by Brent Geppert | 06 Oct 2022
Biographies and Interviews
Based in Southern California, Educational Insights is committed to igniting the spark in every child through engaging, hands-on play with a purpose. For over a decade, Educational Insights Senior Product Manager Brent Geppert has traveled the world, meeting with toy and game inventors to identify concepts with the potential to light that spark.
We caught up with Brent between inventor pitches to talk about his own history as a tinkerer and how it led him to Educational Insights, what he’s looking for in an inventor pitch, and, of course, what’s up with all those Hawaiian shirts.
Educational Insights is well known for turning inventor concepts into best sellers. How do you find those winning ideas?
I go into every pitch with an open mind. You end up kissing a lot of frogs on your way to finding Prince Charming, but I try hard not to get jaded because you never know where a great idea is going to come from. I’ve seen some really amazing products come out of really rough beginnings. I’m lucky though - Educational Insights was a leader in inventor relations and we’ve been doing this for so long now that the people I meet with have a pretty clear idea of what we’re looking for, so they’re presenting me with ideas that are likely to resonate.
How do you balance being kind with being candid?
Well, those concepts are not mutually exclusive. A lot of times I’m looking at a great idea, but it’s not a good match for Educational Insights. Our products are built on educational value. Pure fun or big wow factor isn’t enough for us and I make that very clear to the inventors I meet with so they can pitch me products that are better aligned with our goals in the future.
Is there an inventor pitch that stands out among the rest?
There is, but not for the reason you might think! I met with a couple at Toy Fair one year. They were shopping their first-ever product and I was their first-ever pitch, but the product was definitely not a good match for us. I let them down easy and they went on their way. I bumped into them later the very same day and they told me that their meeting with me had given them the confidence they needed for their next meeting - where they sold their concept! Even better, they went on to win a TOTY two years later. Closing my door opened another, better door for them.
What do you like most about working with inventors?
Inventors are such creative, driven people. And so many of them lead double lives. I’ve been pitched ideas by college students, musicians, parents, IT pros, and even a rabbi who worked on his toy invention at night. Humans have this innate desire to create and the ones that are really passionate about it will find a way to make it happen. I love learning more about their inspiration and process. There’s also no telling how their ideas will impact others - what mark their inventions will make - and that’s such a powerful thing.
Are you an inventor yourself?
Yes! I’ve always been a builder, a designer, and a tinkerer. I love troubleshooting and fixing things around the house. In fact, I just turned a store-bought tiki into a custom, color-changing LED lamp. I guess it’s in my genes: my dad was a woodworker and was constantly building stuff for us. He literally built a log cabin fort for my brother and me. I followed his lead: when I was a teenager I started a small business building skateboards and selling them to my friends. I also designed the graphics for those boards. Later I designed graphics for a housewares company but my inner-inventor was finally released when I joined Educational Insights 12 years ago. In addition to working with inventors for EI, I’ve invented several products for them myself.
Which Educational Insights products did you invent?
A bunch! I created the patented Puppet-on-a-Stick line, which I still think is hysterical. I expanded the Design & Drill construction toy line with a few products as well: Design & Drill Bolt Buddies products add another layer of play value to our best-selling construction brand and the BrightWorks SKU was inspired by my childhood experience with Lite Brite. I have to share some of the credit for Playfoam Pals with the hundreds of kids who uploaded their Playfoam videos to YouTube. The way they were playing with our squishy, squashy, sculptable compound inspired me to design a line of Playfoam with characters and accessories.
You’re well-known for your aloha spirit - and your Hawaiian shirts. What gives?
I’m from the Pacific Northwest, but there’s just something about Hawaii that I’ve always loved. Maybe it came from my mom - she always wanted to be there. I just love the culture and the vibe. It’s also very visually impactful. My family met up in the islands back in the 90s for a reunion and we happened to be there during a total eclipse. Then a few years ago, I got to introduce my two sons to the wonders of snorkeling in tropical waters which felt like a “bucket list” experience. It was magical. But I can’t be on island time all the time; the rest of the time I make do with my shirts.
Interviewed written by Clark Nesselrodt!
ABOUT EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS
With Educational Insights, kiddos can become backyard explorers with Geosafari Jr., creative architects with squishy squashy Playfoam, or puzzle masters with brain games like Kanoodle. For 60 years, Educational Insights has been developing and manufacturing award-winning toys and games that ignite the spark in every child! From hands-on sensory play to learn-to-code drawing robots, each toy and game is designed to “spark” more confidence, creativity, exploration, togetherness, play, and curiosity so kids can be whoever they want to be! Located in sunny Southern California, Educational Insights is a subsidiary of Learning Resources — based in Vernon Hills, IL. Learn more on our website and keep the play going with games, toys, and resources at https://sparkmoreplay.com. Get social with Educational Insights on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
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