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Nancy Zwiers - On Collaborative Invention and More!

What have you done in the industry?

I started in the toy industry in 1990 as a Sr. Product Manager at Mattel, both over-qualified and under-qualified at the same time, having spent time in the more traditional consumer package goods industry for some years. After 9 years at Mattel, I started my own company, Funosophy, Inc. in 2000. A virtual organization with a few employees and many independent contractors, Funosophy consulted with companies big and small (over 200!), represented licensors/inventors, did design and development, conducted and published research, wrote articles, volunteered with Toy Industry Association and Women in Toys.

In 2009 we began a period of focusing on “collaborative invention” with multiple partners—a real roller coaster ride! A few wins and multiple crushing defeats. After 16 years as an entrepreneur, I returned to the corporate world as an employee—this time with Spin Master as their Chief Marketing Officer.

What is collaborative invention?

A business model where a group of professionals with complementary skill sets combine forces to share the risk (work on spec) and share the rewards of invention (receive a share of royalties). With multiple teams working simultaneously on various projects, we pitched many concepts and generated over $1 million in royalties over 4 years.

What is your claim to fame in the industry?

  • Running the Barbie business during its high growth phase in the 90’s.

  • Relaunching Polly Pocket in 1999 when everyone assumed it was dead

  • Networking like crazy for 16 years as an entrepreneur in the toy/children’s entertainment industry—I have a lot of friends in the industry!

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

Spin Master is always looking for innovation and magic. Does your idea or concept have the ability to generate the following responses?

  • Innovation = “Wow! I’ve never seen that before!”

  • Magic = “Wow! How did you do that?

Who are your favorite people in the industry?

Toy inventors, of course! In my experience, inventors have not lost the ability to think like a kid, so they are the most fun to hang with.

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