Guest Post: 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 and in 2009 for Women in Toys Entrepreneur Award.
With so many companies looking for new ideas to license, it is clear that innovation and inventors are trending – both kid and adult inventors!
As someone who has been involved in different roles in a variety of industries, I find that it is 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. The Netflix show “The Toys that Made Us” also demonstrates how important the connection is to the products people love as well as how fascinated people are by inventors.
Each November just before Thanksgiving, we host Chicago Toy & Game Week, a series of trade and consumer events promoting and celebrating play and innovation. This years events take place November 15-18, and here’s what we have in store:
The Young Inventor Challenge (YIC) is one of our passion projects and is now in its 12th year. Last year we had three participants receive licensing agreements – Goliath licensed one and PlayMonster licensed two! Our presenting sponsor, Target, is set to exclusively feature a second winning game, and we gave $10,000 is scholarships to winners in six categories. It is wonderful to see top executives in retail, manufacturing and inventing giving back as mentors to these kids. Every entrant receives feedback on their idea and schools across North America are making it part of their curriculum. Our Director, Alicia Alexander, has taken the Challenge to a new level and we even have a video submission category now so entrants don’t have to travel to Chicago. A huge thank you to the sponsors that make this effort possible: Target, Goliath, PlayMonster, Spin Master, LEGO, TIA and Razor.
Check out some of our rock star Young Inventors here:
ChiTAG Inventor Conferences will include over 50 companies coming from around the globe looking for ideas from professional inventors, new inventors and design students in attendance! Many of these same executives are looking for ideas from our Young Inventor Challenge entrants at our Chicago Toy & Game Fair the weekend following the conferences.
Promoting inventors fits The Chicago Toy & Game Group’s mission of play and innovation. Toy and game inventors are not regarded and utilized 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 70 million Jengas, no one knows who you are… and Leslie Scott is awesome!”
This void led to founding our elegant and playful Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards (TAGIEs) to celebrate the hot and innovative products of the year by celebrating the inventors and design teams behind those products. Consumers today want to know the story behind the products they are buying. We are telling the story. We appreciate these sponsors for supporting this event: Hasbro, The Michael Kohner Corporation, Mattel, Leslie Scott and Oxford Games.
At the 16th annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair, consumers of all ages, trade, media and social influencers love meeting, playing with and writing about the products and inventors. For retailers and trend experts, they can see what consumers want. Year after year retailers such as Target have discovered some of their top sellers at the Fair. For the exhibitors, it is the largest focus group in the world – 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 events are coming up next month and we are excited to welcome attendees from around the world to make connections, find partners, get licensed, and to celebrate play and innovation! Join us as a Fair exhibitor, Conference attendee, TAGIE celebrant or Fair attendee – the trade (and their families) have always been welcomed as our guests at the Fair. Hope to see you in November!