ToyNews' 30 under 30

We highlight some of the industry's rising stars.
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Last year’s 30 Under 30 feature was such a hit, that we’ve decided to once again turn the spotlight onto the sector’s rising stars – in association with Gameplan Europe.

Here, ToyNews presents just some of the industry’s young talent, from product managers and sales execs, through to retailers, entrepreneurs, PRs and licensing specialists.

Pearce began his career at Bandai in 2010. During his three years at the firm, he has amassed a wealth of experience in boys, girls and pre-school. He played an integral part in the launch of TechPet, which led to his promotion in November 2012. His new role sees him looking after Ben 10, along with Pac Man. Pearce confesses to being a huge Power Rangers fan, even pestering his mum to queue at Toys R Us in 1994 to get him his prized Megazord.

Murphy runs a young, innovative team at The In Thing, working with brands such as Moshi Monsters, Skylanders Giants and Angry Birds.
He only joined the team in May 2012, but Murphy has spent this time implementing a marketing comms and digital marketing plan for the company and its portfolio. Most recently, he was responsible for rolling out the Magic Choc national tour and Daily Mirror newspaper promotion during its pre-Christmas campaign.

One of the founding partners of Lisle International Licensing, Frankie grew up in a toy industry environment. Now firmly established in her own right in the licensing business, in just two years she has helped Lisle go from working with just one property, to representing almost ten.
Prior to Lisle, she worked in both Europe and the UK. She now works closely with business partner, Gayle Tarrant, who says: “Most of all, what sets Frankie apart is her drive.”

Still under 30 at the time of writing, Hunt joined Character five years ago having worked in retail and then FMCG marketing after leaving university. He rapidly grew into the role, having launched a number of major brands into the market. Notable examples include the release of the HM Armed Forces collection and, more recently, being solely responsible for the Character Building portfolio. On top of this, Hunt worked closely with BBCWW on the relaunch of the Doctor Who line.

Still just 26, Murphy has gained a first class honours degree, successfully completed a graduate training programme for Toys R Us, as well as a stint working for Muller, and has recently been promoted at Gibsons. In her two years with the firm, Murphy has not only achieved all the goals set for her, but has identified new sales opportunities and efficiency improvements. Her organisation and proactive approach led to her recent promotion.

Doyle joined the toys and games media specialist in 2012. He has now grown the business to a level where digital online appears on all its recommendations, says the firm. Doyle has orchestrated several successful digital and online campaigns for toy brands such as VTech’s InnoTab, Flair’s Sylvanian Families and Bratz and Moxie Girls from MGA, as well as working with Hit. His colleagues call him a “champion within our company.”

Simpson has overall responsibility for purchasing for retailer Toytown – which is the trading name of SMF – and has been in the business for three years. His key achievements over the past year include increasing overall margin, while maintaining sales at an increased level on the previous year. Simpson has also increased the firm’s online business via the House of Fraser website, with it acting as the department store’s key toy supplier.

LeFranc joined LeapFrog in October 2012 and has made a real impression on the team. His key role is to use the LeapFrog digital channels to generate a better awareness of the firm’s core values. Since arriving at the company, LeFranc has made LeapFrog’s online presence even more consistent and engaging through its global websites (UK/Ireland, Australia/New Zealand, France, Spain and Mexico) and increased the visibility of the App Centre.

Roberts joined eOne as licensing and marketing coordinator in 2010, working across the two functions in the Family division. Roberts was promoted to her current role in 2011, and since then has gained huge respect from her colleagues and within the wider industry. She has also brought a number of partnerships to the table, including children’s charity iCan, as a long-term promotional partner for Humf, and E45 where eOne ran a promotional partnership for Peppa Pig.

Daniel has worked in the licensing business for six years, enjoying stints at Hit and Turner before joining Aardman two years ago. Working with Rob Goodchild developing the licensing programmes for Aardman’s properties and third party brands, Daniel works across all categories and has built up a wide network of contacts. She has also taken on responsibility in developing global licensing strategies, with the management of established and emerging territories.

Lewington is the lady responsible for managing the LeapFrog stand at Toy Fair, so has been hugely important over the past few months. This will be her first year organising the stand, and her commitment and dedication has impressed. Key achievements include creating a consistent message through retail with online brand pages, catalogues and in-store POS, as well as the support at retail for the LeapPad2 launch.

This is the second time that Corbett has appeared in our listing, and since then she was also honoured at the Marketing Society Awards. When she joined IFI back in 2010, the firm and the Hexbug brand had very low profiles and awareness in the UK. Over the last two years, however, Corbett has worked tirelessly to implement a strategic and comprehensive marketing campaign to propel Hexbug to star status in the business.

Russo began at John Crane as PR and marketing apprentice, before being promoted. She is in charge of all trade press editorial, consumer, PR, social media and also ensures that the company website is up to date and working correctly. On top of this, Russo has also been known to help out the sales team when they are snowed under. Russo completed her apprenticeship three months earlier than scheduled and passed all modules with distinction.

Immink has worked with the trade body for five years, and is directly responsible for all Toy Fair PR and promotions, liaising with both exhibitors and the media. She also manages Bastion, the Toy Fair’s external PR agency.
On top of this, Immink works on issues affecting the toy industry on behalf of all BTHA members. She is a member of the public relations and international matters and technical committees of the BTHA.

One of the founding directors of Click, Hillier has been instrumental over the last four years in helping to grow the company’s turnover and profit, developing business with major retailers, independents and suppliers alike. His business partner and dad – Mark says that he is a visionary and has an amazing eye for products and licences, earning the respect of not only the team at Click Distribution, but also the wider toy industry.

Tovey joined the licensing industry straight out of college in 2007, working his way up through the ranks of Entertainment Rights and Classic Media, from assistant to licensing manager. He joined Mind Candy in January 2011 as a consumer products manager to work on Moshi Monsters, back when it was still a relatively unknown brand in the business. Since then, Tovey has helped grow the licensee base to over 150 in the UK and internationally.

The CEO of Bladez, Iain Morgan, first met Abdelmassih in 2007, when he approached him looking to further his skills in business. Morgan soon appointed him as creative director, and since then Abdelmassih has overseen several major products including the radio controlled Star Wars R2-D2 and Android RC Robot. He has been responsible for managing projects including style guides, advertising, approvals, retail boxes and manuals.

Ireland has apparently been involved with Bigjigs ever since he was old enough to test the products, and has played an invaluable part in the growth of the company.
Ireland has plied his trade in every part of the business to understand the full workings from the bottom up. This has enabled him to improve certain areas and slimline the company, while maximising output. His enthusiasm for Bigjigs’ products, and the toy business as a whole, is clear, motivating others.

Wells joined specialist PR firm Norton & Co as senior account executive at the beginning of 2012.
She now oversees some of the business’ key toy accounts. Highlights from the past 12 months include arranging a LEGO Facebook campaign using Ben Fogle as the face of the brand, which resulted in national coverage. Wells was also key in the PR activity surrounding the launch of LEGO’s Olympic Minifigures, as well as the LEGO Star Wars Mini Maulings ‘stunt’ at Dream Toys.

Described as energetic and inventive, Borton has worked in the toy business for two and a half years. He has driven the product development department at Mookie, from purely Swingball-related toys through to brand new IP and toy creation for worldwide licences. Borton is responsible for hit outdoor toy, The Createaway Pull Along Turtle. In addition, he has created and managed the entire range of master toy play-sets and plush for pre-school hit, The Hive.

In the three months since Linkee launched, Tempest has been instrumental in selling 1,000 units (with another 1,000 arrived at the time of writing). He has also developed relationships with important industry names, secured deals with department stores and filmed a pilot for the Linkee the TV quiz show for an Australian TV channel. Start Up Britain chose Linkee as one of its ‘products to watch’ for its pop up shop in Richmond.

Unal was featured in last year’s listing, when he was Euro brand manager for pre-school and boys. He has recently taken on a new role, working with the Hasbro UK marketing team with responsibility for Nerf, Super Soaker and Kre-O. Unal joined Hasbro Turkey as a trainee in the licensing department back in February 2007, becoming a full time employee as marketing assistant after graduation. Promotion swiftly followed.

Jones looks after the various events that the BTHA runs outside of 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 the event planning including last year’s mammoth Three Peaks Challenge which raised over £130,000.

Now in his third year at Jumbo, and his second time appearing in our listing, Russell has had another strong year. He continues to grow within the firm, with notable achievements in 2012 including the overhaul of to an html CMS site, which is now achieving fantastic results and stats. He joined the company fresh from graduating from Northampton University with a degree in advertising and design.

Another returning exec from last year, Grant continues to build up his reputation as one of the most influential retail figures in the toy business. Grant became full time at The Entertainer in July 2003, holding various roles including buyer for The Gadget Shop before moving over to buying toys five years ago. He was promoted to buying director three years ago and has enjoyed significant success.

Having joined toy specialist PR firm Norton & Co in the summer of 2011 as a PR assistant, Henson as built up a solid reputation, especially considering this is her first PR role after university. Achievements include gaining extensive national coverage in The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror for LEGO Games and its survey story, as well as working with the Harrods events team to re-launch the Cabbage Patch Kids.

GoldieBox is a new player in the industry which makes engineering toys for girls. Sterling only launched the firm in September 2012, and since then it has been featured in over 100 publications including The Guardian, The Atlantic and lifestyle blog, Upworthy. She has been invited to speak on national talk shows in the US and at national and international conferences for 2013. Sterling trained in engineering at Stanford.

Coopland joined licensing agent Rocket as a newcomer to the business in 2010. In less than a year, she was promoted to licensing executive, taking charge of her own categories.
Coopland has worked with a number of toy companies, with a particular highlight being a deal she did with Sabec for a Scalextric racing app. Most recently, she has been involved in the management of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Killick joined the graphics design department of Bigjigs two years ago. Since then she has had huge influence on the company with her knowledge and creativity. Killick has developed numerous projects including packaging, new product design, website build and design, product photography and more. Many of her products have also been award winners within the toy industry from acclaimed bodies.

A popular figure within both the toy and licensing industries, Morgan has played a vital role in Underground Toys’ success, working her way up from being PA to MD Andy Oddie. She has been instrumental in signing licences such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Thomas & Friends, Sonic the Hedgehog, Lalaloopsy and The Annoying Orange. New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mike the Knight lines are due this year.

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 42 countries.
Contact Andrew Dobbie or Margit Pendl tel: +44 1442 870100 or


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