Patti Becker from Becker Associates on where agents add value, success at Mojo… And the secret of their longevity

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
Having licensed over 1000 products, and generated more than $2 billion in sales, Jonathan and Patti Becker run Anjar Co. and Becker Associates.

These award-winning agencies are leading licensors, distributors and designers of toys and games. They specialise in global licensing, brand management and product development.

We caught up with Patti to hear what she hopes to discover at the 2020 Mojo Nation pitch – and what she accomplished at the 2019 event…

Patti, thanks for making time… I’ve wanted to tie in ever since we had that lovely pitch meeting last year! My first question is this: what do you think is the biggest misconception about agents and what they do?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that agents reduce the amount of income that inventors can earn from their ideas. In fact, the right agent adds value and can substantially enhance income earned on an invention.

Can you give a “for instance” of that?
An agent might obtain a license deal that never would have happened without that agent’s know-how and connections… So, for example, we have global relationships with hundreds of toy companies that we’ve developed over the past 50-plus years. In addition to our product-development expertise, these relationships let us quickly identify and reach hundreds of potential licensees… And the increased exposure creates more opportunities.

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
And am I right in saying you licensed a couple of items from last year’s Mojo event this way?

Yes, and quite quickly; just a few months after starting our representation and presentation of the items. Our clients, which include amateur and professional inventors, and toy companies, have told us they feel we add considerable value through our expertise and experience, beginning with showing them great products that are a good fit for them.

You had a couple of other successes at last year’s Mojo event. What can you tell us about them?
Yes, in all we represented four new concepts from the Mojo 2019 event. One, from Brett Gilbert is called JigStars. It’s a simple but very original and really fun concept, that cleverly crosses two basic categories at a popular price point. It can be used by any age from six to 106, so it was of immediate interest to us as a party game that could be an ice breaker.

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
So just walk us through that… Brett showed you on the day – then what?

Within a few months, we licensed JigStars to Funskool, a manufacturer and distributor in India. We’ve worked with Funskool for more than a dozen years! JigStars will be a Q4 2020 release in India… It’s under consideration for the rest of the world for a 2021 release.

Another product – well, really a brand line – that we represented and licensed from last year’s Mojo event, was from Duncan Fitzsimmons… As soon as we saw Duncan’s concept, we all had an immediate WOW moment.

And why was was that? What caused the WOW moment?
We immediately knew that this one single item had the potential to be much more…we saw it as a brand that we could develop it across multiple categories. Within just a few months, we signed a license for the concept to a major global toy company for 2021 release.

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
Great! So let’s back up a little… When you see something like that, what happens next? How do we go from sitting with the Beckers – good name for a book! How do we go from sitting with the Beckers to making progress?

Well, once we see something we like, that we believe is licensable, we communicate our interest in representing the ideas to the inventors.

Right then? In the room?
Yes, often we have a gut feeling about what we believe is a great AND licensable concept. That’s what we did with the inventor concepts from Mojo 2019. We then quite quickly consummated an agreement of representation with the inventors. We also prepared presentations of the inventions, and hosted those on our private inventor portal…

And that’s an online portal?
Right. But it’s private; it’s not open to the public… We then arranged demonstrations for our customers, brainstormed with the inventor and licensee to create brand extensions, made additional prototypes, got costing, developed packaging concepts, sent prototypes to our customers, drafted, negotiated and executed license agreements. We also got costing, developed marketing strategies, tweaked  instructions, and created packaging concepts.

Actually, when you put it like that, that sounds like a heck of a lot of work!
Yes! Those are some of the services we provide! Most importantly, the result is a strong license agreement with good, solid growth companies – and with a strong commitment to the brands, to maximise the brand’s exposure. It also provides those products with the best chance of success. Some of the manufacturers we license to, we’ve worked with for 50 years. We’ve worked with Funskool for almost 15.

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
Well, this is something Bill’s covered in an interview, which we’ll link to, but you and your husband Jonathan – who’s also your business partner – have been in the industry a long time…

Yes! Jonathan is a third-generation toy person, and a leading IP Attorney, focusing on the toy industry for the past 35 years and he’s frequently asked to act as an expert in licensing matters.

My background and expertise is in early child development, education, and marketing. Between us, we have more than 80 years in the toy business, developing and licensing toys, games and children’s products.

My word! 80 years’ experience! What’s the secret of your longevity?
Really, I’d say our passion for people and play… And having a positive influence on kids and their development.

At the other end of the spectrum, what specific pitching tips would you give new inventors?
First, know your customers, including their current product lines, their wish list, and which new categories – if any – they’re interested in. Second, be prepared to distinguish your invention…

Patti Becker, Becker Associates
Distinguish it?

Yes – make clear what’s novel or new about the item, against other competitive items. Finally, it’s often critically important to know, and be able to explain to toy companies, the legal protection available to protect the concept from being knocked-off… In other words, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and so on.

It helps to know – but you don’t have to have all that sorted before pitching to you, do you?
Oh no; not at all; you don’t need to patent, trademark or copyright ideas before submitting them to Becker Associates. In fact, we can and do advise on options for legal protection and market positioning.

Okay. Good answer, thank you. So! It’s 2020: you’re seeing inventors pitch at the Mojo Nation online event… Obviously, you’re looking to find ideas and develop them into licensable concepts. What advice would you give inventors who want to use an agent?
Call us, email us, reach out to us any way you can, today or whenever you have new ideas. You can reach us at PBecker@BeckerAssoc.com! We’re always looking for innovative ideas and technologies. We’ll help develop and pitch your concepts and brands to manufacturers around the world for licensing and distribution.

Super! Thank you Patti. Always lovely to see you; I was sorry we couldn’t chat in New York… You were so busy! One last question: if you were to write your autobiography, what would you call it?
A Passion for Play

Simple as that! Course, that leaves me clear to do my unauthorised book, Sitting with the Beckers! Thanks again, Patti.

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