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Dear Tim . . . Why Does It Take So Long? tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Comments

From an anonymous toy inventor came this straightforward question…which I also read as a plaintive cry. I could almost hear him/her drawing out each word and rolling his/her eyes while saying it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the many challenges toy inventors face in getting their ideas seen, considered, and eventually sometimes even purchased by a toy company, this is a very fair question. The process is long, multi-stepped, and certainly for anyone on the outside waiting for some kind of smoke signal, frankly torturous.

Here, then, are 5 reasons why it does indeed take so long.

5. Companies See Hundreds, Even Thousands of Ideas: Each year, some of the best and most successful toys are awesome inventor creations. (I’m looking at you, Don Ullman and Jose Leal, creators of our truly cool Drone Home game.) But calling this a ‘needle in a haystack’ search does disservice to needles. Toy companies sift through hundreds, sometimes thousands of ideas every year. Even at the smaller shops, this is someone’s full-time job, but…

4. Assessing Inventions is a Collaborative Art: Deciding to buy an inventor’s idea is far from a one-person process. Because toy design, development, marketing, and sales are team sports, many constituents are rightly involved in the invention assessment process. And in the better-managed departments (like ours), it truly is a process. And good luck getting all those folks in one place at one time consistently every month, never mind every week.

3. Ideas May Require Deeper Dives: If your invention relies on some mechanical or technological element, chances are some folks are going to have to think through the costing, patent, or manufacturing challenges the idea may pose. And these are not folks who are just on standby waiting to review your idea, because…

2. We Got a Lot Going On: When I oversaw the Boys/Girls business at the Old Company, we were routinely working on up to 3,000 new items a year. With all due respect to the Finance people who kept shaking their rulers at me and mouthing the words ‘SKU reduction,’ the industry runs on NEW. Even the small companies are actively developing hundreds of new items annually. Which brings me to…

1. If You Didn’t Get a Fast Noit means one of those incredibly busy people on the team saw something wonderful, magical, and fun in your idea – and decided to hold onto it so the whole team could consider how to make it a real toy. Someone around the table stuck up for your idea…and that’s why it’s taking so long.

As Mr. Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part. And your odds aren’t great. Just keep in mind that, in the midst of that journey, someone is trying on your behalf to get to ‘yes.’


In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out this interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...


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