Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I owned a technology company that was working with sensors – wifi, Bluetooth, etc. I held a pitch day and one of my team pitched an idea for a child locator using Bluetooth. We decided to launch another company to pursue that consumer product. As we got started, a number of similar products launched on Kickstarter.
At the same time, my partner’s son was a Lego fanatic and he wanted his Lego’s to move. We adapted the technology with some motors and were off an running with the meeperBOT!
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
STEM is the most exciting trend, especially STEM for girls. I have a computer science degree and was many times the only female in my class. I love that we can get children, especially girls excited about programming in a very fun manner. Learning with meeperBOTS is WAY more fun than how I learned with textbooks and yes, sometimes punch cards.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
I mentor many startup companies and am the Chairman of the Board for the Doyenne Group an organization fostering women’s entrepreneurship. My best advice is to get to profitability as quickly as possible. You can then control your destiny, especially when it comes to investment or other growth plans.
(meeperBOT for Teachers & EDU - "STEM Learning Platform")
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I was a tomboy and grew up on a farm – I loved my brother’s Tonka Toys. Other than that, cards and board games were also a favorite.
What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day. However, at Meeper we always start the day with our all-hands daily stand-up meeting. Everyone discusses what they accomplished yesterday, what they are planned today and any roadblocks with which they need assistance. The standup meeting is an agile development process that we have carried over to all parts of our business. Because we are a startup and things move fast and change even faster, the standup let’s us adapt real-time and focus on the important tasks.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
In college, I worked for Kirby Vacuum in the evenings and set up appointments for the sales reps. This is where I learned to talk to people, build rapport and essentially ‘sell’ an idea.
What inspires you?
I love building things – building product, building team, building businesses. I get to do all of that in my startup companies.
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up on a farm in Elizabeth, Illinois. The strong Midwest work ethic was instilled in me and I have been working as long as I can remember. In addition, if you wanted to do something, get somewhere, buy something you had to figure it out – work for it, earn it, solve a problem – to make it happen.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
In business, you always want to have multiple options, channels and revenue streams. I have always followed this, except in one case where we committed the business to a single strategic partnership. When that partnership fell through, there were no other options for the company to fall back on, hence bankrupting our company. Always have options.
What do you read every day, and why?
The news – the business, political, and world climate that we live in can influence our business. I like to have a pulse on this since these are things I cannot change in a material way, so I must just be educated on them and determine the best way to position our business.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
The internet. We are figuring out new things every day, however someone else has probably figured it out or done something similar. The ability to have instant information, models, and references keeps our business moving quickly. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
I have to take care of all the business backoffice, administrative and other items. So, when I get to slice time to work on our products and engage with kids/customers for feedback and input, this gets me the most energized.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I get a kick out of kids – they make me laugh out loud at every event we do. Their creativity, imagination and unique perspective makes you think about things differently.
Are you named after anyone?
Do you have any kiddos?
Two girls. Jennifer who is a college graduate and started her career last year in a business management training program. Jessica, who is a sophomore in business at UW-Madison.
Do you have any pets?
Two Siamese cats – Simon and Cocoa – they are really my husband’s. J<