Julie Kerwin WIT Stories

How long have you been a WIT member?
Since 2014 – right before launching our Kickstarter campaign.

What is your single best piece of business advice?
I have two sons, and they are big fans of the television show Mythbusters. One of the hosts, Adam Savage, popularized the saying, “failure is always an option.” I urge everyone to embrace that motto and learn to love it. Because, even if your business endeavor ultimately succeeds, there will be failures along the way. It is unavoidable. IAmElemental has certainly had its fair share (though I prefer to call them “Rookie Mistakes”). Accepting the fact that failure is not just an option, but a prerequisite to success has materially changed the way I live and the choices that I make. The key is flexibility and the ability to brainstorm your way out of a problem.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
My work day starts with a walk. After I drop my younger son off at school, I head home through Central Park. On that walk, I think and create. For example, for weeks I spent every morning composing the IAmElemental Kickstarter video script in my head. When I finally sat down to write it, most of my key phrases and themes had already been outlined on my morning stroll, and it flowed right out of me. Once I arrive at home, I spend some time on the internet reading articles and researching whatever questions I have pertaining to our current projects. I find this just as helpful to my creative process as my free-thinking walks. I am a big picture to small picture learner. I love to amass massive amounts of applicable knowledge. Then, I slowly sift through it on my walks, breaking it down into digestible bits, until I find exactly what I need to move forward.

What is your favorite productivity tip?
I am obsessive about keeping my work email to fewer than 50 emails. I have an obscene number of folders, and as soon as I tackle an email it gets filed. When emails move to page two, they are more likely to get forgotten and problems can arise. I avoid this by keeping everything on page one.

What drew you into the toy industry?
I believe that if we change the way children play when they are young, we can change the way they think as they grow older. Putting strong, realistic female action figures in a girl’s hands will impact the stories she tells. A girl who envisions herself saving the day when she plays will go out into the world better equipped to emulate the strong women who inspire her – be they a favorite teacher, a prominent world leader, or a historic figure like Joan of Arc. Armed and confident in her Superpowers, she just might become a real Superhero herself one day. Having said that, we are not anti-doll or anti-princess. We believe that there is room in a child’s toy box for both dolls and IAmElemental action figures. However, they are very different things.That difference is at the heart of our tagline: If you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story. And, to be clear, as the mother of two boys, I think that it is equally important that boys have the opportunity to play with a strong, healthy image of a female action figure as it is for girls. How can we hope to promote the notion of gender equality if we only teach girls what it means to be a powerful woman?

What unique challenges does the toy industry present?
There are a number of challenges unique to the toy industry. However, manufacturing is at the top of my list. For, while IAmElemental has been very lucky, relatively speaking, we have had our share of both production and transportation issues. I have a lot more access than I would have had ten years ago. I can email and Skype with my factory in China 24/7. Today’s freight-forwarding companies are more accessible and transparent than they used to be. FedEx delivers prototypes in no time at all, and so on. Nevertheless, having to completely give over production of my action figures to someone on the other side of the world has been a challenge. It is, perhaps, naive of me, but I would love to see the U.S. toy industry form a coalition and develop a plan to build factories in the United States. Playmobil has its factories in Malta, Spain, and Germany. The company is an outlier, of course. But, maybe, they could also be a model.