Andrew, thanks for making time – I know how busy you are! Let’s start with the easy one: with which toys and games did you play when you were growing up?
I was a big LEGO and Playmobile fan, but Uno and Monopoly were also favourites!
Today, you work for toy-and-hobby behemoth Dan Dee International. What do you do there?
As Director of Global Licensing and International Sales, I work with our existing licensors to help develop programs across all categories of plush and seasonal products… That includes toys, pet, baby and home décor, as well as seeking out new licensing opportunities for global markets.
Crikey; sounds like a lot!
Outside North America, I also develop the international business for Dan Dee and Animal Adventure, with a focus on new product formats and own-brand development.
As a world leader in design and manufacturing, what’s Dan Dee’s USP? How did the company become such a force?
Our company’s been around for over 65 years, so our relationships with retailers and factories have been ongoing for decades. These unique relationships have led to Dan Dee developing a large capacity for product design and sourcing which has positioned us a go-to supplier for many top retailers.
And can you give us an idea of the company’s output?
We have close to 200 product designers and samplers located across the US and Asia. We develop tens-of-thousands of unique products each year, designed to serve all market sectors. Our large designer base and leverage with factories allows us to quickly pivot and adapt to trends.
Your products include a number of licensed ranges: Peanuts, Garfield, Curious George, and Rudolph. What is it you look for in a licensing partnership, though?
We look for licensors who want to build long-lasting programs. Many of our most successful licenses have being developed over years, with product innovation and trend-driven designs helping to expand listings over time.
With the volume of product we produce each year, we’re very thoughtful about what licenses we acquire and how they fit into our wider business. The nature of the license, being an entertainment or consumer brand, is secondary to how well IP can translate into our product formats and fit with our customers.
So when you’re looking to develop a new product or range, what’s your process?
The process of developing a new product line can take many different paths depending on how the initial concept came about. We often invest in consumer research to guide our product design and features, our in-house designers are experts in creating new formats, and we also work with outside agencies to help bring concepts to life.
How important is creativity in what you do? And where do you get new ideas?
Creativity and innovation are essential for any company to be thriving after over 65 years in the toy business! Our team is constantly looking at global markets and trends to inform our product development. With a global footprint, ideas are not in short supply.
I’m curious to ask, then: is creativity more an art or a science for you?
Plush is such a tactile and emotive product, so the artistic skills of our designers and production line are essential to our success.
Finally, Andrew, what’s next for Dan Dee International?
We continue to be a market leader in the US and expand our global footprint! We’re also looking forward to meeting inventors during the Mojo Nation Pitch, and exploring new ideas and formats to be a part of our continued growth.
Lovely! Well, I sincerely hope you find some great ideas! In the meantime, thank you for joining us.
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