How did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I stumbled my way into the industry when I was 17 years, while skateboarding at one of our local San Gabriel Valley skateparks. The future owner of Razor was there filming skateboarders for a promotional video he was working on and I struck up a conversation with him that led to us exchanging info. Three years later he reached back out to me to see if I could help him make a “skateboard-style” video using a new, folding, aluminum scooter that was being sold as an expensive executive’s item at that time.
I agreed and, in doing so, began my 18-year relationship with Razor and career in the Toy Industry.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
The rapid rate of technological advances will have an impact on toys and games that both excites and worries me at the same time. I am excited by the superior play equipment and lower prices these advances may lead to, but at the same time I am alarmed by the possibility of these advances becoming substitutes for the physical play that I believe is a crucial to a well-rounded childhood.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
My advice is to stop and ask yourself where and at what scale do you see your concept being sold. The reason this is important is that answering these questions should help you narrow your search for the right company to work with.
At Razor, for example, a concept is not likely to be green-lit unless it shows the potential of strong sales on a mass-market scale. If someone comes to us with an amazing new product concept for use on ice or, say with an awesome idea for a beach item; we are not likely to take on such a project because of the limited scale they inherently present.
I suppose at least two pieces of advice can be derived from this: 1. If you have an idea that you are trying to shop around, prioritize your list of companies by those that currently sell in the stores you think your product would sell in and at the scale that you think your product would sell, and 2. If you don’t have an idea already, you can back your way toward a great idea by designing with a specific company in mind.
So if you’re coming to Razor with an inexpensive new wheeled toy that all the kids in your neighborhood are going crazy for, you are definitely cooking with fire. If, on the other hand, you have an awesome new doll or video game concept, then you’d probably be better served finding a company that specializes in those respective markets.
(Ali, Sheena Stephens and Carlton Calvin)
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Without a doubt, my favorite toy or game growing up was a book of puzzles and brainteasers that my parents would put together for me as my big present each Christmas. The idea was simple: instead of spending a bunch of money on a gift that I would unwrap in minutes and then disappear outside with to play, my parents would construct a book that consisted of various games, puzzles, and other challenges, each of which they had assigned a time limit for and dollar value to. The harder the question or challenge, the higher the dollar value, but I would only get paid for the right answers I came up with in the allotted time period.
I loved this present as a kid because the excitement of winning money was sustained and heightened over a period of hours each Christmas morning as my parents and I worked our way through the varied subject-based chapters they had created. I remember it being so much fun to answer questions and watch my parents act like they were being burned by the “large” amounts of money I was winning from them!
Now, as an adult, I love this present for reasons I couldn’t completely comprehend as a child. Knowing how hard my parents were working to make ends meet, I am awed by their creativity and humbled by the thought of the time and love they invested to create these books for me each year.