Marjorie Spilanik on Little Rebels, Iconic Women and More: tBR Person of the Week
What exactly do you do in the industry?
I have a plush line doll inspired by iconic historical women and I try to bring diversity and equality into the toy industry with them.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
Not sure if I have enough fame in the industry but if I did it would definitely be closing the gender gap throughout my toys.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I started in the toy industry around 7 years ago. I love toys and still play with them (I’m 38 years old BTW). Around 7 years ago, my daughter came to me with a drawing and asked me to turn into something real. That’s when I entered the industry. I transformed her drawing into a plush toy that looked just like her drawing. My background is on PR & Communications so this started as a way to encourage my daughter to believe in herself and believe that she could do anything she wanted, but before I knew it, the picture I posted on Facebook went viral and I realized that more parents wanted the same for their kids. That’s how I started Tedybujo and entered the industry. The reason why I am still in the industry is because I truly believe that toys have an outstanding power to teach and inspire kids.
What are you working on now?
My focus now is 100% on Little Rebels. We started as a plush line doll inspired by iconic historical women and added an app later on that interacts with the dolls to teach about the stories of these women. Today, we are working on a board game and a memory card one. We are also looking to land new licenses deals with new women so we can expand our line and keep sharing their stories.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I absolutely love the come back of old toys and the collabs between brands. I think that the toys that we used to play with where more meaningful and with a purpose behind that the toys we see today. I see a lot of plastic toys with no added value trending and I think it’s a shame. We have the opportunity to create toys that speaks to our kids and teaches them about important subjects like global warming, racism, gender inequality, etc and I feel bad when I see that the trending toys are based on plastic nonsenses that brings nothing more than a few hours of novelty and fun.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Show me your passion and your reason why. It doesn’t matter if the prototype is perfect, what matters to me is that you love and believe in your product.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Don’t feel obligated to follow a certain path just because society says so or because you need to make your family proud and keep the tradition going on. I studied my entire life for something that I realized later was not my passion. It took me 36 years to fully understand what I was born to do, so don’t stress if you have no idea what you want to do with your life. Also, keep in mind that you are allowed to change your mind, more than once if needed!
Do you have a typical work day and how does it play out for you?
Kind of… I am a bit obsessed with cleaning and having everything in order so before I can start anything I need to clean my house. I’ve been working from home since March so my day usually goes like this: coffee (I can’t even start to process any information before my morning coffee), cleaning, spending a little time with my daughter, meditation and then, and only then I can sit in front my computer and start working. I take breaks to spend time with my daughter and when I start to feel stress, I pause it all and go cuddle my dogs (advantages of working from home). My day usually starts around 8.30am and ends around 7pm.
What’s your workspace setup like?
Depends. During summer I work from my garden, I love to feel the breeze as I work and have the sunshine around me. During the winter I usually sit very next to my fireplace, I was born in Brazil so winter is not my favorite season LOL.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When parents sent me pictures and videos of their kids having fun and learning with my toys.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’m not sure it was the worst but for sure it was something that I still remember as a hard time. I started to work in a gourmet magazine (I am a chef as well) with the promise that I was been hired to write food reviews, which was my dream job at the time. Unfortunately, my boss had other plans for me. She used me as her servant. I had to take care if all the errands of her house and her personal life and she never published anything I wrote. That job taught me to stand up for myself and not to accept anything just because you think you might eventually get what you are looking for. It also taught me ethics since I had to learn how to control my feelings whenever I was under an unjust situation.
What and/or who inspires you?
My daughter. She is the reason why I wake up every morning and endure any challenge that presents.
What excites you?
Music. Woman empowerment. The most simplest things in life like sharing a cup of coffee with a friend and talk for hours.
How do you define creativity?
Intelligence having fun as Einstein said. For me is a way to make tangible an intangible thought.
How do you define innovation?
As not settling. Innovation is the constant need to keep doing better.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I play and read a lot!
What words describe how you think or how your brain works?
Multi tabs lol. I always say that my brain have several tabs opened permanently and that I jump from one another as needed depending on the task I am about to perform.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I used to play a lot that I was a CEO (of course by that time I had no idea what a CEO was, but I used to put my desk outside, phone, notebook, typewriter and pretend I was working hard on something). I also loved to play with miniature dolls like Polly Pockets sets.
Where were you born?
Sao Paulo, Brazil.
What was your life like growing up?
Fun. Surrounded by friends and family. Playful. Also, as I grew up I started to try and do anything I wanted, that’s how I ended up singing an opera, performing as Miranda as The Tempest , hosting my cooking TV show and serving drinks as one of the first female bartenders here in Uruguay.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I spent my first 12 years in Sao Paulo, a metropolitan city, with a lot going on all the time. That made me a wanderlust, it made me a gourmand and it made me appreciate people from all over the world. Then, for the following years, I grew up in Montevideo, a city that has only 1.5M people living on it. A huge shock at first but it made me appreciate the little things, the slow lifestyle and the hustle. It’s hard to be successful as an entrepreneur here, but if you don’t give up, it’s possible.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Underestimate myself. For years I thought that I wasn’t qualified or good enough for what I wanted to do. I even let others think that. Just this year I was able to identify my impostor syndrome and work on it to be able to pursue my dreams. Once I understood that, I saw the gigantic potential I have to do anything I set my mind into.
What do you read every day, and why?
Tons of toys news for sure! I love to be informed and is a way to keep myself close to the industry. I love reading novels as well.
Who is the person you most admire?
My daughter. Even though she is only 13 years old, whenever she allows herself to do it, she conquers anything. She is one of the most caring and kind persons I ever met and I am constantly learning from her and her respect to others.
Who might be role models for the work you do?
Outstanding women closing the gender gap. I have so many names that I am afraid I will leave someone behind but to name a few, all the women behind Women in Toys, you (Mary), the women behind The Toy Book and The Toy Association, Sara Blakely from Spanx, Megan Markle, and many more.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
Apart from my vacuum that owning dogs she became my BFF I would say Canva and Spotify.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
I paint. I recently started painting and I came to realize that when I face a blank canvas, the possibilities are endless.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today. My daughter. I can’t have a day without laughing out loud, is one of my favorite things.
What are your favorite childhood memories?
My summers with my cousins here in Uruguay at the beach. We used to stay until 9pm and then we went home, took a shower and to the streets again looking for cool stickers to buy and some arcade games to play.
Are you named after anyone?
No but my name wasn’t going to be Marjorie. My mom was going to name me Amanda but my uncle came with the wonderful idea (sarcasm) of telling her that his daughter will be named Marjorie so my mom stole the name. I would have made a great Mandy…
Do you have any kiddos?
Yep! One amazing daughter!
Do you have any pets?
Yes! I ADORE dogs, if I could I would have like 100 of them. Right now I have 3, one passed away a few weeks ago.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Chocolate, tons of it. And wine.
What’s in your fridge?
Today is a lucky day for my fridge since I have it full (it never happens). So among all I have you can find fruits, cheese and veggies.
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?
I try LOL. Violin, piano and guitar. I love to sing also.
Who are your favorite musicians, singers or musical groups?
Coldplay is by far my favorite band, I love their vibe. Lindsey Stirling, John Mayer, The Paper Kites, and so many more. I can’t live without music.
What music are you listening to now?
What’s your favorite cereal?
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
What is the last time you did something for the first time?
I try to do it everyday.
What are your favorite books?
The moment of lift from Melinda Gates, I am Malala from Malala Yousafzai and Little Prince.
What are your favorite magazines?
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
What’s your favorite TV show?
How I met your mother, Modern Family and Friends.
Favorite movie of all time?
Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Do you have any special talents?
I love making people laugh.
What’s your beverage of choice?
Coffee and gin & tonic.
Tell us about your hobbies?
I love to paint, sing, dance and read.
Summer of Winter?
Hugs or Kisses?
What is your eye color?
Green and yellow.
Everything would have been different if…
...nothing. I don’t regret anything in my life since I feel that everything happens for a reason, when it has to happen.
The toy and game industry clearly has….
...brought me joy and showed me that compassion and kindness still exits.
I’m lucky that….
...I am surrounded by amazing people that support me, believe in me and especially lucky for the daughter I have.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Everything! I am positive I am entering the best years of my life.