Empowerment Day Co-Chairs
Deb De Sherbinin – Principal, Perk Consulting
Deb de Sherbinin is principal of Perk Consulting, a product and marketing agency specializing in helping companies develop, brand, and launch products and apps. With over 25 years’ experience building world-class brands and growing startups, she has developed and launched hundreds of products in the toy and game world. Her expertise includes strategic planning, brand management, product innovation, public relations, promotion and product licensing. Deb serves on WIT’s Executive Board, and also co-chairs the Empowerment Committee and Communications Committee. She received her BA from Boston University and MBA from Boston College’s Carroll Graduate School of Management.
Nancy Zwiers – EVP & Global CMO, Spin Master
A classically trained brand-builder at Procter & Gamble, Zwiers joined the toy industry in 1990 with Mattel, where she held a number of progressively senior positions. Nancy takes child’s play seriously. As founder and CEO of the consulting firm Funosophy Inc., Zwiers spent the past 16 years helping over 200 clients—from industry leaders to start-ups in toys, youth entertainment and interactive games—build and expand their brands. Zwiers has been a strategic thought-partner and facilitator for many industry executives and has helped in strategy development for many successful franchises. She has conducted extensive research on kids and play and has led multiple invention teams to licensing success.
WALMART BUYER PANEL
Anne Marie Kehoe – VP Toys, Walmart
With 35 years of General Merchandise experience in retail, Anne Marie has led Walmart’s Toy Team since 2010 as VP of Toys. Her career there began in 2003 as a Merchandise Manager for Paper Goods, and in 2004 she was appointed VP and Divisional Merchandise Manager Intimate Apparel. In 2007, Anne Marie was promoted to General Merchandise Manager for Shoes/Jewelry and Accessories. She has also served as VP, Category Planning, Apparel. Ann Marie is very active inside Walmart in the Global Women’s Initiative and Made in the USA. She is a member of the United States Naval Reserves, having served two years active duty and seven years active reserves. Anne Marie has a BA in finance from the University of Wisconsin.
Natalie Rebot – Inventor/Founder, Moonlite World, Inc.
Natalie is the inventor of the Moonlite Storybook Projector, a product that turns any mobile device into a magical storytime experience. Moonlite is an award-winning product that went viral with over 50M organic video views to date. The product that came to life via Kickstarter in 2017 and is now sold in retail stores worldwide. Natalie is a mom to a 5-year-old girl, named Chloe. Chloe was the inspiration behind Moonlite as she loved to do shadow play based-stores before bed. Natalie loved how Chloe’s whole room became part of the storytelling experience and thought she could enhance the shadow play experience, and that’s how Moonlite was born.
Natalie has a vast range of work experience. She is an ex-Googler who worked in a variety of different roles during her 7-year tenure at Google. Some of the products she developed have been integrated into Google Adwords. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering in 2005 and then went on to get her MBA and graduated in 2009. Natalie is currently heading up all Moonlite product development and marketing at Spin Master, her licensing partner.
Pamela Anderson – Vice President ECommerce & Sales, Alex Brands
Pamela Anderson is the Vice President of eCommerce & Sales at Alex Brands, she’s been at Alex since 2015. Alex Brands is a New Jersey-based toy company that specializes in novelty products for infants, toddlers, and tweens in the US and internationally. She is responsible for eCommerce, digital marketing, business development and technical execution of all online channels, including sales through retail partners and distributors. Prior to Alex Brands, Pamela was at Amazon from 2012-14 as Merchandising Manager where she led merchandising, marketing, vendor relationships, and user experience for the Toys & Games Category. She has also held various digital marketing positions in Hot Topic Inc., Toshiba and Chivas USA. She is very strongly positioned to discuss digital strategy, market dynamics, product differentiation, and the competitive landscape of the digital world.
Keri Wilmot – Content Development Manager, ToyQueen.Com
Keri Wilmot is a toy expert, parent and pediatric occupational therapist, with more than 18 years of experience working with children with special needs. Since 2009, Keri has been creating toy reviews and sharing playful content on ToyQueen.com, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Keri also serves as an expert contributor to the Toy Industry Association’s Genius of Play initiative.
Anita Castellar – CEO, FanGirl Consulting & Brand Management, LLC
Anita Castellar is a licensing and toy industry veteran and Chair of the WIT Central Florida Chapter. For over 20 years, she has created leading retail programs and product development strategies for some of the world’s most popular franchises such as the Disney characters as well as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Anita holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in International Business.
Industry Expert Mentors
Alita Friedman – CEO, Alita’s Brand Bar
Consummate entrepreneur, brand strategist and former C.P.A., Alita Friedman formed her own branding and licensing company to develop new brands and generate creative revenue streams for existing global brands. Her clients span a wide range of consumer products and packaged goods companies, top entertainment properties, best-selling authors, emerging artists and new brands. She launched global programs with some of the most famous character brands and celebrities on the planet. Alita received the WIT Wonder Woman Award for Marketing & Branding in 2013, and the 2015 Farrington Award for Outstanding Commitment to Entrepreneurship at Lehigh University. She serves on the WIT Executive Board, and as an Adjunct Professor, Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Advisory Council Chair with the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation at Lehigh.
Bernadette Boyle – Senior Membership Manager, The Toy Association
As The Toy Association’s Senior Membership Manager, Bernadette Boyle develops and implements member strategies for the association to raise visibility for the Association’s departments, initiatives, products, and services. She is responsible for reinforcing the value of membership to help in recruitment efforts and ensure that the overall membership experience is of the highest quality. In addition, she develops and maintains relationships with contacts at the Association’s 950+ member companies and communicates member benefits which help them advance their own businesses. Prior to joining The Toy Association, Bernadette directed marketing and PR efforts for The American Craft Council, a non-profit member-based contemporary craft organization. She has over 20 years of marketing and communications experience, with earlier positions at Newsweek, Inc. and at several direct marketing/list brokerage agencies. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, sports and spending time with family and friends.
Betsy Smith – President, Allin Smith
Betsy Smith is president of Allin Smith, a digital marketing agency specializing in helping brands drive product awareness among parents via social media, influencer marketing, and more. Over the past 10 years, Betsy has helped toy companies launch dozens of products and parent-focused campaigns such as The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative.
Bridget Moon – Economic Development Specialist And Veterans Business Development Officer, SBA Dallas/Fort Worth District Office
Bridget Moon joined the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1996, currently holding a position of Economic Development Specialist and Veterans Business Development Officer in the SBA Dallas/Fort Worth District Office. Her responsibilities include building and maintaining collaborative partnerships with small business stakeholders such as economic development practitioners, civic and community organizations, chambers of commerce, business associations, and educational institutions. Prior to working for the District Office, she has held several positions under the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance – Processing & Disbursement Center. Bridget has a passion for small business owners and demonstrates this through her presentations at various venues. Currently, Bridget is a small business owner and has been since the age of 18. Her businesses have ranged from real estate investments to fabrication. As she says, “She gets it, being a small business owner, all that it entails.” As a result, Bridget has counseled and prepared business plans, ranging from start-ups to existing businesses needing anything from market analysis to expansion. Bridget holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management from Ball State University. An Entrepreneurship Program that has consistently ranked among the nation’s elite including top 4 in U.S. News & World Report, #1 Public University for Entrepreneurship, #1 Regional Entrepreneurship Program in Entrepreneur magazine.
David Becker – President, Blue Plate Media Services
An industry veteran, David Becker has worked closely with many leading toy companies, helping to grow their respective brands in North America and across the globe. David has over 30 years of experience in advertising and branding across a range of industries from toys, entertainment, education and apparel to publishing, licensing and consumer packaged goods. Recipient of the New York Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, David has dedicated his career to helping emerging, mid-range to mature companies impact the market through smart thinking and a “collaborative” approach to brand building. A founding partner of Blue Plate Media Services and 13-year affinity partner with Toy Association, David works closely with toy companies to help drive retailer sell in and consumer sell through. Prior to joining Blue Plate Media, David’s entrepreneurial career includes senior marketing and product development agency positions at BBDO, American Marketing, DBECK Industries, and Thorn EMI’s Musicom.
Elizabeth Erdman – Special Assistant/Small Business Ombudsman At CPSC
Elizabeth Erdman is Special Assistant to the Small Business Ombudsman at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which provides guidance on product safety regulations for small businesses. Ms. Erdman also worked in the Office of Epidemiology at CPSC in injury data collection and analysis. Previously Ms. Erdman worked for the Department of Navy in medical logistics supporting equipment programs for medical facilities worldwide. Ms. Erdman earned a BA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Geography and Environmental Systems, and an MPH in Environmental Health from the University of Maryland. Other helpful information about CPSC is available at https://www.cpsc.gov/smallbiz.
Genna Rosenberg – CEO, GennComm
Genna Rosenberg is an innovator and CEO of GennComm, a global marketing communications agency focused on the business of play. GennComm | ImaGENNation is her Think Tank that develops high-level brand franchise planning and execution for both GennComm-owned and third-party IP. Rosenberg licensed ImaGENNation’s first in-house innovation to Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company, which powers Squeezamals, selected by Learning Express as 2018 Toy of the Year in Plush. With 20+ years toy industry PR & brand marketing experience, she connects ideas with giants across licensing, public relations, retail and business development, content development and more, always keeping an eye on trends, empowerment and social responsibility.
Gina Waldhorn – President, Quirky
Gina Waldhorn was named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of 2017’s Most Daring Entrepreneurs and is President of Quirky, the community led invention platform that brings real people’s ideas to life. Gina joined Quirky in 2017 where she was tapped to revitalize the company following its change of ownership in 2016, and in twelve months she has stewarded the development of more than 50 new electronic and home products. Prior to joining Quirky, Gina co-founded the innovation boutique Evol8tion in 2012 where she executed over 75 in-market startup and brand pilot programs with leading brands including Nestle, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Steelcase, and Mondelez International, and pioneered innovation practices within IoT, AI, AR/VR, and Natural User Interfaces. Before founding Evol8tion Gina spent 7 years practicing communications planning and digital strategy for global clients including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and UPS at agencies Carat and Maxus. An obsessive problem solver and serial ideator, Gina has taken home a Young Cannes Lion Award, IAB MIXX Award, AdClub of NY Presidents Award, and was recognized by AWNY as a 2016 Game Changer. Gina has achieved a Master of Arts in Global Marketing from Emerson College in Boston and built a vast collection of Philip K Dick novels. She is also the proud mom to baby Eddie and dog Rowlf, and lives in Brooklyn New York.
Jerry R. Welch – Co-Founder/General Partner, Bambini Partners LLC
Jerry is Co-Founder and General Partner of Bambini Partners, LLC, a strategic advisory firm focused on companies in the toy, infant/ juvenile, family and pet consumer products industries. Before founding Bambini Partners, he was the CEO of nFinanSe Inc. From 1996 to 2005, Jerry was the CEO of FAO Schwarz and its predecessor companies, during which time he combined The Right Start, Zany Brainy, and FAO to form a retail holding company with over 300 stores and $700 million in sales. From 1993 until 2001, he was also a Managing Director and Partner in Kayne Anderson Investment Management, a large Los Angeles-based private equity firm. Jerry is very experienced in the public capital markets, having been CEO of five public companies and taken two companies public over his 40-year career. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Major in Finance.
John W. Lee II – Co-Founder/General Partner, Bambini Partners LLC
John is Co-Founder and General Partner of Bambini Partners, LLC, a strategic advisory firm focused on companies in the toy, infant/ juvenile, family and pet consumer products industries. Prior to forming Bambini Partners, he was CEO of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, a publishing and IP development enterprise. John is the former President of Learning Curve International, which he founded in 1993. Regarded as a leader in the educational and developmental toy industry, he has authored numerous trade articles on brand management, product innovation and merchandising. John is the recipient of the 2004 Playthings Industry Achievement Award for Brand Builder for the Thomas the Tank Engine train brand, and the 2005 ASTRA Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served on numerous industry association boards including the TA, ASTRA and NRF. John received his B.A. degree in Industrial / Consumer Psychology.
Kimberly Mosley – President, ASTRA
Kimberly Mosley, CAE is the President of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), the world’s largest specialty toy association. Founded in 1992, ASTRA is an international trade organization that develops and supports a membership of independent retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives in the toy industry. Inspired to change the world through the power of play, ASTRA is a community of dedicated professionals committed to providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have a high play value and are designed with a focus on what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do. Through certification programs, educational resources and networking opportunities, ASTRA equips and empowers members to make a positive impact on the economy and culture of the communities they serve. Kim has been a leader in the association industry for more than 20 years. She has earned distinction as a Certified Association Executive. She is also a Certified Play Expert – a certification that recognizes the important role of play in healthy brain development. She serves as adjunct faculty and on the advisory board for several colleges and training centers. She also lectures, blogs and writes articles on specialty toy retailing, association management, and technology. Ms. Mosley holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Governors State University and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago, IL.
Lane Florquist – VP Of Business Development, New Creature
Lane is VP of Business Development at New Creature, a retail-focused marketing agency in Bentonville, AR. In his role, he helps solve problems at multiple retailers for companies from startups to Fortune 100 members. Lane is looking forward to helping answer retail marketing/merchandising questions at WIT Empowerment Day!
Leila Nosrati – Consultant, Master Toy Advisors
Leila Nosrati is an accomplished retail merchant with 16 years of experience managing several of the largest toy categories. Through her consulting firm, Master Toy Advisors, she uses her extensive product and industry knowledge and her passion for toys and character licenses to guide inventors, entrepreneurs, and product developers as they formulate their pitches and presentations to retail buyers. Leila received her MBA from Columbia Business School and her BA from UCLA, and was honored as the 2013 Wonder Woman of Toys in Retail.
Lindsey Berger – Director Of Sales, License 2 Play Toys
Lindsey Berger is the Director of Sales for License 2 Play Toys LLC. Lindsey is a third-generation toy saleswoman and has over eight years of experience in the industry. Lindsey has worked with companies such as The Bridge Direct, Ty, Inc., Jakks Sales Corporation, and Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company.
Maureen McHale – President, CCO, McHale Design, Inc.
A real life “Wonder Woman,” Maureen McHale has successfully grown McHale Design, Inc. from a one-woman, home-based, graphic design start-up into the most sought-after branding firm in the toy and licensing industries. Celebrating 33-1/3 years, McHale Design employs 10 full-time designers to develop Brand and Package Design, Style Guides, and Design for Web and Apps for top-tier clients including: Walmart, Moose Toys, Mattel, Playmates Toys, and Spin Master. Maureen’s layout for success includes cultivating deep client relationships, over-delivering on creativity, and keeping one step ahead of the latest technology trends.
An official Wonder Woman in Toys, her creativity and commitment earned her the Women in Toys Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2009. In 2018, McHale Design is a 2 time American Package Design Award Winner from Graphic Design USA.
The mother of three grown children, Maureen lives and works in Long Beach, California.
Ruth Synowic – Owner, Ruth Green Concepts, Inc.
For over 25 years, Ruth Green Synowic has applied her passion for creativity, product design and innovation to the toy and consumer products industry. Ruth has worked with dozens of licensors, consulted for numerous toy companies and clients, and was VP of a Creative group that designed the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. As an award-winning independent toy inventor and President of Ruth Green Concepts, Inc., a creative product design consultancy, Ruth has helped her clients bring a variety of concepts to life, – ranging from plush and electronics to health aids, to educational products, and more!
Stacy Lellos – SVP, General Manager, KLUTZ
SVP and General Manager of Klutz, Stacy Lellos is an award-winning marketer and trailblazer in the publishing and toy worlds, having held a variety of executive-level positions at Scholastic and Toys“R”Us. Stacy held several roles at Scholastic, culminating in VP, Marketing and Multiplatform Publishing, where she helped drive the marketing campaigns for Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and many others. She also led the digital development team, increasing brand engagement through social media, apps, and mobile gaming. As VP, Brand Marketing for Toys”R”Us, Stacy led brand strategy for the global retail chain. Stacy took over the helm of Klutz four years ago, steering the company’s award-winning book and activity kits for kids. She has successfully leveraged Klutz’s 40-year history while innovating with dynamic, diversified products that spark creativity in every child. As a mom of three, Stacy understands each child is unique, and she leads a talented team to develop premium, trend-right, kid-tested products.
Stephanie Bailey – Senior Director, Toys, Nickelodeon
Stephanie Bailey is a toy kid at heart. She started her career demonstrating toys and dancing on the Big Piano at FAO Schwarz. Stephanie played an integral role in the Toys R Us acquisition of FAO Schwarz and went on to grow her career in Toys R Us merchandising across several categories, ultimately as a Divisional Business Manager for Babies R Us. She has helped dozens of toy companies successfully launch their products and brands, making lots of Toys R US kids very happy throughout the years. Stephanie’s industry experience and childhood dreams of getting Slimed led her to a new career in licensing as the Senior Director of Toys at Nickelodeon. She is passionate about making kids happy and eager to share her expertise to help others find success in the toy industry.
Stefanie Barone – VP Of Design, Wicked Cool Toys
Stefanie has over 20 years experience in the toy and licensed kids’ product industries and has held positions in design, product development and manufacturing, with hands-on experience in the development, prototyping and engineering of consumer products. Over the course of her career, she has held positions at companies including Toy Biz, Just Play, Director of Product Development at Play Along, and Senior Director of Girls Design and Development at Jakks Pacific, and has worked alongside companies such as Marvel, Disney, OAA, Sanrio and Nickelodeon. Stefanie has contributed to the development of kids’ products sold at major retailers across a diverse range of categories including hard and soft lines in both boys’ and girls’ toys, action figures, girls dolls, plush, preschool, art & activities, DIY, lifestyle and stationery. She has extensive knowledge and experience working with overseas factories.
Stephanie Pottick, Esq. – President, Pottick Law PC
Stephanie Pottick is a legal and business consultant who is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and companies take their brands and businesses to the next level. She is a licensed attorney who worked in the toy industry for over 14 years and has extensive experience with branding, licensing, merchandising, sales, marketing, safety and manufacturing. Because of her unique background, Stephanie has the ability to understand business from a legal perspective and the law from a business perspective. Stephanie provides practical solutions and creative strategies for everyday business matters and routinely works on business and licensing contracts, brand and intellectual property protection and general business consultation.
Sue Murphy – Vice President, Coyne Public Relations
Susan is Vice President at Coyne Public Relations and is an accomplished PR practitioner who has created and executed award-winning campaigns on behalf of her clients for more than 20 years. Throughout her career, she has worked with well-known brands such as Alex Brands, Crayola, Fisher-Price, Mattel and Playmobil. Currently, she leverages her industry expertise to lead Coyne’s dedicated toy practice, which supports several high-profile clients, including Playmates Toys, LeapFrog and VTech to name a few. In addition to a thriving career, Susan is also a wife and mother of two amazing girls and two fur babies.
Sue Warfield – Director Of Member Relations, ASTRA
Sue Warfield has been in the both the Retail and Toy Business for over 30 years. What began as a part-time retail job turned into a passion for retail. While attending college at the University of Minnesota, she worked part-time for the then Dayton’s Department Store Chain. Though her career path had been International Trade, when she got her first great job in her field of study, she realized that as each day was coming to a close, she was looking forward to going to her part-time sales job at Dayton’s – which for some reason, she had never given up. Answering an ad to become an assistant manager at a hobby and craft store, she got the job…and that was it. Retail and sales were where she wanted to be. Over the years, Sue worked for 2 major, independently owned, retail chains based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and worked through the ranks to include store management, training, buying, and ultimately, director of retail operations. In 1990 she started her own retail consulting firm, Retail Specialties, and worked with clients around the US, developing training programs and working to improve their day to day operations. She entered the world of toy representation in 1995 and retail store ownership in 1999 when she and her husband opened a Northwoods furnishings and décor store. She joined ASTRA in 2000 and has been an active member ever since, serving on the Board for 7 years, including chair. Her most recent work contributions have been with Hotaling Imports, a long-term ASTRA Member, and serving as chair of the ASTRA Membership Committee.
Taylor Crosby – Director Of Marketing And Communications, Women’s Business Council Southwest
Taylor Crosby is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Women’s Business Council – Southwest. In this role, she is focused on strategies for membership engagement and development within the Council’s four-state region, central and north Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. She leads and executes the external and internal communications, public relations, social media, corporate relations, and membership development for the Council.
Crosby holds a B.B.A. in Marketing from Southern Methodist University. She currently resides in University Park with her husband, Houston, and daughter, Sydney.
Wendy Smolen – Founder, WendySmolen.Com
Wendy is an author, editor and idea generator with a long history in the toy and media industries. Throughout her career, she has helped numerous brands create and launch innovative and impactful experiences in play and learning. In 2008, she co-founded Sandbox Summit, an annual idea forum at MIT, to explore the intersection of play, learning and technology. She has held senior positions at Parents and Nick Jr. Family Magazine, has written and edited several books, judged TOTY and iKids Awards, and mentors entrepreneurs. She has three grown children who text more often than call, thus, keeping her up to speed on the benefits of social media.
Toy Company / Inventor Relations
Adam Hocherman – Monsterpreneur, PlayMonster (VP, New Business Development)
Adam brings a diverse mix of product development expertise, manufacturing experience and business acumen to PlayMonster. He has a degree in mechanical engineering as well as an MBA, both from Cornell University. In his career, Adam has personally designed, developed and brought to market dozens of consumer products ranging from electronics to educational S.T.E.M. toys. Prior to joining PlayMonster Adam bootstrapped, grew, and sold two prior toy companies. In his current role as VP, New Business, Adam plays a critical role identifying new product licensing and/or acquisition opportunities which fulfill the required combination of identified need, market opportunity, economic feasibility and creative quality. These opportunities form the present and future product lines that drive growth at the company while maintaining PlayMonster’s mission to provide the highest-quality play experience for its customers.
Alan Gong – VP Of Product Development, Basic Fun!
Gained degree in Graphic Design and held positions in ‘below the line’ agencies until the opportunity to join Kenner Parker Europe, my first step into Toys and Games.
I’ve spent almost 3 decades in various creative positions in the Industry, including Director of Creative Services for Hasbro Europe, VP of Hasbro Europe’s Design Center and then transferred to the East Coast of the US as the SVP of Product Design for Hasbro’s Global Games Division. For 3 years I held the position of VP of Design and Global Business Leader for Spin Masters games division based in Los Angeles. After leaving California I’ve taken the position as VP Product Development for Basic Fun a fast-growing Toy company based in Boca Raton Florida. I’m known as the ‘Toy Boy’ in the family.
Having had such a long career in toys and games I consider “Play is a Human Need” and that social gaming and play are great ways to bond with family and friends, to create platforms for discussion and of course, to make life time memories! …whether you WIN or LOSE!
Ashley Mady – Head Of Brand Development, Basic Fun! President – Women In Toys, Licensing & Entertainment
Ashley has been recognized as a creative hybrid who blends innovation with business. In her current position as Head of Brand Development at Basic Fun!, she leads the conceptualization of the company’s new sustainable brands portfolio, oversees the company’s digital and social media initiatives, and works collaboratively with internal teams on growth plans that drive innovation for new and existing brands.
Prior to joining Basic Fun!, Ashley founded and helmed the brand licensing and creative agency, Brandberry. There she spent close to a decade launching new IP from the ground up, and reinvigorated established brands.
David Winter – Senior Manager, Inventor Relations, Spin Master
As an avid lover of recess and clocking in hundreds of hours of play, David has cultivated a keen sense of fun that has given him the edge into picking product that will delight and excite kids like himself. Part of Spin Master’s Inventor Relations team for almost 10 years, David is on the hunt looking for the next big product hit from inventors around the world.
Karen Kilpatrick – Vice President Of Marketing, Jazwares
Karen Kilpatrick is Vice President of Marketing for Jazwares in addition to heading Jazwares’ innovative online platform, Jazwings, which provides creators and innovators an unparalleled opportunity to launch new brands. She is the creator, along with her two daughters, of one of the Jazwings brands – MeBears. Karen is also the author of Pumpkinheads, an award-winning children’s book series, and has authored several short stories for adults. Previously, Karen founded, built and sold several online businesses in the legal services industry. In 2017, Karen was awarded the Rising Star by Women In Toys, Licensing & Entertainment. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and the NYU School of Law. Karen currently resides in Florida with her three children.
Laura Zebersky – Chief Commercial Officer, Jazwares
Laura oversees Jazwares’ global licensing, marketing, and sales efforts. Under her leadership, Jazwares has successfully launched wildly popular brands such as Peppa Pig, Roblox, and Fiesty Pets. She has been instrumental in developing Jazwares’ European presence and works closely with retailers and licensors around the globe to build Jazwares’ North American and international business. Laura plays a key role in identifying trends and developing global product, marketing, and launch strategy. After obtaining her undergraduate degree from the American University, Laura went on to pursue her Juris Doctor at the University of Miami where she met her future husband and founder of Jazwares, Judd Zebersky. Following a successful run as a trial attorney, she joined Judd at Jazwares in 2006. Laura is the proud mom to three beautiful children, and is an active part of her community as co-founder of ‘Jazwares Cares,’ which is dedicated to supporting the education and development of children in need.
Lisa Wuennemann – VP Of Marketing, PlayMonster
Lisa loves promoting play. As PlayMonster’s Master Marketing Monster, she has spent 20 years making a career of playing with toys to help develop and market the best games and toys for children, families and adults. Lisa has been with PlayMonster (formerly Patch Products) for 15 years, where she delivered fun to brands such as Arby’s, KOA Kampgrounds, Pizza Hit, Curves, Six Flags and Princess Cruises. She manages PlayMonster’s radio, digital, TV advertising and influencer marketing, launching top brands like Chrono Bomb, Yeti in My Spaghetti and My Fairy Garden, and bringing play to guest celebrities on The Ellen Degeneres Show with party games 5 Second Rule and The Game of THINGS. Lisa also manages new product development, brand and innovation research, and inventor relations. Lisa’s hard work, dedication, and playful spirit have made her a respected leader and friend in the toy industry.
Michael Rinzler – Co-President/Founding Partner, Wicked Cool Toys
Michael Rinzler is the Founding Partner and Co-President of Wicked Cool Toys, a Bristol-PA-based multi-brand toymaker with offices in Pennsylvania, California and Hong Kong. Wicked Cool Toys manufacturers action figures, dolls, plush, play sets and more based on proprietary brands and top licenses from partners, including master toy partner for Pokemon, Cabbage Patch Kids and Teddy Ruxpin. Rinzler has a long history in the toy industry dating back 20+ years, and has worked at companies such as MGA, Mattel, Playmates Toys and JAKKS Pacific where he held senior positions, including President of CDI, a JAKKS Pacific company. He is an Advisory Board Member to Women in Toys, a leading toy industry organization, and is an active member in the Toy Association. He is passionate about mentoring and advising fellow entrepreneurs and start-up companies, and has served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. When not working, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Zyta and daughter, Zoe. Rinzler holds his BA from Washington University and his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Vincent Apollo Imaoka – Manager Of Global Toy Acquisitions, Hasbro, Inc.
Vincent was originally born in Los Angeles, California, but moved to Tokyo, Japan to pursue an International MBA. After graduating from Waseda University in Tokyo, he found work as an Assistant Producer in the Japanese entertainment industry, working on projects ranging from Anime to Live Events. As a side project, Vincent also worked as the Japanese Innovation Scout for Hasbro. Eventually, Vincent joined Hasbro’s Global Toy Acquisitions team to help bridge toy inventors all around the world with Hasbro.