30 Under 30

The toy business is brimming with young talent and we thought this should be celebrated. Here, ToyNews presents just some of the industry?s rising stars, from marketing and sales execs, through to retail buyers, product designers, entrepreneurs and inventors?
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ToyNews 30 Under 30 is sponsored by Birchwood Recruitment, a boutique business offering bespoke solutions to finding the right sales and marketing people for the toy sector. Owner Amanda Holder has over 14 years of recruitment experience, 13 of which have been in the toy sector and across the children’s market.

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Kimberley Stanton, 29

Senior Brand Manager, Wheels

Stanton joined Mattel in April 2007 as assistant brand manager working on the Fisher-Price Baby Gear brand. And she certainly made an impact, with her work – including exclusive range launches with the two biggest retailers – contributing to 32 per cent growth for Baby Gear.

A promotion to brand manager for Barbie followed in 2009, with Stanton being integral in the development and implementation of the 50th anniversary marketing programme in the UK. Among other activity, she planned and executed the Barbie and Ken ‘Should she take him back?’ campaign and kicked off the national sales promotion with The Saturdays.

Stanton then moved to manage Mattel Wheels, promoted to senior brand manager in September 2011. She has already developed integrated marketing plans for 2012, encompassing the Team Hot Wheels campaign messaging, as well as a launch plan for a new segment within Hot Wheels R/C.

Ashley Holman, 29

Senior Category Manager
Nickelodeon Consumer Products UK

Having worked in the UK licensing industry for over seven years, Holman has a wealth of experience under his belt and is a popular face within the business.

Holman has been a member of the consumer products team at Nickelodeon for five years, recently taking on responsibility for the toy category. In 2012, his key focus will be to grow evergreen brands Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, while also launching toy ranges for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Victorious and Winx Club.

His achievements have already been noted in the licensing business, with the Spongebob Squarepants Real Musical Instrument range – resulting from his deal with John Hornby Skewes – picking up the Innovation Award at the 2009 Licensing Awards.

Stacy Hunt, 27

Category Controller
Worlds Apart

Hunt has worked in the toy business for eight years, both buying and developing product across boys, infant and pre-school, games and outdoor toys. Before his role at Worlds Apart, he spent time at Argos, Tesco and Mothercare/ELC in toy buying.

Hunt joined Worlds Apart to steer the product team through new developments in 2011, immediately becoming heavily involved in the development of the Blue Nose collectable line, the firm’s first master toy range.

His years as a buyer has brought a valuable commercial insight and focus to the firm, impacting on all aspects of business – from design and development through to packaging, POS and customer relationships.

Laura Hodge, 26

Assistant Category Manager, Toys & Stationery, UK & Ireland
The Walt Disney Company

Hodge started her career at Disney as an intern in the marketing department of its TV distribution group while she was still at university. Following her graduation, Hodge returned to Disney – after a brief stint at a media agency – working as marketing assistant for boys and pre-school in the regional toys team.

In 2010, she moved to the UK toys team as marketing coordinator, managing Disney’s toy trade press supplements and the novelties business, before being promoted to assistant category manager for outdoor toys, consumer electronics, calendars, diaries and posters in November 2010. In addition, Hodge also looks after Halfords and manages the Club Penguin franchise activity across the UK consumer products business.

Katie Allsop, 28

Category Manager, Creative Play, EMEA
The Walt Disney Company

Allsop has been involved with the toy industry for just under five years, beginning her career at Classic Media as a team assistant to the UK consumer products division.

In 2008, she joined BBC Worldwide’s UK licensing team and, since then, has amassed a wealth of experience in categories across girls, boys, pre-school, adult and lifestyle brands.

Allsop joined the Disney Toys regional team in May 2011 as category manager for creative play, working across the firm’s entire portfolio. This year, she is planning to implement a new European licensing strategy for her category.

Serkan Unal, 26

European Brand Manager, Pre-school & Boys
Hasbro Europe

Unal joined Hasbro Turkey as a trainee in the licensing department in February 2007, becoming a full time employee as marketing assistant after graduation.

Promotion to assistant brand manager and then junior brand manager swiftly followed, with Unal working across properties such as Transformers, Star Wars, Playskool, Nerf and Play-Doh.

A stint as brand manager at Hasbro’s German office in the EMEA Emerging Markets department was next, before Unal moved to the London office in October 2011. He is responsible for boys and pre-school brands, reporting directly to Hasbro’s European marketing director, Mark Foster.

Mark Whitaker, 27

International Marketing Manager
Vivid Imaginations

Whitaker manages all marketing and brand management aspects for Vivid’s international division (covering territories outside the UK, France and Germany) related projects and developments. In addition, he manages the agents sales divisions covering Eastern Europe, Asia (excluding Japan and China) and Latin America.

Whitaker also handles layout and supply to the international toy fairs, including Hong Kong, Nuremberg, New York, Australia and Deauville.

He joined Vivid three years ago as assistant brand manager in the toy division. He moved on to the Crayola brand for a year, before joining the international division.

Steven Russell, 25

Marketing Assistant
Jumbo Games

Described as stylish, efficient, quick witted and invaluable by those who nominated him, Russell has been with Jumbo for just under two years, fresh from graduating from Northampton University with a degree in advertising and design.

Russell is the youngest member of Jumbo’s team and has helped to make the firm’s online presence such a success, working closely with internal and external counterparts.

Stuart Grant, 27

Buying Director
The Entertainer

Given The Entertainer’s stature in the marketplace, Grant is one of the most influential figures in the world of toy retail.

Prior to joining the company, Grant enjoyed a gap year where he partly travelled and partly worked, spending six months with David Halsall, including time in the Hong Kong office. In July 2003, Grant became full time at The Entertainer, holding various roles including buyer for The Gadget Shop when it was purchased before moving over to buying toys four years ago.

Two years ago, he was promoted to buying director and has enjoyed significant success, building up key relationships within the business.

Andrew Griffiths, 29

Retail Account Manager, Toys
The NPD Group

Griffiths leads market research firm NPD’s work with toy retailers in the UK. In his role, he consults with toy specialists, grocers, department stores and internet retailers.

Griffiths meets with buyers, marketing managers, consumer insight teams and managing directors on a regular basis, using market data to provide strategic advice and insight, which is not only valued by the retailers, but also across the whole toy industry.

Sophie Russell-Brain, 25

Brand Manager, Barbie

Russell-Brain began her career at Mattel in July 2008 as marketing assistant, working across action play properties.

18 months later, she was promoted to assistant brand manager, taking on full management of Warner Bros properties and assisting in the launch of Mattel’s WWE range. She was an integral part of the team which implemented the Toy Story 3 campaign, which saw Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear crowned the TRA’s Toy of the Year 2010.

From March 2011, Russell-Brain was responsible for the total boys action play portfolio, before being promoted to brand manager for Barbie in August 2011. She has executed a successful national sales promotion and celebrity endorsement campaign with The Saturdays.

Anthony Thorpe, 26

Area Sales Manager
Character Options

A number of nominations from independent retailers earned Thorpe a space in our listing. He has been with Character Options for just over four years, with his current beat covering Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Yorkshire, West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

Heather Corbett, 28

Marketing Manager
Innovation First Labs

Corbett is the lady responsible for communicating the Hexbugs brand to consumers in the UK and Europe. As well as introducing new products to the UK market, Corbett manages key relationships across trade and consumer sectors.

Key achievements include creating and implementing the marketing communications plan for IFL in the UK and the official launch of Hexbug into the toy market; building the brand across Europe and in Russia, as well as the UK; and implementing key sponsorships, online campaigns and PR agency relationships, helping to put the property on the map.

Jen Ruston, 25

Toy Consultant
Aardvark Swift

Ruston has been covering the toy market for recruitment firm Aardvark Swift for two years, securing business and successfully filling vacancies for the likes of Mattel, Hasbro, Flair, Disney and LeapFrog. In addition, she is helping Aardvark move into the licensing sector, working with companies including CPLG, 4Kids and eOne.

About to exhibit at her second Toy Fair, Ruston has also played an instrumental part in the Alternative Toy Fair Party, which is being held on the second night of the show.

Also, an interesting fact, according to her nominator, Ruston used to play the baddie characters at Disneyland Paris, which has possibly stood her in good stead for being the only toy consultant among Aardvark’s main games business.

Ella Williamson, 29

Product & Marketing Specialist

Williamson has worked in the industry since graduation, beginning at e-tailer I Want One of Those, becoming a buyer within three years of joining. She arrived at BBTradesales in 2011, having worked closely with the firm for almost five years during her time at IWOOT. She is responsible for raising product and brand awareness, and working alongside designers.

Williamson’s role at BBTradesales is just one string to her bow, however. She is also the resident toy expert for Argos TV, gadget columnist for Look Magazine, occasional gadget girl for BBC2’s Something for the Weekend and a freelancer for VTech and Duracell.

Matthew Shaw, 25

Product Manager, Pre-school, Platforms & Licences

Shaw was nominated because of his considerable progress over the past 12 months, leading VTech’s digital marketing efforts, including building its following on Facebook and Twitter.

Shaw also looked after the marketing plans for InnoTab, as well as being responsible for VTech’s live consumer events.

Matt Jones, 27

Head of Member & Special Events

Jones looks after the various events that the BTHA runs outside Toy Fair. Within his remit are the Toy Industry Awards, the BTHA AGM & Industry Day, and Toy Trust fundraising events.

In addition, Jones organises the BTHA’s presence at external events.

As a BTHA rep on the Toy Trust Committee, Jones is also involved in event planning including the Big Kids Bike Ride, the Alternative Triathlon and this year’s Three Peaks Challenge.

Ricki Curtis, 27

Key Account Manager

Curtis has worked his way up from marketing assistant at Corgi, getting his first break in sales working on the premiums side of the business (b2b selling). He smashed his target in the 2010/11 financial year setting a new high for this section of the business.

His new role sees him cutting his teeth on national accounts, as well opening new accounts. According to his nominator, Curtis earns respect and wants to exceed every goal – two crucial requirements to be an outstanding sales person.

Peter Griffin, 28

Development Director, EMEA
Winning Moves

A newcomer to the toys and games business compared with some in our listing, Griffin joined Winning Moves in 2011 after completing an MBA at Imperial College London and working at Google.

In just eight months he has built up a new corporate and custom games division at the firm. He has also created a new EMEA distribution network for its Affinity Editions of Hasbro’s games, including Monopoly, Twister and Cluedo.

Stewart Betts, 28

Senior Designer
John Crane

Betts joins John Crane from Sue Ryder, where he designed its wooden products – mainly dolls houses and furniture, stools and bedroom accessories.

Career highlights include developing guitars with The Shadows’, Mark Griffiths; designing a wooden castle and plastic figurine toys for a Sue Ryder token promotion with The Daily Mail; as well as doing POS, packaging and product photography.

Robyn Morgan, 27

Licensing Director
Underground Toys

Morgan has been involved with Underground Toys since its early days, beginning as MD Andy Oddie’s PA.

She has since worked her way up, helping the firm become a player in a competitive market. Morgan handles product development, with a focus on licensing and brand enhancement, while also managing the US division of Underground’s licensing acquisitions and activities.

Andy Clark, 24

National Account Sales Manager
The Macaw Partnership

One of the youngest on our list, Clark is described as a ‘human dynamo’ by his boss Andrew Wood.

First discovered in Wood’s local pub three years ago, Clark joined as trainee national account sales manager, working with Tesco, Argos, Toys R Us, Sainsbury’s and Asda to name a few.

Clark has helped to grow the firm’s business with Ty UK and RMS, and has visited Hong Kong and Nuremberg toy fairs several times, building up contacts and his reputation.

Anja Hendriks, 29

Senior Director, Marketing
Classic Media

Hendriks has worked her way up the ranks at Classic Media, joining the firm four years ago as marketing assistant when it was still Entertainment Rights.

Now, as senior marketing director, she manages the marketing, PR and creative assets for the firm across its properties on a global scale (excluding North America). Hendriks multi-tasks across a large proportion of Classic Media – including marketing, licensing and product development – and was most recently responsible for the campaign in September 2011 celebrating the 30th anniversary of Postman Pat.

Mayur Pattni, 23

Managing Director
Pattni Imaginations

The youngest entrant in our listing, Pattni is the creator of the Match Stars line of football action figures, which hit retail last year and are going down a storm.

The initial range included big name players from Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool, and since then has expanded to include Arsenal and Barcelona. Pattni is also planning to launch a range of England figures following a deal with The FA.

There are also plans afoot to move into other entertainment fields, with Pattni already having Rocky on the books.

Rick Elliott, 26

International Retail Development Coordinator
Amscan International

Joining Amscan in 2009, Elliott’s primary role is working with retailers (both independent and chain) to tailor the best in-store party solution for their market.

He oversees all aspects of project management including working with the management, designers, contractors and logistics, ensuring everything runs to plan. Recent successes include coordinating a store-in-store initiative for King Jouet in France. According to his nominator, Elliott has a natural ability for project management and obsesses about detail, risk and delivering quality results on time.

Dominic Yard, 28

Toy Inventor
Fuse London

Yard is one of the people who is right at the beginning of a toy’s journey to market. He has been inventing toys for four years and is currently employed by Fuse London (formerly Play on Design). During this time, his concepts have been licensed to Hot Wheels, Polly Pocket and Tech Deck.

Most recently, for example, Tech Deck released the three-in-one skate and go park, while this will be followed up in spring 2012 with the launch of the triple set combo ramp. Yard constantly generates new ideas which are then shown to major brands.

Fiona Murray, 25

Product Designer
Vivid Imaginations

As a junior designer, it took Murray eight months to win internal Team Player of the Month award, ending the same year with a specially created Award for Creativity.

Having been lead designer on a number of licensed brands – including Fifi and the Flowertots, Everything’s Rosie and Crayola – Murray was also the originator of in-house brands VX Shark and Twilight.

She was instrumental in the creation of the Trend Report – a source of new ideas and industry-related trends.

Bhav Patel, 29

Managing Director
Toy Galaxy

Nominated by his staff, Patel started Toy Galaxy five years ago and has since expanded to three retail stores in the London and Oxford area (Barnet, Harrow and Witney). An online business is due to follow in the early part of 2012.

Described as a great guy to work for, his staff also wanted to make clear in his nomination that Patel has worked tirelessly to grow and sustain the business in a difficult trading climate.

Gemma Waddington, 24

Telesales Account Manager
The In Thing

Waddington began her career at The In Thing in 2004 – aged just 16 – as a temporary admin assistant.
She moved up to become trainee accounts assistant, discovering a natural flair for sales at her first trade show. Having been a senior member of the sales team for some time, Waddington was also recently handed an extra role as product brand manager, looking after one brand and presenting new lines to the rest of the team, as well as arranging promotions on these lines for customers.

Tom Maxwell, 27

Design & Product Development

With his brother Andrew, Maxwell runs product design and development company, Tomax Industrial.

Back in 2009, his Turbospoke engine noise maker caught the attention of the toy and bike community and is now in over 1,000 independent US stores. Further plans are afoot for new products in 2012, while discussions are ongoing regarding a placement in a Hollywood animation franchise.

Maxwell also writes a weekly blog for Turbospoke.com.

30 Under 30 Honourable Mentions

We had a flood of nominations from all sectors of the business, meaning a number of no less worthy youngsters didn’t get a spot in the final listing. Some of those were: Nicola Whelan-Stuttard, The In Thing; Jen Wilson, Amscan; Emma Raye, Hornby; Nicola Woodward, John Crane; Stewart Cole, Worlds Apart; Richard Venner, Vivid; Richard Belford, Simba Smoby Toys; Vernon Kerswell, Extreme Toys; Selina Dangerfield, Norton; Lydia Ford, Norton; Lauren Green, Evolution PR; and the ranks of Mattel’s army of youthful talent, Rebecca Harris, Julia Slater, Kimberley Good, Katie Warren, James Bents, Danielle Lovegrove, Rebecca Clewes, Olivia McMahon, Simta Sandhu and Laura Codling.


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