Sir Torquil Norman, creator of the Big Yellow Teapot, will be joined by Bananagrams’ Rena Nathanson, HeayesDesign’s Richard Heayes and GoldieBlox inventor Debbie Sterling on the Inventor Panel Session: How We Made It at this month’s Toy & Game Inventors Workshop.
Chaired by Dougal Grimes, director of global gaming acquisition at Hasbro, the panel of toy and game inventors will discuss their first steps in the industry, the difficulties in launching a product, their varying development processes, the secret to a great toy and thoughts on the current state of the toy industry.
There will also be a chance for delegates to ask the panel questions in a Q&A concluding the session.
Sir Norman, a former chairman and president of the British Toy and Hobby Manufacturer’s Association, founded Bluebird Toys in 1980 and the company was responsible for products including the plastic lunchbox, Manta Force, the A La Carte Kitchen and Polly Pocket.
He retired from the toy business in 1996 and bought the Roundhouse in Camden in the same year, spending ten years rebuilding it before opening it again in 2006.
In 1996, he also founded the Norman Trust, a charity for children and young people. Sir Norman was awarded the CBE in 2002 and was knighted in 2007 for services to the arts and to disadvantaged young people.
“It’s about 20 years since I was actively involved in the toy industry and the toys have certainly changed in that time, but children seem to respond to the same kinds of ideas," Sir Norman told ToyNews.
"I hope a voice from the past won’t sound too out of place.”
Bananagrams’ ‘Top Banana’ Rena Nathanson has successfully brought the board game devised by her family to market worldwide, with the slogan “the anagram game that drives you bananas”.
Nathanson has seen Bananagrams become one of the top ten best-selling toys and gifts of the last decade and she oversaw the development of other games in its range, including Appletters, PairsinPears, Zip-It and Fruitominoes.
In September 2012, Rena was named Inspirational Business Mum of the Year by Mumpreneur UK.
“The event is a great opportunity for toy and games inventors as it gives them the chance to tap into the experiences of people who’ve already walked the path they’re setting out on," Nathanson told ToyNews.
"Having a great idea is the first step, but there’s a wealth of other elements to take into consideration, which is why I’m looking forward to being part of the roundtable, where I can share what I have learned over the past few years, as well as pick up some tips from some of the other attendees.
"Having successfully brought a range of games to the international market, I feel honoured to be able to help others who have a great product they want to see on the shop shelves.”
Richard Heayes has been designing and developing consumer products for over 25 years and up until last year he was design director for family games at Hasbro where he worked for 18 years on toy and game brands including Playskool, Play-Doh, Monopoly , MB Parker and many more.
Heayes now runs his own design consultancy HeayesDesign where he uses ‘Play Thinking’ to bring greater consumer engagement to a range of entertainment, digital and consumer product brands as well as continuing to invent, design and develop toys and games which are still his passion.
He told ToyNews: “As an inventor and product designer of hundreds of toys and games in my time at Hasbro and now as a freelance designer and inventor, I know what it takes for ideas to make it through the system and capture consumers imagination.
"Helping others on their paths to success is very rewarding and the inventor summit is a great place for new inventors to gain some insight into the business. Come with an open mind and you to can find ways to make your ideas smarter without breaking the bank.”
Finally, GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling turned to Kickstarter in September 2012 after facing hostility to the idea of construction toys for girls from the industry professionals she initially went to for help. The campaign was a great success, raising $285,881 from an initial goal of $150,000.
The sets became a hit in the US, and Interplay launched the first three kits in the GoldieBlox series in the UK back in July.
The Toys & Games Inventor Workshop takes place on Monday, September 22nd at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London.
As well as the morning conference sessions, delegates will have the chance to pitch their ideas to event sponsors Asobi, Cartamundi, Hasbro, Flair, John Adams, Sambro, Vivid and Casdon. Associate sponsors of the day are Fundamentally Children, Big on Toy Innovation and Be Inspired.