Starting a toy business will be a challenging endeavor, but seeing and selling a product that was born of your imagination will be reward enough for all your hard work. The hours will be long, and you will likely face rejection, but following your idea through will make all the difference in the world. Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie, was laughed out of the National Toy Convention in New York. People said that nobody would buy her dolls, but Ruth refused to give up. Eventually somebody did buy her dolls, and Barbie single-handedly turned a floundering Mattel into a toy manufacturing giant.
Have a plan and sketch it out on paper. Draw your toy ideas to scale and then describe them, step-by-step, in essay form. Using a CAD (computer aided drafting) program would be helpful. These programs are easy to learn and will make the design process go faster than drawing by hand. Additionally, the finished product will look more professional.
Attend the Toy Industry Association’s Annual Convention to check out the competition. Join the association so that you get the industry insider magazine. This will help you determine what is selling and what isn’t. More than 20,000 people attend the convention annually, and 100,000 products are on display. Pick up literature and contact information for manufacturers who can make a prototype for you.
Analyze your design based on what you see at the convention. Are there products to similar to your toy out there? Did you find a niche you could fill? Did anything special spark your attention that could add to your overall design?
Alter your design according to your new ideas.
Contact a trademark attorney and make sure you trademark your idea. It would be horrible to put your heart and hard work into designing a toy only to have someone else steal it.
Contact one of the manufacturers you met at the toy convention and have him construct a prototype.
If you determine that your prototype will be too expensive to make, you may want to hire a professional graphic designer and make a virtual prototype. Your goal is to have a product to show investors and to determine materials and manufacturing specifications. Prototypes are one-of-a-kind and usually costly. Remember that cost per unit will go down, the more units you make.
Design your label, marketing materials and packaging. Remember, you are branding yourself, so go for catchy and target your niche.
After your prototype is perfect, it is time to manufacture. Make sure you time your product correctly–the Toy Fair, the industry’s annual trade show, is held each February at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. You don’t want to miss it. This is where Ruth Handler took her first orders for Barbie from Sears and Roebuck.
Rent a booth at the Toy Fair. Design a layout that will catch the eyes of potential buyers.
Send out postcards to the major toy buyers when you get the listing from your convention registration.
Go to the convention and sell your heart out.
At some point, you may need to look for investors. They are lurking around the Toy Convention as well. You can also search the Internet or use the phone books of major cities, but the face-to-face excitement of the Toy Convention is your best bet. Investors are there because they are looking…make them believe that it is your product that they will put their money behind.
Don’t get discouraged. There is a market for any idea if the salesperson is passionate and tenacious, so be passionate and tenacious.
- At some point, you may need to look for investors. They are lurking around the Toy Convention as well. You can also search the Internet or use the phone books of major cities, but the face-to-face excitement of the Toy Convention is your best bet. Investors are there because they are looking...make them believe that it is your product that they will put their money behind.
- Don't get discouraged. There is a market for any idea if the salesperson is passionate and tenacious, so be passionate and tenacious.
Elizabeth is an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in California. She has extensive experience in developing and writing curriculum and is a presenter on many topics related to K-12 education. She is an alumnus of UCLA and has Master's degrees in Ed. Technology and Psychology and a PhD in British Literature.