Max Revis (MR) on left and Stacy Katz (SK) on right!
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
SK: It’s a tie between aggressive family game nights with Boggle and Slip N Slide (not an aggressive family game- thankfully).
MR: Simon, Clue, and Spit (or speed with regular deck of cards). When Atari came out I was hooked on Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Centipede.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
SK: I screen-banned my son for the weekend. I was a bit shocked when parents canceled playdates because they were too worn out to supervise the kids without screens. That left 48 hours of time to fill… what to do now? So a trip to the local toy store for a board game seemed the perfect answer. Except, it wasn’t. (I realize the irony of punishing my kid and spending over $50 on games but desperate times…).
After reading instructions, set-up and learning the various rules, the two most popular games on the market took nearly an hour to get into and actually playing! The kids were so impatient they were chucking the pieces at each other’s heads. At that low moment, our game Not Parent Approved was born. We wanted to play a game with our kids offline that had no complicated rules, no need to be great at drawing, on the spot clever, or acting skills needed. We wanted it to be “snack-able” option – as easy to get in and out of the game as clicking on an app. It had to feel naughty to kids – but in a way that (most) parents would be completely fine with. We kick off the game with a burping contest!
I had known Maximina from our time at a startup together and was impressed with her design work and she had tremendous experience in her work previously at Mattel. We began prototyping and networking to find a manufacturer.
I’m blessed to be friends with the amazing Tanya Thompson (now at Hasbro) who introduced us to Mary Couzins. They are our toy industry fairy godmothers! We debuted and tested our prototypes at Chitag 2015 and are thrilled to be coming back a success for Chitag 2017!
MR: I got a job at Mattel where I produced online games and websites for brands like Barbie, Monster High, Polly Pocket, Disney Princess licensed products all their games and puzzle brands such as Blokus and Uno. When Stacy approached me with the amazing idea of doing a kid-friendly CAH, I knew it was something we could create with a very small team - like...just me and Stacy! Stacy is a mom with a great sense of humor and I'm a mom and pretty goofy myself. I thought it would be easy enough for us to write the content and start testing them immediately by printing them out on perforated business cards. It was an immediate hit with our kids and their friends and we knew we were on to something! When we finalized the content I pulled in a couple of my copywriter colleagues, Maggie McAlister and Bonnie Steele, to help us dot the i’s and cross the t’s, they were so enthused by the game they contributed a few cards a well.
What advice can you give to new inventors?
MR: My advice to new game inventors would be to connect with Mary Couzin! She has been an amazing resource and connector to people with more great resources and insight.
I’d also say to do a lot of market research around the kind of game you want to create and, in addition to thinking about the “play” aspect, think about the “business” aspect and where your product will fit into the market place. Last but not least, invest time in building a strong brand with a unique personality and mission because most likely your idea is an idea someone else has done or is about to do and what will set you apart is the likeability of your brand.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
MR: Try to find the right balance of living life joyfully, impulsively, and practically all at the same time! Infuse substance over gimmickry in whatever you do. Lasting success almost never happens overnight.
What does your typical day look like?
SK: Both Maximina and I are working moms who juggle primary careers (as we nurture and grow our careers as game inventors!). I own a boutique PR firm that specializes in social entrepreneurs and consumer tech. In public relations, as with my other full time gig as a single mom, I expect the unexpected daily: breaking news, competitive news, crisis management - and my PR clients require a lot too.
MR: My typical day entails me figuring out how to not live a typical life! That, and I help companies figure out how to be more effective and successful in the digital world no matter what they want to achieve.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
MR: I worked at a company that was extremely toxic with ugly office politics. Working there had a big impact on my state of mind and I DREADED going to work every day. I learned that I wanted to leave that kind of environment and create my own environment. It was an amazing catalyst.
What and/or who inspires you?
SK: Brene Brown inspires me and I’m mid-way through her new book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.” She writes and speaks with humor yet incisiveness about ways we can live more wholeheartedly and listen to each other with more empathy. #whattheworldneedsnow
MR: My mom inspires me. She worked with the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions helping refugees in war torn areas of the world such as Guatemala, Kosovo and East Timor. She now lives in our native Philippines where, in retirement, she has worked with the city in which she lives to establish a Red Cross Chapter, doing things like training staff for disaster preparedness. She doesn’t waste her time complaining, she just fixes it. Words can't describe the amazing example she has set for me.
My one other huge inspiration is my younger brother who passed away tragically when he was 14 years old and I was 20. That whole experience taught me how to take complete utter darkness and despair and transform it into something really positive in your life. It gave me perspective and tapped me into a whole other world in myself and of what I can be capable.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
SK: I grew up in Los Angeles and my first job out of college was working for a famous actor’s production company. I worked 10 hour days and then was required to read several scripts, book manuscripts and theatrical plays each night. Each morning I defended my assessments (and job) as to why the producers should option or pass on each piece of material. It was a mentally abusive environment and I was miserable. One particularly unhappy night filled with ice cream consumed from the carton, I had the life changing epiphany that I wanted to have a life people make movies about -- and not spend my life producing stories about other people’s adventures. I quit the next day and am proud of the adventurous life I’ve led. #moreplease.
My family immigrated to the United States when I was 8 months old. I lived in glamorous Jersey City for the first 10 years of my life until my parents divorce and my mother and I moved to NYC. I grew up in an international city with a Mom who worked for an international organization. From day 1, I've understood the breadth and culture of what the world has to offer. Growing up in tha N-Y-C, a chaotic city of culture and over-stimulation served as an amazing training ground and profoundly shaped who I am today. That said, the best thing I could've done for myself was leave New York when I did. Hello, beautiful state of California!
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
SK: Whatever Max recommends - she’s a wizard at discovering tech software and gadgets that can positively hack productivity. A favorite of mine is a google extension called Boomerang which helps you schedule your emails and follow up.
MR: Words with Friends (still), Waze and Yelp.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
SK: Last night my son, Bailey and I spontaneously decided it was onsie night. Mine is a plush zebra and he’s a leopard. He started complaining about something and I burst out laughing because it’s really hard to take someone seriously wearing a onesie. I recommend people wear them to the office.
MR: With my kids. Everyday.
Do you have any kiddos?
SK: I’m a single mom of an amazing 10.5 year old who is the muse (mostly amusing, sometimes not) of our game Not Parent Approved. Fun fact: Bailey and XiXi, Maximina’s daughter are featured on our game branding and boxes.
Yes: An 11-year old daughter, a 7-year old son, a Havanese mix boy, Shi-tzu mix boy and a chihuahua girl. My daughter has been the secret to my success serving as my first user tester for all the games I've produced/created.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
SK: My guilty (and I mean guilty) pleasure is checking TMZ and Page Six during the work day. It helps me relax in a weird way and disrupts any stress patterns I have multi-tasking throughout the day a single working mom. Basically, it helps me feel a bit superior that my life is not as messy as some of the icons or reality stars out there. Please don’t tell anyone I do this - lol.
MR: I will every now and again latch on to a reality dating show of some kind. So trifling!