Marissa Louie is the CEO and Chief Designer of Animoodles, magnetic mix and match plushies. At Toy Fair NY 2018, she will be a panelist on the popular Successful Kickstarter Campaigns panel, happening on Sat., Feb 17, 2018 11a - 12p EST at Level 1 - Booth 5378 at Javits Center.
Tell me more about your background.
Since I was very young, I've wanted to make my favorite toy of all time, stuffed animals, better. So I quit my career in product design at Apple and Yahoo to pursue my childhood dream.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I absolutely loved Beanie Babies. I had hundreds of them, and enjoyed hunting for Beanie Babies at local toy stores with my sister, brother, mom, aunts, and cousins. It was quite an experience. With Animoodles, I hope to bring back that kind of excitement.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I was born in San Francisco, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My father was a software engineer, and my mother a finance manager and entrepreneur. My father taught me engineering and design skills, while my mother taught me empathy, creativity, and business skills. I very much looked up to my grandmother who only had two years of education in China, but taught herself Chinese art and history by reading thousands of books. She then went on to build a real estate management business, and helped lay the organizational and cultural foundation for what would become modern day San Francisco Chinatown. My family instilled in me a disciplined work ethic and entrepreneurial drive, with a bent towards self-taught education.
Also as a native of Silicon Valley, I grew up learning about many cultures and meeting a diverse variety of people. My schools put on events for Chinese New Year, Hawaiian luaus, Kwanzaa, St. Patrick's Day, Scandinavian smorgasbords, and much more. This multiculturalism influenced my thinking around creating the Animoodles.
What are Animoodles?
Animoodles are no ordinary stuffed animals: they have specially designed magnets hidden inside, so you can combine them together in hundreds of ways! They were created by myself and our team of toy and animation industry veterans.
How did you get Animoodles produced?
Before we decided to launch, we play tested Animoodles with over 100 kids and their parents around the country. Based on their reactions, we were confident that we had a winning toy that is memorable and fun for kids. Many kids have an "aha" moment when they discover that Animoodles parts can come off. We've seen kids release pent up energy by ripping heads off and running around with Animoodles parts, hiding Animoodles around the house as a treasure hunt, having tea parties with Animoodles, and turning Animoodles into superheroes! Many kids fall in love with the characters, which we designed to have a lot of personality. Animoodles are kid-powered.
Our team also spent a year talking to and visiting plush factories before we launched our Kickstarter project. We knew that some Kickstarter project creators miss their estimated ship dates, so we went above and beyond to get Animoodles produced on time. We brought on two manufacturing team members who have over 50 years combined experience in manufacturing, and we made four trips to our factories before we began our first production run. We're happy to say that we are shipping Animoodles three months before our already aggressive timeline of six months after our Kickstarter campaign closed.
What is your biggest piece of advice for toy inventors who are just starting out?
Work with a small team that has multiple skillsets. We were able to produce and launch Animoodles with a small and nimble team, because several of us have multiple skillsets. Personally, I take the time to develop working knowledge of each core facet of our business, which allows me to hire better and execute faster. At heart, I'm a designer and businessperson, but I take many online classes and read books to expand my knowledge. It's time consuming, but also results in a more thoughtfully considered end product.
Why are Animoodles different than other toys?
They fulfill a need that today's children have: Animoodles are a plush that kids can hug to sleep, a building toy that can be assembled in hundreds of ways, and a magnetic toy that can be stuck to metal surfaces such as refrigerators, lamps, school lockers, and much more. Animoodles are naturally collectible, and are more fun the more you have! And lastly, in a world of iPads and mobile devices, Animoodles are good old fashioned fun that get kids to imagine, play, and explore.
Our passionate fanbase helped us raise $100k on Kickstarter, helping Animoodles become the top toy on Kickstarter during our ca