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Tom Carsello - Times are Changing Fast!

Tom Carsello – SVP of Retail at Creata USA Inc.

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Growing up the toy that stands out with the fondest memories was this amazing table top game. I have lots of great memories playing this hockey table top game with my brothers, sisters, and friends.

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

Interesting story for me; I was designing Kodak point and shoot cameras for a Hong Kong based company called Haking. It was my first gig out of college and during my time at Haking I self-taught myself how to use a 3D solid/surface software package called Euclid. I was ready to move on after 10+ years at Haking and had heard from my brother-in-law that a company called Simon Marketing was looking for a person to head up their CAD department and they needed someone who knew Euclid. I was hired as head of Simon Marketing’s CAD group and started sculpting the Fisher Price Happy Meal Under 3 toys on the computer. That was my entry into the world of toys and I have not looked back since.

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

Before pitching the actual idea, give some background of how your idea was formed and how you envision it working and why it makes sense for that idea to be implemented into a product. I little upfront information goes a long way for a successful pitch.

Always try to have a working prototype of your idea or toy....I can’t tell you the number of times having a working sample can not only answer any questions you might have about the game but it’s also a great way to get toy company excited about your idea. I’ve seen a lot of toy inventor ideas and you almost always gravitate to working samples over a static drawing” So my best advice is to take the extra time and money to prototype it out.

Additionally, part of the pitching process is to be open to other ideas that relate to other new applications or even a different spin on your idea. This is the creative process and it takes someone with the right frame of mind to go into a pitch and learn and improve upon what you are initially pitching.

And if you can’t pitch your toy idea and 30 seconds or less without someone understand it, then your item is either confusing or needs more work.

What does your typical day look like?

Lots of emails and phone calls – I am trying to connect with as many people as possible every day. I am constantly looking to work with high quality honest people in every area of the business. I meet with team members daily to go over design progress and work through any issues they have encountered. I try to keep my meetings down to a minimum, I set the agenda for my team and let them work. I am fortunate to have a great team that executes at a high level and trust that they will deliver consistently.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love to develop new products - it gives me a thrill every time we start a new development. From concepting, to engineering, to prototyping, and then to finally produce the product. It is a ride that I have made many times and still have the same desire to get it right. The passion is still there for me.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was working a polling place in Chicago handing out candidate pamphlets to incoming voters on election night. It taught me that I did not want to go into politics.

What and/or who inspires you?

I am inspired by smart, kind, hardworking people who put themselves out there every day to make a difference. One of my favorite things to do is watch interviews of some of the most intelligent people in the world and how they have dedicated themselves to make this world a better place.

Where were you born?

I was born and raised in Chicago. Proud to be a native of Chicago, it was a great place to grow up in the 70’s and 80’s. I have great memories of my childhood in Chicago.

What was your life like growing up?

Life in a Chicago neighborhood was full of action. Summers where living on our bikes and riding all over Chicagoland, winters where revolved around indoor school activities. Lots of sports, we would organize pickup baseball, basketball, and football games at one of the many public parks in Chicago. Went to St. Ferdinand for grammar school and St. Patrick’s for high school, I remember we had a great sense of community in our neighborhood. Everyone knew everyone, and we played together as one united neighborhood. I still remember the evening get-togethers where every kid in the neighborhood would come together to play different games. We had not much to work with, but we always came up with creative games to play each night.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?

The biggest thing I can contribute to growing up in Chicago was building a very strong work ethic. Paper boy at ten years of age, worked in several jobs earning money to support myself during high school. I have carried that work ethic throughout my career.

Do you have any kiddos?

Yes, I have 3 wonderful kids; A son Nicholas 25, who is currently working at Kaleidoscope as a Project Manager. A daughter Nina 23, who is currently attending Ole Miss and pursuing her Graphic Arts Degree, and a daughter Isabella 16, who just started driving and looking for colleges.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Unfortunately, the one of the most common ways to learn in my profession is by making mistakes and then learning from them. So, I have made quite a few mistakes in my lifetime designing products. I think the most successful people in this business are those who are not afraid of failing and are confident that no matter what, they will have the ability to fix the problem and move on. For me the problem is not making mistakes, the real problem is not being able to fix the mistakes once they have been made. So, get strong and don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you have developed the experience and the ability to fix anything that comes your way.

What do you read every day, and why?

I am a big Audible fan. I listen to books every day on my ride to and from work. I try to mix it up, so every other book is about development; self-learning, business, and leadership. And the other books are all about fun; spy novels and historical fiction.

Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?

I am not a big fan of scary movies. The last scary movie I went to go see was the Exorcist and have never watched another scary movie after that. I am not a big fan of happy endings as well, as every movie does not require a happy ending, but it seems that is how movies are made in the USA. I would like to see more realistic endings to movies these days, as there seems to be cookie cutter approach to how movies should end, and I do think it takes away from the movie if it is not ended in the right way.

Summer of Winter?

Definitely Summer – I like playing golf and I really enjoy the city of Chicago in summertime. Chicago is really 2 different cities, one city in the winter (grinding out the cold and bad weather) and another city in the summer (where the city just comes alive).

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?

I have spent allot of time in Hong Kong and China. My first trip to Hong Kong was in 1988 with the Haking company and have been back to Hong Kong and China over 300 times since then. Hong Kong is a magical place and I have always have felt at home there - it really is my home away from home. I have made some great friends and they have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and living.

Do you have any special talents?

Yes, I love to cook. I am a weekend chef and cook for my family almost every Sunday. I enjoy the whole experience of figuring out what to cook, then going to the grocery store to pick out all the fresh ingredients then coming home and hanging in the kitchen and cooking dinner for my family. Then of course, enjoying a wonderful meal with my family which is very special to me.

What’s next?

Good question. Times are changing fast and I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I am learning new things every day. I am moving into areas such as sales and marketing, something I never have been involved in before. It took me a while to understand that product is only a part of the bigger picture. Getting the product right is important, but sales and marketing is the key to getting your product on the shelf and making sales. Don’t get me wrong, you need the right product, but you can have the greatest product in the world and no one will find it or buy it if you don’t have the right marketing and sales behind it. So, my future is still developing new and exciting product, but now I am actively working with marketing and sales teams to deliver successful products that sell into the mass retail market.

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