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Behind the scenes tour: Exploring the magic of a US toy inventor’s workshop

Ever wondered what takes place in a toy inventor’s workshop? One that has operated in the US over a period of almost 30 years? I did – which is why Real Business was granted a tour of Chicago-based Big Monster Toys with CEO and president Don Rosenwinkel.
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As a kid, each year I’d know that Christmas had truly arrived from the Toys R Us advert arriving on TV screens – good old Geoffrey the Giraffe. The fact that a piece of marketing material can have such an impact on a young mind and still provide a feeling of nostalgia today is hugely powerful.

But what would Toys R Us be without the heroes behind the scenes? I am, of course, referring to the very human, non-Elven, toy inventors dreaming up the products that hit the stores in force throughout the year, every year.

It’s said that creativity and inspiration can be found in many different environments, from the shower to dreams, but a business with a sole purpose of inventing is something else entirely.

In a world where many children are glued to their parents’ smartphones and tablets, Big Monster Toys (BMT) in Chicago has continued to thrive. Operating over three decades, the company invents an idea and sells the IP to the corporate toy giants including Mattel, Hasbro and so on – but we’ll come to that in a separate interview piece.

BMT’s CEO and president Don Rosenwinkel was kind enough to provide a personal tour of the workshop during my time in the Windy City – when in attendance at the Sage Summit – to offer insight on what it takes to continue running in a business in a marketplace that has seen great change over the years.

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“This is where we show all the products. It’s all about secrecy. One of our clients may invest $3m, $4m, $5m to get a product to market, maybe even $10m, so they’ve got to know nobody else knows about that idea. So this room is designed to look like a bank vault, really secure,” said Rosenwinkel.

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Vision

Paint a picture for your customers to encourage that buy-in. Why do they need your service or products? BMT leaves nothing to chance.

“We do what are called sizzle films, which are basically mini or full-blown commercials. Part of what we’re doing is selling the marketing idea too, so we’re saying here’s how you should market it. We basically make a commercial for everything we create,” detailed Rosenwinkel.

It’s easy enough for businesses to create videos with smartphones these days, many of which come with in-built editing tools, in order to encourage a market appetite. However, BMT comes equipped with green and blue screens, which allows staff to superimpose backgrounds and so on.

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Rosenwinkel made it clear that the territory I was now entering was not open the public and kindly requested I let him know if I wanted to take any pictures, so as to prevent any of the firm’s valuable secrets escaping. Continue the tour on the next page.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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