Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
Alison: With two young children there’s not a toy or game we don’t love. We became loyal Chicago Toy & Game Fair fans five years ago and look forward to it every year. It’s where we find the hottest new toys just in time for the holidays!
Nicole: Purely by accident, but not shocking in the least! As a social media consultant for creative and lifestyle brands, the Toy & Game industry is a new venture that fits into my wheelhouse perfectly. I’m ecstatic to now be a part of this uber creative and fun community. I get to bring out my inner child every single day! How lucky am I?
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Alison: Anything and everything Barbie was my obsession.
Nicole: PJ Sparkles and Pretty Pretty Princess were my jam as a wee one. Santa really knew what he was doing that year.
What does your typical day look like?
Alison: Each morning begins pretty much the same - getting the girls up, fed and out the door for school. Then it’s time for a quick workout before heading to my home office. I spend most of my time responding to emails and managing client projects. By 3 pm I’m back in mom mode running the girls to activities, cooking dinner and family time. After the girls are in bed, I’ll go back to my office to catch up on more emails, write a blog post for So Chic Life or attend an event. It’s never a dull moment around here!
Nicole: I kick off the day with a family walk to our local coffee house (Larry, my pup, comes too!). Fresh air and caffeine does a girl wonders. Then it’s straight to the grind. I’m lucky my day is different every day. Depending what my clients are doing and need help with, it varies: from scheduling social media posts, to creating graphics, photo shoots, attending events and much more. I also get to interact with the incredible ChiTAG community. You guys ROCK!
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Alison: As much as I love fashion, working retail during college made me realize organizing clothes left behind on a dressing room floor was not my calling. I loved the marketing aspect of connecting buyers with products but the day to day grind of retail wasn’t for me. This eventually led me to earn a BA in Marketing and inspired my desire to become an entrepreneur.
Nicole: I feel blessed I’ve always worked for innovative companies with talented leaders. However, it was the industry as a whole - Insurance - that did not feed my creative soul. Given my corporate background, I was able to develop incredible account management skills, prioritize and customer service etiquette. I also worked directly with CEO’s and CFO’s for multi million dollar companies - which taught me how to interact with high profile people. Quite intimidating at first! I would never have learned any of these lessons if initially working for myself.
What inspires you?
Alison: I’m extremely inspired by entrepreneurs, risk takers and creatives – like inventors. Since becoming involved with Chicago Toy & Game Week, I’ve met so many toy and game inventors like John Spinello (inventor of Operation), Cheong Choon Ng (inventor of Rainbow Loom) and Leslie Scott (inventor of Jenga) that it blows my mind. How did they come up with the idea then took the leap of faith to turn it into something that is now in my home that my kids and I are playing?
Even aspiring inventors that attend the Chicago Toy & Game Conference are fascinating. They are so passionate about what they are doing, creating a game or toy that promotes play. Looking back on the past five years the inventors are what excite me the most about the Chicago Toy &
Game Fair.Where else can you find this type of inspiration for adults and kids?
Nicole: Real life. When you spend hours on social media (for work and pleasure), nothing sparks your imagination more than soaking in the people and environment around you. I do my best work after taking “social media breaks”. I feel this is important for everyone to do, especially since social media has taken over more than ever!
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
Alison: I’m a small town southern girl with big city aspirations. I was born in Mississippi but moved to the Florida Panhandle around the age of twelve – it’s where I call home. I loved the intimacy of growing up in a close knit community but craved the fast past life of a metropolitan city. When you’re forced to drive over an hour to shop (for anything cool), you realize bigger sometimes is better.
Manners and being proper were a big part of my upbringing. I still say Ma’am and Sir and I don’t relate that to age – it’s more about being respectful.
Nicole: Most people know me as a Chicago, city girl. But I’m a full on country girl at heart. I was born and raised in a small farm town in Oklahoma and still know how to hook a worm on a fishing pole like a boss. To this day, I’m never afraid to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty for any job or project. That’s what I like to call an “Oakie” and proud of it!
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Alison: This morning when my daughter started lip syncing a song and didn’t know any of the words. But that’s her style – she just lives life to the fullest and never cares what anyone thinks. The result of that carefree attitude is constant laughter from me and she always has an audience. Her positive energy is contagious. There are days I wish I could bottle it up and share it with the world.
Nicole: I have a problem where I whistle and hum without realizing it. This habit has gotten me in trouble a time or two ;) The other day I caught myself whistling the theme song to the cartoon “Inspector Gadget” (remember that show?!). I have no idea where it came from and had a good chuckle to myself.
Do you have any kiddos?
Alison: Two daughters ages 9 and 7.
Nicole: Not yet, but I definitely hope to have some mini me’s running around someday. In the mean time I have two beautiful nieces, Taylor and Kinzie, who are as darling as they get. I’m an only child so I feel incredibly blessed I get to be an aunt thanks to my husband’s large family!
Do you have any pets?
Alison: At the moment we are a pet-free home. My sweet doggie passed away six years ago but our girls are begging to adopt a furry friend. For now, we are finding great pleasure volunteering and supporting the Hinsdale Humane Society. Maybe in the near future we’ll bring home a new puppy, but that requires convincing my husband.
Nicole: Larry! A cockapoo who loves to eat chicken and steal peoples’ seats. He’s also named after the basketball player, Larry Bird. He was my husband’s idol growing up!
What are your hobbies?
Alison: I love working on improving my photography skills, working out, volunteering and cooking is a passion. I also run an online guide for women So Chic Life. Does managing my daughter’s school and cheer schedule count as a hobby? Sometimes that’s more like a full time job.
Nicole: I run a blog, Cedar & Rush - a stylish city guide with a fashion bent!