Hi Julie! Thank you for taking time to speak with us. Tell us about your career in toys?
My first assignment at RC2 was the Lamaze brand, Ironically, I came full circle with TOMY’s re-launch of Lamaze this fall. While at RC2, I also worked on the Thomas the Train Take Along business and preschool licenses like Bob the Builder, Super Why, and Dinosaur Train. I was also part of the team that launched the Chuggington brand globally. After RC2, I consulted for various companies in both the toy and baby space, eventually landing at Sassy Baby where I worked on bath and toys, establishing their licensing efforts around publishing, layette, bedding.
My heart has always been in toys, so when TOMY came with the opportunity to get back into the segment, I jumped on it. TOMY’s mantra is to “make the world smile” and that truly is what I love about my job. Whether it is helping bring a smile to a new mom when her baby hits a milestone or impressing a Super Mario “kidult” fan with our Club Mocchi-Mocchi- plush characters – I love knowing we can bring joy to people of all ages and stages in life.
In 2021 you joined the Women in Toys (WIT) board? What has the experience been like? What initiative(s) resonate with you?
Women In Toys (WiT) has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in the industry. Having the opportunity to meet with other female leaders dedicated to the industry has been enriching for me both professionally and personally. We have formed a very supportive and special bond through sharing our stories and our ideas. When one succeeds, it’s a celebration for everyone. I’m so appreciative of the fact WiT was established as women in the industry want and need a forum to network and propel female leadership.
I am very proud TOMY signed on as a sponsor of WiT to demonstrate support for the group’s initiatives. WiT Empowerment Day, recently held at the Dallas Toy Fair, has been my favorite event so far. I had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs at various stages of their businesses – some just sharing their idea or invention for the first time and others realizing success at retail after working at it for a couple of years in some cases. Very inspirational! It was also great to reconnect with others in the industry in person – so much great energy!
What excites you when you look at your line for 2022 and beyond?
We have so many great things happening! We’ve got some wonderful new licensing partners for our Club Mocchi- Mocchi- brand. We’re continuing our Nintendo partnership adding some great, new items and also introducing some fun new collaborations including Transformers, TMNT, Cuphead and Halo. I mentioned our Lamaze line has been refreshed for 2022 with a new look, play patterns, and relaxed messaging for a new generation of first-time parents. We’ll be celebrating our 30th Anniversary designing for the brand in 2023! And, I can’t wait for the world to see our new Bebé Fuerte bilingual infant toy line created and developed with global wellness icon and New York Times bestselling author, Robin Arzón. Plus, our very own IP “YumiAmi” is another great edition and best step forward for us as we work to build out toys that represent inclusivity. Through playing with YumiAmi, we hope little ones see they are unique and special in this world – sowing the seeds that you can be whoever you want to be. We have also partnered with Diane Alber, author and creator of “A Little SPOT of Emotion” – it’s a fun line that will help children learn and understand their emotions through play.
Consumers probably don't realize how prolific toy manufacturers are - how challenging "newness" is. How does your team keep mentally nimble and inspired?
Several different ways…staying on top of what’s currently in the marketplace is key so store outings and brainstorms are constant. We also look to places like the Color Marketing Group, WGSN and others for future trend predictions. We also track the latest social media trends which are always great to spark ideas. We are fortunate to have a tight-knit global team and, in particular, our team in Japan who share the many trends that start there. We take inspiration from the global markets for sure.
As adults, we often forget how to play. How do you encourage parents to tap their playfulness? How do you do that outside of work?
This is actually the basis for the new Lamaze collection. Coming out of the Pandemic where there was a lot of stress and sadness, we wanted to remind parents that it’s ok to seek joy with your family – forget the to-do list, and just take time to play a bit and laugh with your little one: It’s a sure way to bring a smile to your day. For me personally, we’re huge Lego fans at my house. Lego Masters is must-watch TV for us, and we always get each other Legos during the holidays. My favorite build was the Lego Friends Central Perk Café. The detail was amazing for fans of the show. That said, most of our builds are Lego Star Wars sets.
As a busy TOMY executive and mom, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and recharge?
I love to garden – both veggie and flower gardens. Digging in the dirt is an amazing way to reduce stress, plus it’s just good to be in the sun and breathe the fresh air. This year we had a tremendous number of cucumbers and tomatoes and our peppers are still going strong. I just switched out my petunias and inpatients from summer for the pansies, mums, cabbage and ornamental peppers of fall. And, after the yardwork is done, you’ll find me relaxing on the deck with my family watching college football (Go Irish!) drinking a lovely glass of red.
Halloween is fast approaching. What is your best Halloween memory and costume?
I do love seeing the little ones in their costumes scooping out candy from the basket. 100% joy! My best Halloween memory flashback involves my then 2-month-old son. He was my first child, and I was obsessed with getting him multiple, cute Halloween costumes. Clearly, I was bored on maternity leave, because I basically did a photo shoot at my house of him in every costume (with props!). Twenty-two years later, I look back at those pictures now and laugh. What was I thinking??? He asks the same question.
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