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Marianne Szymanski - It’s fair to say I’m always thinking about toys!

What exactly do you do in the industry?

Marianne Szymanski is the Founder of Toy Tips ( Creator and Professor of Entrepreneurship of the Toy Industry at the University of Southern California.

Moderator of the the TOY Skills Club at USC.

What is your claim to fame in the industry?

Unbiased reivews of toys through an independent lens of academic toy test research. 3 decades of toy testing! Frequent Media Guest and 8 years as the Toy Guest on Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson, Spencer Christian and Joan Lunden.

How and why did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I thought of the idea for Toy Tips while standing on a ladder at Toy R US in Madison, WI. My goal was to be an information source to parents about toys that promote developmental skill building.

What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?

It’s never too early to act on your own entrepreneurial mindset. Recognize the skills you have and strengthen those you can get better at.

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

There are many developmental skills that children can learn from repeated toy use. Be sure to mix fun and playfulness to real life skills that enhance individual growth.

Do you have a typical work day and how does it play out for you?

Because I work on all time zones, it’s a day to day thing for me. It’s fair to say I’m always thinking about toys!

What’s your workspace setup like?

I always had separate office space but I now have 3 home office spaces right now. One is my desk where I write and concentrate, one is what I call my" toy testing museum” which is a fancy name I gave my garage that is filled with toys and current inventory of toys in the process of review and the last is my media space set up for media interviews and zoom teaching and meeting sessions.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

To know that children around the world are playing with toys that are enhancing their skill set while having fun and interacting with others. It’s exciting to constantly review new toys and to see and feel all the creativity inventors have.

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

Why the media focuses on only ONE HOT TOY per year. Hogwash! The industry is filled with so many great inventions and ideas -there is never just one. I wish I could convince the media to change that term.

What and/or who inspires you?

Many people inspire me in different ways that allow me to connect with my own creativity. I find what they all have in common is confidence.

How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?

I go to the grocery store. Not to shop but to look. I find inspiration in the innovation of ideas of packaging, merchandising, product extensions and the overall experience. It is very inspiring to compare and contrast the great things retailers can teach us as innovators.

Where were you born?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Are you named after anyone?

My mom.

What’s in your fridge?

Balsamic Vinegar Glaze for salads.

Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?

I used to play the clarinet.

What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?

Smile and manners.

Favorite movie of all time?

The Breakfast Club. I can’t explain why but I can watch it over and over.

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


Summer of Winter?


What are you working on now?

Re-imagining Toy Tips post-pandemic. I love that parents have been encouraging board games and puzzles during COVID and that families are playing more together. Now is the best time to encourage toy time more than ever.

The toy and game industry clearly has….

A forever opportunity to fill childhood with memories and lifelong learning skills.

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