I read a blog today regarding the ever-changing face of the American child. It was written by Richard Gottlieb, a man who is well respected in the toy industry and by all who meet him. He writes:
I continue to be amazed by the rapid change in the American child population. In a New York Times article entitled, “Among Nation’s Youngest, Analysis Finds Fewer Whites,” we learn that “whites continued to decline as a share of the American population … [now representing] less than half of all 3-year-olds….” Not only that but “whites [are] now in the minority in nursery schools, preschools and kindergartens in eight states — Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.” Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana are close behind.
I don’t know for sure but I would bet that the average member of the American toy industry is mid-40 and white. Not only that, but most of the people that that person sees in their community and their workplace look pretty much the same.
It is for that reasons that it will be no easy task for the industry to intuit the changes that are taking place in America. Whether we can or cannot, we better start sensitizing ourselves and the rest of our industry to the reality that the kid in our heads (probably white and blonde) is not the kid who is playing with our products.
Look around. It’s a different world.
Like all who know him, I think highly of Richard so it’s with all due respect that I am going to challenge this thought. I absolutely agree that the world around us has morphed into the melting pot we have always claimed to be. Perhaps the word minority will be stripped out of the language and we will come to understand that we are simply just people with similar hopes and dreams. The cultural differences are no longer held in the color of our skin but in the culture of our homes.
This piece made me take note of my creative process. Do I put a specific child in the picture? Am I targeting a demographic? The answer was no. I create from my 5-year old mind. That mind does not hold judgment on race, age, or tax brackets. That mind thinks simply about what is fun. I understand completely that the new toy industry looks at the bottom line, the target market and what is the newest licensed figure they can exploit. However I believe what is lost in boardroom decisions of what to put on a shelf is the magic of the industry.
My children and I could spend an afternoon with a deck of UNO cards and a lot of laughter. This is an example of the purity of the toy industry from days gone by. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by everyone. It is why the old games are still the most popular games. They were created simply for the fun of play without the need to become the next big thing.
So I ask my fellow inventors, what is your creative process? At what point does culture and or race come into the picture? Or is this the beauty of the small company that we just get to create from the dream world as opposed to needing to hit our numbers.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ”
George Bernard Shaw
Well it’s final. I return to product development tomorrow Tuesday, August 18th, with my business partner/engineer Mark Deadrick with 3dyn.com.
After a complete four month hiatus from the ‘inventing world’, I am ready to hit the ground running full force with a simple plastic product for children.
Let me quickly recapture where I was before I took my break, and I promise to fill in many more details in subsequent blogs.
As many in my inventing circle know, I started my inventing career 2 years ago with a product called HipSnugger Waistbands, formerly known as Cinch-Eaze Waistbands, a way to adjust children’s waistbands without sewing.
After about a year of product development and a subsequent quick, successful three month sales period, I licensed this product to a Canadian manufacturer which also functions as a distributor. (So much more on this later.)
Finding myself empty handed, I intentionally diverted my attention away from HipSnugger Waistbands (because I knew sitting around and just waiting would not make any processes like manufacturing and sales go any faster) and threw myself into the fascinating world of the ‘inventor’ with activities such as writing for Inventor’s Digest as well as facilitating meetings for a local inventing group I founded called Parent Innovators.
About six months ago, I had another idea for a product, but found myself in debt. I was stuck. However, being inventive as I am, I created a joint business with my partner Mark who I mentioned above.
Mark needed someone to do his marketing and public relations for his products and I needed someone to design and make prototypes for my ideas. Naturally our business formed.
Before my hiatus, which I will talk about in another blog post, Mark and I came up with a solution (invention) to a big problem my children and I were facing on a daily basis.
We were so close to a licensing deal with this product with a major company, that the final ‘No’ we received was a big blow to me and my ‘steam’. After working two years non-stop, pouring my heart and soul into my work, burn-out hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was time for me to take a much needed break, and conviniently this realization coincided with my girls and their summer vacation.
So after enjoying a four month vacation from work, I am back in one piece and this time even more determined to get back into the game and make things work.
However, this time, Mark and I decided to bring our product to market ourselves. Licensing is NOT in the cards this time around. And you are all invited on our adventure.