Guest post by Mary Couzin
Mary Couzin is Founder and President of Chicago Toy & Game Group, and hosts a series of events each November celebrating play and innovation. Mary was honored with the inaugural Elise Lachowyn Mentorship Award at the 2017 Wonder Women Awards Gala.
I don’t remember there ever being a time where so many companies were looking for new ideas from both kid and adult inventors!
For our ChiTAG Inventor Conferences, we have over 80 product acquisition executives from across the globe looking for ideas from both professional inventors and new inventors! And those same executives are looking for ideas from our Young Inventor Challenge entrants at our Chicago Toy & Game Fair the weekend following the conferences.
The Young Inventor Challenge (YIC) is one of our passion projects and is now in its 11th year. Several entrants have received licensing agreements over the years, but last year’s winners, Olivia and Brynna, two 10-year old girls, got their game, Ship of Treasures, licensed by Pressman Toy and into Target as an exclusive. It has sold out in many locations and we just found out they are donating a large portion of their royalties to Lurie Children’s Hospital in memory of a classmate who died. It was their third year entering the YIC – they have persistence as well as creativity and a big heart.
Promoting inventors fits our mission of play and innovation. We’ve long felt that toy and game inventors are not treated like their creative counterparts in film, music, literary or culinary worlds. As inventor/filmmaker/author Tim Walsh says, “If you sell a million songs, you are on the cover of Rolling Stone. A million books, the New York Best Seller List. But if you sell over 60 million Jengas, no one knows who you are… and Leslie Scott is awesome!”
We are excited to see a trend where toy and game companies feature inventors on their packaging and promotional material. At our Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards (TAGIEs) this year, we are honoring Lisa Guili of Educational Insights, an early advocate of including inventors on packaging and telling the story of the product. She recognized early on that consumers want to connect with the products they purchase and has said their sales are proof of concept!
As a person who has been involved in different roles in a variety of industries, it is the toy and game inventing that people find most interesting. When I wear my “Yes, Toy and Game Inventing is a Job!” t-shirt, I get stopped everywhere I go because people find it fascinating. They want to hear stories about the inventors of their favorite toys and games. Mattel and ABC’s successful TV Show “The Toy Box” also demonstrates how important the connection is to the products people love as well as how fascinated people are by inventors.
At our Chicago Toy & Game Fair, consumers of all ages, media and social influencers love meeting, playing with and writing about the inventors. For the inventors and the exhibitors, it is the largest focus group in the wild – no better place to test your product and receive feedback as well as be reminded of why we are in our industry and our important role in the world promoting and creating play. Our 15th Anniversary for the Fair and our 10th Toy & Game Inventor and Innovation Awards event is coming up next week and we are excited to welcome attendees from around the world to make connections, find partners, get licensed, and to celebrate play and innovation!