walled fortresses.

This is what my area looked like that afternoon.

This is my booth all set up and ready to go on Feb. 14th.

Some of the exhibits around the doorways

Bob and Mary Sisson from Kazoodles in Vancouver stopped by on Sunday.

Grumpy cat was at the Gund booth and there was a crazy long line to get a picture with her.  I didn't go until the last minute when the line was almost gone so I decided to go ahead and do it because Tamsyn loves Grumpy Cat and I thought she'd be excited to know I saw her in person.

Skiprock was my neighbor booth.  They were full of energy and lots of fun.  It is always nice to have helpful happy neighbors.  On the last day they took a video of Amy shooting one of their skiprock balls off one of their heads and posted it to instagram.  Amy was great about coming and helping me on Monday and Tuesday when Jake couldn't be there.  She came for several hours so I could have a lunch break and she also helped me take down my booth and pack it up.

Going to Toy Fair is something that I have wanted to do since I learned about years ago when I was working with Pamela Drake.  Every time I have looked at booth costs and thought about how much travel and hotel would cost I have chosen to wait.  It is expensive and overwhelming and I didn't feel ready to do it until this year.  I went this year praying for an answer to my mental struggle with my puzzles.  I have been unsure for over a year at what direction I should be going with them and if I should continue to make more and grow the business, look for other options, or just let it fizzle out.  A year ago when I prayed about what to do I strongly felt I should give it another year and see how things were at that time.  Well, the year was winding up and I was feeling more confused than ever, so Jake and I went into Toy Fair praying for some clarity and options.  The first two days I had a couple of appointments lined up that seemed like they could open doors for me.  The first was a meeting with Burke from Toy Smith.  He had been interested in getting Flipzles in their catalog before but the price point wasn't a good fit, so I thought that my new paint your owns would be great for them.  Well, he came to the meeting a day early (he didn't know it, and still probably doesn't, but he had emailed me that he would be there on Sunday, but he showed up on Saturday).  I was thrown off by that and not as prepared as I should have been.  He was helpful about packaging ideas, but didn't show any interest in the new color your own designs.  I had gotten my hopes up so I felt the blow.  The next morning Jake and I went to a meeting with and adjent.  She had reached out to me on the ASTRA website, so I thought it might be promising, plus when I went to sign up for a meeting time there was only one slot left, so it felt almost meant to be that I got to talk to them.  Well, once again it was not a positive experience.  She wasn't there on time, but made sure we left on time for her to be there for her next appointment.  She had a lawyer there that worked with her and he was dry, aloof and almost rude.  They acted like they had seen things like this a million times and I left flustered and feeling down.

The two things I had worked to arrange before going to NYC had both flopped, so I was concerned about finding opportunities to license my puzzles.  I attended two different seminars over the next two days and at both I got up the guts to go and talk to the presenter after.  The first seminar was for inventors and talked about making a deal with a company, how working with agents goes, and other options inventors have.  One of the presenters was Matt Nuccio.  He has a design firm and also works as an adgent to help inventors license their products with larger companies.  He struck me as down to earth and knowing that he had over 20 years in the business convinced me that it was worth reaching out to him.  I talked to him briefly after the seminar and then sent him an email to invite him to my booth and see my product if he had time in the next few days.

The next seminar I went to was also for inventors.  Mary Cousin who is in charge of Chi-Tag in Chicago and the lady who is in charge of finding new games for ThinkFun were the presenters.  They talked about how it works to pitch your idea for games or toys to companies.  While they were presenting they waved to a gentleman in the back and asked him to come and join them.  He was a bit taken aback as he was not intended to present, but he did go up on stage with them.  They introduced him as the person who receives pitches for the german company Ravensburger.  I felt like he was just radiating even before he joined them on stage.  Kind of sounds weird, but I knew I needed to talk to him.  Ravensburger is known around the world for making the best puzzles, they also make craft kits, games and other toys.  Needless to say they would be my dream company.  I made a b-line to him after the presentation and got his email.  I went back to my booth and sent him and email right away asking if he had any chance openings if I could meet with him, or if he had free time if he would be willing to come by my booth.  

Several other positive things happened.  Jake had courage to talk to people at the Crayola fortress and we learned that we would have to get in through someone who worked there and that the chances were slim, but at least we knew more about how it worked.  I worked up enough courage to talk to one of the head salespeople at the Begin Again Toys booth.  They are Colorado based company that I feel would be a perfect fit for my product.  He seemed to like Flipzles, but said they needed to get their stuff together before they looked to license new products.  A lady from Books Are Fun stopped by and spent a long time talking to me about how things work in their company and she was very interested in Flipzles.  I met a couple other people that seemed like might be options to work with in the future, one was the owner of Puzzle Warehouse who carry my puzzles in St. Louis.  A casting agent from a new show for inventors of products geared to moms and kids stopped by and asked to film a pitch.  

After the initial feeling of concern it was nice to know there were options, many of which felt like huge blessings.  I started to feel like even if nothing happened from any of these I could feel peace for trying and the confusion was lifting.  

On the very last day of Toy Fair - Tuesday, Matt Nuccio stopped by my booth.  He told me that he received my email and asked me to show him what I had.  I showed him my current designs and then told him about my new ones.  He said he thought it was unique to anything he had seen and that he could help me find a company to licence it.  I asked him if he wanted me to mail him samples or if he wanted to take some with him right then.   He scratched his chin and thought for a bit and then said, "just a minute" -- he stepped away and made a phone call.  He came back and told me that he had called Michael Albert, the CEO of a The Canadian Group (tcg).  He said that he was interested in checking out my product and would be right over.  A few minutes later he came and I gave him my pitch and then he asked if I would be able to do licensed characters if he asked me to, I said -- yes of course, and he asked if I was interested in selling or licensing and I told him licensing to which he responded - "great."  He asked me to send samples after I got home and he left me with the feeling that this could be something that could really work.  If it does, I will likely make designs of Flipzles that are of Bob the Builder and Peppa Pig and maybe some other things.  Who knows if it will end up all falling into place, but I feel like if it is the right thing for me and my family it will, and if is not than it won't -- and I am okay with that.

The next day I received an email back from Phillip at Ravensburger --  
 "Hi Vicki,
Thank you very much for your mail. Sorry that I didn't made it to your booth during the fair due to my tight schedule. If you like please be so kind to send me a spec sheet / video or else that gives a brief impression on your idea and I will gladly get back to you with a feedback.
Best regards from Germany

It has been an interesting struggle.  In my mind I had been going back and forth between continuing at the expense of time with my kids and worrying that I am not running the business the way it should be run because it is not in my nature to sell and call and keep books, wondering if admitting that was stepping away a failure.  I wasn't sure if I had been wasting my time trying to make more of something than it really was and if I just needed to step back and be happy with the ride I had taken and for the things I had learned.  Or if I should seek for a new avenue of moving forward altogether yet in a way that let me use my talents and create rather than have to focus so much of my time, packing, shipping and keeping books.   I felt at a loss, not clear on what I should do.  I still don't know which path is going to be the one followed, but I don't feel stressed about it anymore.  It is going to work out.  I am going to bring my color your own designs to market and if that is where it ends I will hold my head high knowing I created 10 Flipzles and learned and grew all along the way.  If something else happens with the other doors that opened as blessings and answers to our prayers--  then I will enter and see where they lead.

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