Can you run through your career history in toys?
I began my career in 1991 with Ideal Toys in sales where Ken Stroud and Jag Singh gave me my first opportunity. In 1996 I moved to Playmates Toys, managing the sales and operations teams, where I had one of the best toy sales teams.
In October 1999 I joined MV Sports and managed the sales admin team and a number of national accounts including Argos and Woolworths. In October 2003 my journey started at Vivid Imaginations as business development manager. I was over the moon, I had arrived at the Premier League! This was a very exciting time at Vivid as we had just acquired licensing rights to Bratz Dolls in the UK; we already had a strong market share in the boys sector with Spider-Man and WWE.
In 2004 I progressed through to general sales manager of the gift division. I have been very fortunate to have had the pleasure to experience a number of craze products like the Crazy Frog and latterly Bratz and Moshi Monsters.
Three years later, I was promoted to general sales manager of the Vivid Toy Division. In 2010 we restructured the UK senior sales team and I was promoted to sales director of the toy division which was a real highlight of my career. Finally all the sheer hard work, commitment and dedication paid off and to be fully recognised was very rewarding.
This is a position I take very seriously, I am a big believer in people and strong leadership.
What are your main day-to-day responsibilities at Vivid? How large is the team that you manage?
In the toy division I am responsible for achieving divisional sales and profit goals in line with the company targets and providing top-level management information.
I manage a sales team of four: a sales controller and three national account managers. As well as managing the sales team, I’m there to help and guide them on achieving their individual goals and targets. I’m also responsible for managing the Tesco account, which I really enjoy; it’s great fun especially when you work together with a team of good buyers.
We are currently presenting SS15 lines but have our eyes firmly on AW14 which has just launched; we have a large portfolio of brands across girls, boys, pre-school and outdoor. One of the most exciting items this year is My Friend Cayla, she has been designed to be a girl’s best friend – she acts and responds like a real person.
We also have a very cool item called Sparkup, the magical book reader; it’s a revolutionary device that clips directly onto any picture book and reads it aloud in your voice, it has sounds effects and special touches that will ignite a child’s imagination.
What has been your biggest challenge over the past 12 months?
One of the biggest challenges in today’s demanding market place is this year’s selection process which has generally taken longer than in previous years. This has given us extra pressure on the FE factories, with lead-times, forecasting and general planning, making it harder to meet our customer’s needs.
How does it feel to be ToyNews’ first Woman of the Year?
Once I got over the initial surprise (it took quite a while), it was absolutely amazing and I feel really honoured to receive the very first award. I would have loved to have shared it with my mum, who would have been very proud.
What did you think of the event itself?
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and it’s a great forum for peer to peer networking. It’s valuable taking time out of a busy schedule to talk to colleagues, entrepreneurs and peers, and get insights into their issues and successes experienced from day to day and across their careers.
Why is it so important for women to promote their achievements?
It’s great for women to be recognised in business. It’s inspirational to have the spotlight on women across all levels, to share in their trials and tribulations gives you a sense of what can be achieved.
In an industry which is traditionally seen as male dominated, do you think that women are under represented?
I think there are lots of great successful women in the toy industry, but I don’t believe their success is highlighted. Again, this is changing thanks to some of the great initiatives.
What changes have you seen when it comes to the roles women are taking in the toy business?
When I started there were lots of women in the toy business – they tend to be the backbone of a company, sales support, marketing, customer services, which are key vital roles. At the time there were a handful of female directors.
Over the last ten years we have made great strides; there are many women in top jobs and we are better represented throughout the industry which is inspiring to see where we have come and how much we can still achieve.
What advice would you give to ladies just starting out on their career?
Work hard, be passionate, learn your trade and everything is possible.