As well as its innumerable long-serving veterans, the toy industry is also home to a cast of bright, fresh-faced youngsters all keen to put their stamp on their sector. Here, Jade Burke shines a light on some of the young talent working across all aspects of the toy trade, in association with Gameplan Europe.
James Vaughan, Writer, Big Potato
Vaughan - a street smart and savvy 24 year old - is the word man and game creator at Big Potato. He has regularly been described as one of those annoying people who can turn his hand to everything and do it incredibly well. Vaughan has worked closely with the company’s designer Zoe Lee (also featured on the list) to craft the Scrawl copy and content, developing along the way a fun, fast-paced game that’s due to hit toy shelves up and down the UK next year.
Samantha Goodburn, Sales and Marketing Executive, Gibsons
Goodburn joined the Gibsons team permanently after impressing during her Industrial Placement year from university. After graduating with a First Class Honours degree in 2015 she joined as a sales and marketing executive. At 24, her accountability outweighs many of her peers as she heads up the company’s PR strategy, as well as managing accounts for some of its largest customers. She has also won business with some very big High Street names.
Ben Hogg, Marketing Manager, Esdevium Games
The toy trade is in Hogg’s blood, having worked many summers at Hoggosaurus Toymaster in his youth. He came to Esdevium in 2010 for a marketing assistant role, a position Hogg has built from scratch. Six years on and now at the age of 28, he manages a strong marketing team and is at the forefront of the company’s marketing growth. Hogg has worked hard to raise the profile of Pokémon, Dobble and other titles through a range of media initiatives and marketing campaigns.
Jess Jackson, Account Executive, Bladez Toyz
At the age of 22, Jackson joined Bladez in October 2015 and has quickly become a popular member of the sales team thanks to her bubbly personality. It didn’t take her long to embrace the toy industry and now she supports sales manager Keiran Peoples in the day-to-day account running. She plays a pivotal role in stock management of accounts such as Hamleys and Amazon and is known as the master of the product database and spec sheet supply.
Jessica Coy, Marketing Manager, Zimpli Kids
Coy may have only been working at Zimpli Kids for little over 12 months, but already she finds herself in the role of marketing manager. Not bad for 24 year old relative newcomer.The firm is currently growing at a massive rate (300 per cent up on last year) and the main reason for this is the current YouTube viral traction. The company has told ToyNews that it is now in a fantastic situation and a substantial percentage of the reason for this is down to the sterling efforts and ongoing hard work of Coy.
Fran Slager, Senior Account Manager, Carousel PR
The toy industry is pretty niche, things move around quite quickly but Slager’s ability to be nimble and flexible means Carousel is able to adapt quickly as a team. Always enthusiastic and happy to help, the 27 year old is known for being a strong relationship builder at the company, while also holding strong knowledge of the market and associated markets including toys, fashion, lifestyle and popular culture. It’s with a winning smile that Slager makes it onto this year’s listing.
Khalid Osman, AV Manager, Arena Azure
As AV Manager at toy market specialist media agency, Arena Azure, Osman manages the day-to-day team responsible for delivering over 800 TV and digital campaigns on behalf of Azure’s clients. Having joined Arena Azure as a media executive in 2009, he has learned his trade from the bottom up, and has earned the respect of the media owners with his disciplined approach within his friendly persona. 2017 marks the first appearance for this sprightly 27 year old.
Caroline Potter, Licensing Executive, JCB Consumer Products
At 29, Potterhas worked within the JCB Consumer Products team for two and a half years. Starting out in merchandising, Potter has developed her role within the kids’ licensing programme. She now works closely with all of JCB’s toy and collectable licensees, handling day-to-day approvals, as well as formulating marketing and PR initiatives to support the JCB brand. Potter has helped bring new partners to the JCB Kids brands, including Kids@Play and Oxford Diecast to name a few.
Lauren Foulds, Assistant Product Manager, MV Sports
A true lover of the toy industry, 26 year old Foulds works hard to get product into the market place that will delight children. At HTI she worked on licenses from numerous girl and boy brands to pre-school and own brand. She now works at MV Sports and manages older girls and pre-school brands. During her tenure she has worked on various product ranges and shows enthusiasm for all the product and brands under her remit.She’s been described as a crazy, creative type with a natural flair.
Tiffany Tasker, Business Development Manager, SuperAwesome
Considered a leading expert in kids’ digital engagement within the book publishing industry, Tasker (27) has spent the last three years creating a variety of innovative brand relationships with top partners such as Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury and more. She single-handedly devised and ran the Future8 Awards and now leads SuperAwesome’s global book publisher business development in the US from the company’s prestigious New York office.
Kris Theorin, Director and Stop Motion Animator, Something’s Awry Productions
With job titles including director, animator, editor and VFX guru under his belt, Kris Theorin has created branded content videos for brands including LEGO, Zing Toys, Jazwares and SMG Studios. His speciality is bringing articulated toy figures to life using stop motion animation. All that and the young pup is only 19 years old. One client said: ‘Kris brings more than quality animation to the table. He brings a sense of wit and spontaneity.’
Sophie Dalmedo, Account Manager, MI PR Global
Dalmedo (26) is a key member of the PR team at MI PR Global, managing a number of client accounts across toys, licensing and nursery. Having started her career in the industry working as a buyer and retail coordinator for Mind Candy, Dalmedo joined MI PR Global in April 2016. She offers a positive attitude to all her work and is effectively able to deliver great results across trade, consumer and social projects and brings a creative approach to all aspects.
Thomas Jameson, Finance Manager, Generation Media
Diligent and innovative by nature, Jameson has improved financial processes within the agency, which has seen improved profitability as well as saving time for the wider agency team. At 26, he is accountable for all financial processes and improving structures where necessary. Outside of work, Jameson is currently studying towards a qualification with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and hopes to complete this goal within a year.
Steven Le Van, Co-director, Le Toy Van
Steven Le Van was still at nursery school when his father, Georges Le Van founded Le Toy Van. In fact, one of the firm’s earliest toys, Stevie’s School, was named after the young whippersnapper, an accolade the 25 year old will not forget in a hurry.This year, father and son are teaming up in co-directing the business that recently registered its best turnover yet and has employed five new members of the Le Toy Van team; a successful family combo combining design and essential corporate skills.
Nicola Mellor, Senior Brand Manager, MGA Entertainment
Having entered the world of toys with MGA Entertainment three and a half years ago, 27 year old Nicola Mellor has already made her mark on the industry, relaunching one the company’s most famous brands, delivering a global marketing campaign and being named the firm’s global Employee of the Year. Mellor has launched brands including Bratz and Num Noms. Mellor has been tasked with the launch of a third brand and more on the horizon before she leaves her twenties behind.
Abbie Ree, Senior PR Account Executive, Norton & Company
Since joining Norton & Co in 2015, Ree (26) has become a popular member of the team, finding herself promoted to senior account executive in recognition of the hard work across her client responsibilities. Her dedication to project managing the Crayola 100 Years of Colour bus tour has been commended. A great attitude and sense of humour makes her popular with clients and she’s never short of a story or two to keep the office entertained.
Rebecca Hanlon, Brand Manager, Re:creation Ltd
Hanlon is overflowing with passion and enthusiasm for her work. A valued member of Re:creation’s team for over four years, she manages a portfolio of toy brands at the company, nurturing evergreens such as LEGO Lights, as well as demonstrating her talent in launching new brands to the market. At 29 years old, Hanlon has helped deliver the rise of the Snuggables plush portfolio, seeing the likes of Stretchkins and Bright Light Pillow achieve huge results.
Marie Bureau, Marketing and Product Development Manager, Le Toy Van
After being awarded an honours in her Masters Degree from the Centre European des Produits de l’Enfant, Bureau (26) emigrated to the UK in 2011. Her career took the spotlight in 2015 when she was promoted from marketing manager to take on the project of product development 2016/17 for the iconic wooden toy brand, Le Toy Van. With the success of her team’s Petilou 12 months and over collection, this is only the beginning of great things to come.
Julia Swan, Account director, MI PR Global
At 28 years old, Swan has been with the business one year. In just twelve months, she has shown a tenacity at getting underthe skin of both the toy and licensing industry, having originally cut her cloth in tech PR. She’s got an eye fora media angle and knows how to get the best out of her clients in order to maximise their exposure. Swan has great ambition and has proved to be a major asset to the company, resulting in a recent promotion to account director at the business.
Cara Davies, PR Manager, Firebox
An integral part of the company’s overarching content team, Davies (29) is responsible for project management, campaign strategy and product launches.
A creative thinker and communicator, she is often required to come up with new ideas and is willing to approach projects differently. Whether it’s promoting a bottle of Marshmallow Flavoured Vodka or a Giant Inflatable Unicorn, there’s always something kooky and unpredictable from her just around the corner. She also knits.
Daniel Nicholas, Marketing Executive, Jumbo
Having joined Jumbo in October 2015, Nicholas has quickly become an important member of the team. At 23 years old, Nicholas is responsible for managing the team’s digital marketing platforms and always delivers high results. He supports the Jumbo sales team to deliver high quality sales that drives company growth and keeps Jumbo ahead of the competition.
Amelia Naylor, Product Development & Marketing Executive, Addo Play Ltd
Naylor is 26 years old and started her career in toys as a business analyst at Mega Brands in 2012. Naylor joined Addo Play in March 2016 and has been instrumental in assisting with the development of Addo Play’s most recent brands to market. She is involved in many areas of the business’ UK and global marketing, trade marketing, licensing and strategic anaysis.
Zoe Lee, Designer, Big Potato
What happens when you blend an illustrator with a philosophy graduate? You make a top new creative team, that’s what. At the age of 25, Lee has adapted her skills to become an exciting new game designer, in it’s truest sense. She was lead designer on a range of games including Scrawl, Mr Lister, OK Play and Rainbow Rage, with three new game designs planned for next year.
Beth Jobber, Key Account Manager, Bladez Toyz
Jobber has been a star of the Bladez sales team for four years. Aged 27, she has played an important role in growing Bladez’s presence on the High Street and securing listings in new accounts. Her passion for the products she sells and dedication to her customers is ever admired. She’s also well known for throwing a smashing annual Bladez Christmas party.
Vicky Hill, Licensing Manager, Bulldog Licensing
Since joining Bulldog, Hill has made a huge difference to the team. She manages industry leading properties including Shopkins and Yo-kai Watch and heads up categories such as publishing and gift.
At 26, Hill has drive and desire to learn about licensing and brand building. As a result she has gone from new-starter to a keymember of the Bulldog team in just three years.
Christina Brasier, National Accounts Executive, Esdevium
Brasier (25) joined Esdevium back in 2013, and has since proven to boast a strong eye for detail, as well as an affinity for product and customers, earning her a rapid promotion. Since then she has become a vital member of the sales team, managing key national accounts for the company. According to Esdevium, Christina has a work ethic that will see her go far in the toy trade.
Helen Cable, Head of Campaign Ops, SuperAwesome
As Head of Campaign Ops, Cable (28) leads a global team of campaign managers and designers to deliver high-performing digital campaigns for the firm’s clients including LEGO, Warner Bros, Hasbro and Disney. She is co-founder of the company’s KidAware programme, one that helps brands and agencies achieve the best possible standards in digital kids marketing.
Hayley Robson, Senior Account Executive, MI PR Global
21 year old Robson has grown from strength to strength throughout her time at MI PR Global, and has recently received a promotion to reflect not only her fantastic work ethic, but also the great results she is able to deliver. She has shown significant ability for planning and handling events and is able to execute event projects with aplomb and to very high standards.
Ellie Start, Senior Account Manager, Generation Media
As a key member within the Generation Media team, Start (25) is responsible for the day to day running of some of the agency’s biggest accounts. Her involvement in the firm’s continuous development has helped secure gold standard from the advertising industry body IPA. Known as the press champion, Start has given clients accessto insight, data and great market deals.
Gameplan Europe is a business consultancy to the global toy and nursery products industry. We help manufacturers to develop their international business through strategic advice, finding distributors and other types of business partners, and executive search. We have recruited hundreds of toy industry executives across Europe and North America, from European President down to key account manager. We also publish a series of annual directories of business information, such as the International Directory of Retail Toy Buyers, which lists the names of the key buyers in 47 countries.
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