Author Archive

Monkey Bars

Posted by at 12 March, 2012, 12:07 pm

monkeybarsMy daughter is a monkey.  The kid can climb, swing and maneuver herself in any direction with minimal effort.  She will pull herself up 12-foot poles or balance at the top of any play structure.  She is strong and has zero fear; two qualities that lead to success in any physical challenge she comes across.  I watch her in awe and do my best to let go of the mother’s fear that she could hurt herself.  Instead, I try to rise to her standard of letting go of the fear of falling, of failure, of hurting myself.  The truth is, she gets scratched and bruised on a daily basis and has come to terms with that is just part of doing what she loves.

I take that challenge with me to the office.  Each day, I put myself out there for rejection, failure and defeat in hopes I will be greeted with acceptance and success on whatever I set out to accomplish. I am doing something I love so I have learned to take any setbacks and funnel it into energy used to push further.

I tried to make it across the monkey bars last weekend only to discover it’s a skill I have lost over the years.  Those little people make it look so easy. I asked my girls to teach me again how to swing from bar to bar.  Their faces lit up trying to give me pointers.  Each time I failed, they presented me with another scenario to see if it would be easier. They took their role as teachers very seriously.  It was clear to me how important it is for my children to see me trying something that challenges me.  From their point of view it is much easier to see a physical challenge rather than the challenge of working with the FCC.   For them to understand the importance of not giving up just because something is difficult is priceless.

Even better was this feeling that they had something to teach me.  Now my children have taught me more than they will ever know since the moment they were born but this is the first time I asked for their direct guidance.  However simple it may seem, it boosted their confidence tremendously.  There are moments in motherhood when you know you’ve hit the mark.  This was one of those moments.   I look forward to everything else they have to share with me throughout the years.  In the meantime, tackling the monkey bars is now written on the pages of my goal book.

What skill have you learned from your children?

Category : Toy Mom

Rekindling the Romance

Posted by at 2 November, 2011, 7:44 pm


I’ve often compared my love for my career to that of any relationship. I have this true love and passion for what I do (or am trying to do) and even on the days when I want to throw in the towel because I hit a wall, I always know I could never turn my back on it. To me, this is what a good relationship is all about. To love someone, or in this case, something, enough to hang in there even when it looks bleak.

Recently, I noticed that my “relationship” with this company has become stale. So, like anything that it worth while, I sat down to figure out how to put that passion and excitement back into my work. Instead of trying to recreate what I’ve done, which I have decided is nearly impossible, I am moving forward. The part of this adventure that was exciting came in the development, in the discovery and in the unknown. It is time for me to get back into the creative mode!

To jump start this, I have put together a presentation and have spent a great deal of time talking to the kids at school. It has not only been educational for me but has boost the energy and excitement in what I do. It has also put deadlines back into my life. I am a big believer in committing to something so you are accountable to complete your goal within a time limit. I promised to take the kids along on this journey so they are expecting to see prototypes. I’m also on my way to a toy convention in a few weeks and am crossing my fingers that this prototype will be making the journey with me! It may or may not happen but that in itself brings the excitement to the project!

How are you rekindling the passion in your career?

Category : Toy Mom

Leap of Faith

Posted by at 18 April, 2011, 9:47 pm

Before having children, I had dreams – BIG, lofty dreams. I was going to do it all! Actually being a mom was never a part of this girl’s agenda. It was going to be me, a loft apartment, a big city view and a dream career.

I sit here now writing as my 6-year old plays in the bathtub. Me has turned into 3; the loft is a place in my home filled with dolls, dolls and more dolls; the view is of the beautiful Rocky Mountains and the career…..well it turns out that the dream career still made the cut but the path to get there was certainly not what I expected.

I had years of freedom and zero responsibility. Looking back, I wish I had taken more chances then but then again, I guess I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s not like I just sat and watched the world go by however I didn’t push myself to the limits I could have and should have done. It wasn’t until my girls were born that I began seeing myself through my Mother’s eyes. I realized the wishes I held for my own daughters were not unlike the wishes she held for me. She has always been my number one supporter while I questioned her sanity. I always felt she gave me way more credit than I deserved but it made sense once I became a mother myself. A mother sees the truth even if no one else can.

Our children learn by watching our actions, and reactions to the world. I did not want to pass my fears and limitations down to them. The thought crossed my mind when my first child was just days old that I can’t expect her to live to her fullest potential when I know I hadn’t lived up to mine. I embarked on my first toy, the Color Bug, without fear of failure even though part of me expected it. If anything, I could teach the girls that failure comes in not trying.

I am grateful to have a mother who always pushed me to be my best. I’m even more grateful that she never gave up on me even during the moments and years I gave up on myself. As mothers, we have the important task to help foster our children’s dreams into reality. Sometimes the best way to do that is by nurturing our own dreams. As the years go by, I continue to push myself to learn new things and take new risks. My children continue to inspire me to reach further. Originally I did it to be a good example for them but now I do it for me too.

Today I watched as my 6-year-old jumped off the diving board into the deep end of the pool for the first time. She looked down and said “wow, that’s deep”; then climbed up the ladder without any hesitation. She had faith in herself and she had faith that I would be there if she needed me. It is in these moments that I am reminded just how much joy can be achieved from trying something new. When is the last time you took a leap of faith into uncharted waters?

Category : Inspirational Stories | Toy Mom | Uncategorized

Cultural Creating

Posted by at 1 April, 2011, 12:01 pm

I read a blog today regarding the ever-changing face of the American child.  It was written by Richard Gottlieb, a man who is well respected in the toy industry and by all who meet him.   He writes:

I continue to be amazed by the rapid change in the American child population. In a New York Times article entitled, “Among Nation’s Youngest, Analysis Finds Fewer Whites,” we learn that “whites continued to decline as a share of the American population … [now representing] less than half of all 3-year-olds….”  Not only that but “whites [are] now in the minority in nursery schools, preschools and kindergartens in eight states — Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.”  Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana are close behind.

I don’t know for sure but I would bet that the average member of the American toy industry is mid-40 and white.   Not only that, but most of the people that that person sees in their community and their workplace look pretty much the same.

It is for that reasons that it will be no easy task for the industry to intuit the changes that are taking place in America.  Whether we can or cannot, we better start sensitizing ourselves and the rest of our industry to the reality that the kid in our heads (probably white and blonde) is not the kid who is playing with our products.

Look around.  It’s a different world.


Like all who know him, I think highly of Richard so it’s with all due respect that I am going to challenge this thought.  I absolutely agree that the world around us has morphed into the melting pot we have always claimed to be.  Perhaps the word minority will be stripped out of the language and we will come to understand that we are simply just people with similar hopes and dreams.  The cultural differences are no longer held in the color of our skin but in the culture of our homes.

This piece made me take note of my creative process.  Do I put a specific child in the picture?  Am I targeting a demographic?  The answer was no.  I create from my 5-year old mind.  That mind does not hold judgment on race, age, or tax brackets.  That mind thinks simply about what is fun.  I understand completely that the new toy industry looks at the bottom line, the target market and what is the newest licensed figure they can exploit.  However I believe what is lost in boardroom decisions of what to put on a shelf is the magic of the industry.

My children and I could spend an afternoon with a deck of UNO cards and a lot of laughter.  This is an example of the purity of the toy industry from days gone by.  It’s a game that can be enjoyed by everyone.   It is why the old games are still the most popular games.  They were created simply for the fun of play without the need to become the next big thing.

So I ask my fellow inventors, what is your creative process?  At what point does culture and or race come into the picture?  Or is this the beauty of the small company that we just get to create from the dream world as opposed to needing to hit our numbers.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw

Category : For Inventors | Inventing | Product Development | Toy Mom

Life is a Highway…..

Posted by at 9 October, 2009, 12:54 pm

I have been MIA from the mompreneurs online forum for several months sorting out my own world. Interestingly enough I have come back to find several members have spent the summer doing the same. Re-evaluating, stepping back, prioritizing, and some have just been plain old burnt out. We begin these ventures full of excitement and hope. We truly believe that we can conquer the world. This rush keeps us motivated, helps put products on shelves or services into action until BAM, you hit “The Dip”! The Dip? It is the time when your engine has run out of steam and you just aren’t sure where to go next. I swore it would never happen to me because I LOVE what I do. Yet it did. For me it came at the point between the creation and the running of the business. The creating part was amazing….running a business is a whole other story. There is not much glamour or excitement in boxing up your 300th box at 10pm or filing a stack of paperwork. I wanted to keep on creating but in order to do that; you need to keep moving the business side onward and upward. So who should I blame that I can’t build the business fast enough to keep up with my own demands? The economy? The product/service…maybe it’s not as good as I think it is? Or my attitude? Ding Ding Ding!!!!

We can blame the economy but there are success stories that come out every day of people who’ve beaten the odds. We can blame our product or service but, again, there are a million ways people are making money every day that might seem odd to most. I like to compare this journey to driving a car. When we are taught to drive, we are told that in order to switch lanes you don’t need to crank your wheel, you just need to look in the direction of the lane you want to be in and your car will follow. The same is true in business. As long as you sit and blame the world for your Dip, look at someone else thinking they have some magic key that you don’t or doubt your own abilities to be successful; you are leading your car into that lane…the lane heading the opposite direction of your goal.

Instead, let’s look towards the other lane….the one where you are a success, where everything falls into place easily; where your goals and balanced life exist…steer your car in that direction. You can never become successful if you don’t believe it first. Silly daydreaming to some perhaps but the only way you are going to reach your destination is if you point your car in the right direction.

“When you step to the ledge of all the light you have left, and you take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you step upon, or you will learn how to fly.” Unknown

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug,

Category : Meeting Goals | Running Your Business | Toy Mom


Posted by at 12 July, 2008, 10:09 am

I realized last night after a discussion with a friend regarding our booth selections at Toy Fair that I never talked about picking a booth. There are a few good things to consider when choosing your booth. First of all, the first time out, you don’t get much of a choice. Don’t be discouraged by this, it’s a seniority thing. Each year you will accumulate points that give you a higher ranking and therefore a better booth selection.? Even so, keep in mind these few pointers:

1.DON’T GO NEAR A POLE. You are going to be told that the pole won’t obstruct your view or the pole will give you more space between you and the booth next to you. Sounds good right?? NOPE. These poles are about 4 feet in diameter. Unless you’ve been to a show there and have seen the placement of the booths, odds are the poles are close enough to the aisle to completely obstruct you. So what is going to happen is your buyer will be walking down the aisle, they look at the booth before yours, and then see a pole.? Their eyes will then turn to look to the other side of the aisle. Considering your booth is likely 10×10, it takes all of 4 steps to get completely past you. Within 2 steps, a buyers eyes are already looking down the aisle at the next booth So in essence, the pole causes the eyes to go away from your side of the aisle and by the time the buyer looks back, he’s past you. I’ve been near a pole, I watched this happen for 4 me on this ..don’t go near a pole!

2.You want to look at how the buyers are entering the area. In regards to the toy fair, they will be coming down an escalator.  Get on the aisle where the escalator comes down. They will walk down that aisle first. If you can’t get on the aisle that is an obvious entrance point (these aisles will fill up faster) then look at how people will flow through the space. Try to stay away from the back or side sections. The more central you can be, the better.

3.Look at the other companies and where they are positioned. Often times you can see the placement from the year before. Try to position yourself next to bigger, more well known companies. They will have buyers who will be seeking them out and in return, will find you.

4. A corner booth is worth the extra money. But they are very hard to come by. A corner booth gives you traffic from 2 directions. Not everyone goes up and down every aisle and this will expose you to people who either wouldn’t have gone down your aisle or might have missed you because you didn’t listen to me and took the spot near the pole.

For those of you attending the Toy Fair, make sure your applications are in! The sooner you get the application in, the higher you are in the pile for booth selection. Early bird gets the worm!!

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

Debbi Fields
Founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Do you have what it takes?

Posted by at 18 May, 2008, 9:16 pm

Do you have what it takes to be a millionaire?? That was a topic of conversation on a recent Donny Deutsch episode. I thought that these questions from Cynthia good, CEO and founding editor of PINK Magazine, were so great that I wanted to share them to make you decide if you are on the right path.

1.Are you willing to take an honest look at your life

2.Are you willing to say I’m Outta Here

3.Are you willing to have doors slammed in your face

4.Are you willing to go without sleep and sacrifice your personal time

5.Are you willing to be different, and create something unique

6.Are you willing to put everything on the line and risk your personal assets

After doing a study of successful millionaires, Cynthia discovered that they answered YES to all six questions. Can you answer YES to all six?? If not, maybe it’s time to take a look and reevaluate you path.

“Fix your eyes forward on what you can do, not back on what you cannot change” Tom Clancy

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Social Networking

Posted by at 10 May, 2008, 8:44 pm

Taking a step away from tradeshows for a moment, the big topic today seems to be about social networking. We have sites like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc that are all about networking and connecting with each other. Through our own connections, we might be able to link two friends together to help in business or social. I’m surprised Kevin Bacon’s name isn’t on the top of these sites to see how we can all be linked some how to him. It’s an interesting concept but I wonder how many of us take advantage of it. Then there are many other review sites: StumbleUpon, Digg, Trend Hunter, Viewpoints .all ways to get the word out about your website, product, service or business.

I’m putting my company out there since I believe it can’t hurt. Even if you get one lead, that lead might turn into another. I am interested to hear about everyone’s experience with this new form of social networking.

“Real obstacles don’t take you in circles. They can be overcome. Invented ones are like a maze.” Barbara Sher

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Tradeshow 101: Checklist of items to bring with you

Posted by at 5 May, 2008, 8:14 pm

Packing for the tradeshow needs a little thought especially if you have to ship items. You will most likely have to have everything packed up 2 weeks or more in advance depending on how or where you are going to ship it. If you are driving, then you have a little more leeway however you need to review the laws of the convention center on what you are allowed to carry in versus what the union has to do for you. Usually if you can carry it with one person or roll it, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Here is a general checklist of the items I would recommend having along:

  • Scotch Tape
  • Masking Tape
  • Duct Tape
  • 2-sided Tape
  • Velcro

Seems over kill I know BUT you never know when some part of your booth is going to fail you and you need a quick fix.?

  • Scissors
  • Pens
  • Lint Brush (this helps clean up table clothes, a quick carpet clean…because you do have to pay for them to vacuum, or if you have a popup booth with fabric sides)
  • Stapler
  • Binder for leads
  • Sell Sheets/Catalogs
  • Price list
  • Media Kits
  • Business Cards
  • Quick easy snacks. I brought Power Bars because you often don’t get time to eat.
  • Water or other beverage
  • Mints (I don’t recommend gum)
  • Camera (you are not allowed to take pictures of other booths without permission nor are they allowed to take a picture of yours.? I stopped more than one photograph)
  • Screwdrivers/tools that you will need to assemble your booth or for your product.
  • Power strip
  • Extension cords
  • Extra lighting to brighten up the booth. (you will get charged for electricity)
  • Extra product for samples to buyers. You do not need to give a free sample to each buyer and often times they will offer to pay for it. Quite often the buyers will ask for samples to be sent so they don’t have to carry so much during the show.

Obviously don’t forget the basic elements of your booth and your product to showcase.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Tradeshow 101: Marketing

Posted by at 25 April, 2008, 9:17 pm

It’s true that you could attend a tradeshow without spending any effort on marketing but if you want to make the most of the show, I highly recommend letting the world know that you are planning on being there.perhaps not the world but at the very least a nice cross section of attendees.

Before the show

A buyer sometimes needs to see you several times before taking interest in your product. The truth is that often times they might not even fully understand your product at first. I send out postcards prior to the show and had one buyer come up to my booth saying that he saw the card and threw it in the garbage.As he was walking away, it occurred to him that it wasn’t just another RC toy on the postcard. He pulled it from the garbage, read more about the Color Bug and ended up at my booth placing an order. Therefore I HIGHLY recommend sending out a postcard prior to the show with your product information, picture of the product, company website/contact info and don’t forget the booth number!! While this does add an expense, I had several people stop by my booth because of the postcard I sent to them. Remember that your booth is one of hundreds, possibility thousands so anything you can do to increase your odds of sales, the better. That 19 cent postcard may easily turn into an account worth hundreds. I had more than one person comment on receiving my postcards and each of them that did were there to place an order.

How do I know who to send them to?? Most shows do offer the ability to buy mailing lists with the names of the buyers who meet your criteria. This is an expense but sometimes you can narrow down and just get the names of the buyers to the larger stores since these are the people most difficult to obtain.

There are a few creative ways of getting lists of names of potential small specialty stores without paying for a mailing list.Of course you can’t guarantee that all of these stores will be in attendance at the show but shows coincide with the buying patterns for the industry so even if a store is not in attendance, they are gearing up to buy.

  1. Yellow pages online. You can search for different store types and compile a list this way. It’s a long process but you can limit it to major cities. Also keep in mind that you are going to get a better turn out of the stores that are located in the region where the show is occurring. It’s expensive for the buyers to attend these shows as well if you factor in travel, food and lodging so you will always have a higher turnout from the local customers.
  2. Look up any of the organizations that are associated with your industry. For instance, ASTRA is the Association for Specialty Toy Retailers. If you go to their site, you will find a list of all of their members. ASTRA holds a huge event at the Toy Fair so many of the members come to network with their peers as well as go to the Toy Fair.
  3. Go to another company that is more established than you are and see where they are selling. I did this and it was a painful process to build a spreadsheet but it gave me sources that I would not have otherwise considered.

Just remember, when you are building a list of customers to target, it might be a long process but put together an organized spreadsheet that you will then be able to work off of. You don’t want to recreate the wheel every year.

In addition to the buyers, there is also the media to consider. Ask your contact at the tradeshow if there is a media area and if you are eligible to put your media kit in that area. Often times you need to belong to the organization putting on the show in order to get the media access.In addition, you might also be able to get a listing of the media who will be attending so you can send emails and postcards out to them in advance.

Notify your local newspaper and news stations that your company is planning on attending the show. Often times the media is going to run a story on the tradeshow anyway and they love to have a local company that they can spotlight. Major shows like Toy Fair are covered on every station during the time of the show so take advantage of the timing. Also keep in mind that you might live in Charlotte but grew up in Dallas so contact media in both cities with a different spin on the release Local Company launches product at Toy Fair vs Dallas Native launches product at Toy Fair. In addition, make sure you contact your college, high school, neighbor publications etc.Each of these types of publications enjoys the human interest side of your story.

The tradeshows usually have daily news that they publish.? Contact the media representative for the show to submit the press release and a photo.

During the show

I will be talking about all the things you should bring with you to the show in another post but the one thing I can’t stress enough is making sure you have an effective way of capturing your leads. Make sure you take business cards from everyone! Don’t be afraid to ask if they don’t readily offer them to you most of them will not. In addition, have a 3-ring binder that you can put names of the buyers who say they don’t have any more business cards. This is also helpful to have a sheet where you can staple a card and make notes regarding the conversation you had with that person.

Another way, a little more expensive but the buyers LOVE, is the electronic scanner that allows you to scan their badge. At the end of the show you get access to an excel spreadsheet that gives you all the information.

Keep in mind that people move quickly in and out of the booths so you need to be organized to get as much information as quickly as you can. It’s Murphy’s Law that your booth is either empty or crowded but rarely do you get to just have a steady flow.

After the show

Follow up on all leads that you obtained at the show.Send emails, catalogs in the mail, etc. The buyers have seen so much during a short period of time that they need reminders. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of consistency in your company branding. Keep you postcards, media kits, booth graphics, business cards; sell sheets all a very consistent look. This way, the buyer will start to recognize you as a company.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Nelson Mandela

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom