Karri Bean: Always Say 'YES" to being a Career Day Guest!

by Karri Bean | 19 Jun 2024

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed


A couple of weeks ago I was asked out of the blue to speak to 6th graders at a local elementary school on career day.   So, picture this: there I was, thrust into the limelight of a 6th-grade career day like a reluctant stand-up comedian at an elementary school talent show!  Cue my inner showman and a sprinkle of nerves as I prepared to dazzle these pint-sized critics.  The class of 6th graders rotated in and out of the classroom.  There were 5 groups and I had 15 minutes per group.   The kids shuffled in, eyes scanning the room with the skepticism of miniature CEOs about to grill a potential hire. But then, boom! My introductory slide lit up the screen like a firework, and suddenly, I had a chorus of voices chatting about LEGO, Disney, and every superhero under the sun. I had to shush them like a librarian on roller skates just to get a word in edgewise.


Kids can be super rough, but they can also be your greatest fans... especially when you’re fortunate enough to work on some of the most iconic brands in the world today such as LEGO, Disney, Star Wars, Marvel - it doesn’t get much bigger than that!    


As I launched into my spiel about managing the LEGO business at Disney you could practically hear their brains buzzing with curiosity. I tailored my talk to speak to each kid in that room—speaking to the math whizzes, the debate champs, the poets, even the goth girl in the back who was clearly plotting world domination (or maybe just doodling). I wanted these kids to know that you don't have to be a rocket scientist (though that helps too) to land a dream job in the toy biz.


As a kid, the idea of working in the toy industry never crossed my mind. It wasn't something anyone talked about or encouraged—a toy maker, a game inventor, a marketer, or a licensor seemed like distant dreams, not viable careers. Throughout my years of schooling, it never even appeared on the horizon.


But now, standing before these eager 6th graders, I realized the power of possibility. I wanted them to understand that regardless of their passions—whether it's numbers, words, art, or simply dreaming big—there's a place for them in the world of toys. It's not just about the giants like Hasbro, Mattel, or Disney; countless other companies and supporting roles make up this vibrant industry.


I wanted these kids to feel the spark of opportunity, just as I had when I first discovered my path. Whether they aspire to design the next LEGO set, create a game that captures imaginations, or market toys that bring joy to millions, their dreams are within reach. The toy industry is a playground of innovation and creativity, waiting for young minds to shape its future.


So, I shared my journey not just to talk about my job, but to ignite a flame of possibility in each of them. The world is full of surprises, and sometimes the most unexpected careers lead to the most fulfilling adventures.


Then the kids started in on the questions like popping kernels in a microwave,  I asked for questions to be held to the end so I could get through my presentation more quickly....but like the game Ants Your Pants, the kids couldn’t contain themselves and pretty soon just like Michael Kohner's Pop-O-Matic they were popcorning questions one right after another...”when will you make Fortnite LEGO’s?”  “How do you make a mini figure?”  “ Do you get to meet the actors? “ “How much do you make?”   Then every kid wanted to tell me about their LEGO set or one that their siblings had. It was truly remarkable to see how the brands and products I've been involved with have already made an impact on kids' lives at such a young age—just 12 or 13 years old. Even those who didn't own any LEGO sets seemed to be fascinated by what I do, almost viewing me as possessing superhero-like qualities. They couldn't believe that a job like mine was within their grasp too!


The highlight for them was when I wrapped up with a slide about People of Play's Young Inventor Challenge. I showcased a photo of a 10-year-old girl who invented Chicken Poop Bingo. I explained how Goliath, an innovative toy company, licensed her idea and brought it to retail, making it available for kids just like them to enjoy.   I told them how this young inventor was paid for each game sold.   I didn’t get into the details of a complicated royalty discussion and contract negotiations. I kept it simple.  Her idea = money.  Suddenly I had a room full of mini moguls scribbling down their ideas faster than you could say “royalty check”.


I revealed to them the power they hold—that age is no barrier to brilliance. I emphasized how anyone, anywhere, at any time can invent something extraordinary...  and if it captures imaginations, it could earn them recognition and reward. I painted a vivid picture of the Young Inventor Challenge, where their creations could leap from imagination to store shelves. As I showcased iconic products like Pie Face, Furby, and Game of Life, even the teachers leaned in and were captivated.  It's always astonishing to witness the moment people realize their own superhuman potential waiting to be unleashed. The room buzzed with awe as I shared that this opportunity isn't just for dreams—it's a tangible reality within their grasp. Teams of mentors stand ready, eager to nurture their ideas and celebrate their creative journey. Titans of the toy industry sat before them, a revelation that sparked excitement and disbelief alike.


Here's the sweet kicker, a few days later a fat envelope arrived stuffed full of hand written and handmade thank you notes from these future toy tycoons.   When I opened it up there were many thank you’s from these 6th graders.   One student even made their thank you look like the opening slide of my presentation.  I read each and every one here are a few of my favorites:


  • I loved how you told us about your job and I found it really fascinating!
  • You did so good explaining it!  Your are really awesome 
  • P. S. you should make a LEGO figure out of me with Thor’s hammer and name it the Caleb Special – talk about a power move! 
  • I want to be like you when I’m older... you were my fav person that came in. You were so cool and when you told us about your job I didn’t really know that was a job and I really want to be that when I’m older
  • Your work has helped kids so much over the years your work has put smiles on adults and kids faces
  • I hope I can have a great job like yours
  • You inspired me to want to work for Disney
  • My favorite part was when you said you have arguments over the smallest things and that is really cool that you are a global manager


One that really made me smile was...

“I was really amazed to hear and see what you do and I never knew a job like that ever existed.  Most of the girls were loving your presentation because it was pink and sparkly, but some girls liked it because it might be something they would want to do.”


I was totally blown away by the amount of thank you notes I received was like winning a TAGIE for inspiring future toy makers. I assumed that every speaker got the same amount of thank you notes.  The universe works in mysterious ways... a couple of days later, some of my friends came over to ride horses with me. One friend brought a 14 year-old girl named Karissa, who was staying with her while her mom was away on a trip. Her mom was the teacher who asked me to speak at the school.  She shared that the kids CHOOSE who they write a thank you note to. She didn't think the other speakers got as many notes, except for maybe the police officer... but I got the mother load!  


I felt what I shared resonated deeply. It left an imprint, sparked inspiration, and helped them envision themselves in my shoes. More importantly, it planted the seed that there's a place for each of them in this vast world. Whether they're the top of their class, struggle with school, have a passion for art, or simply dream big, I wanted them to know that the toy industry, like many others, welcomes all kinds of talents. Regardless of age, they can begin shaping their futures now. There are no limits holding them back from pursuing their passions and making a mark. It's about embracing the journey and discovering where they belong—perhaps finding their tribe within the colorful realm of toys and creativity.


In the end, I count myself lucky to be in a job where I can be a hero for a day, inspiring kids to dream big and maybe, just maybe, see themselves as the next big thing in toys. So, here's to career days, LEGO dreams, and turning playground ideas into reality. Rock star status? Achieved.

career day licensing lego disney

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