On my first day of work at Hasbro at the Games Group in East Longmeadow, MA, I’ll never forget walking up the stairs and seeing the images of Twister, Connect 4, Jenga, Monopoly, all the games I LOVED as a kid, painted on the hallowed halls of one of the biggest toy companies in the world…and I could not believe I was lucky enough to be actually working there! I had asked myself many times in my career, “Why didn’t you think of this industry sooner??”
As a kid, I honestly never had a thought that people actually made toys…blame it on Santa Claus, blame it being geographically challenged (I grew up in a small town in Vermont) but I just even gave the toy industry a thought until I was *cough* in my thirties, starting a job at Hasbro!
Fast forward to 2018, I was asked to be a judge at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair Young Inventor Challenge. Kids from all over the world were submitting their toy and game ideas into the challenge and I was blown away by the creativity, ingenuity, tenacity and innovation of these kids! The ideas were as good as ideas I had seen come out of professional inventors and product designers over the years! It was so much fun to be a part of their hopes and their dreams.
After the Fair, I thought back on my first day at Hasbro and I have always wished that someone had told me as a kid that I could work in the toy industry…and you don’t have to be a gifted inventor or designer to work in this industry, you can do anything!! Finance, Law, Marketing, Analytics, graphic design, engineering, the list goes on and on and on…..so how could I get the word out there to kids that this fabulous opportunity exists for them?
At a Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce event in early 2019, I ran into the CEO of our local Boys and Girls Club and that chance meeting got my wheels turning…The Boys and Girls Club is a perfect way to reach kids who may be just like I was – totally oblivious to toy industry! I’m sure they play with toys - - but had they ever thought they could make as well? If they were like me, probably not!!
Now, I’m going to admit this to you…so please don’t tell anyone…I have never been big on volunteering. Just not my thing. It’s fun in the moment, but to be honest it was just something I wasn’t always driven to do. We all need to embrace our strengths and weaknesses….so I thought my strengths are a passion for this industry and creating a plan to achieve a goal. So I approached my new contacts at The Boys and Girls Club and presented the idea of creating a Young Inventors Challenge for the kids at the club to learn about inventing and creating toys and games which would ultimately be submitted to the Young Inventors Challenge at CHITAG in November of 2019. The club enthusiastically bought into the program and we pitched the ideas to about 150 kids at the larger club in Santa Clarita. If you ever get a chance to present what your job is in the toy industry and the toys/games you help to create to a bunch of kids DO IT! They will make you feel like a rock star! They see these toys and games that they have played with or know about and they go bananas!