Having spent over 13 years at Flair, this year has seen Pete Ridgewell leave the company to launch his own product development studio, Spectrum.
We caught up with Pete to learn more about what Spectrum can offer inventors and toy firms, as well as how he’s been fuelling his creativity in lockdown.
Hi Pete, so to kick things off, how did you get started in the toy space?
It was a total accident! I left a good role as a Design Engineer at 3M to spend a winter windsurfing in Cape Town. When I got back, it was a case of…what now!
One on my interviews was with Hasbro. I initially went just for interview practice, as I hadn’t previously considered toys, but I ended up spending 12 years at Hasbro working on Games, Creative Play, Action Man and I was part of the formation of the innovation team initially called Blue Rocket.
Having initially not considered toys, I imagine there’s few better places to start a career in play than Hasbro?
Yes, well looking back it felt like a university of toy development. We were schooled in the ways of full and complete product development cycles. You learned how to do it properly but as experience grew, we also learned how to assess risk and when and how to accelerate the schedule without adversely affecting the end product.
Great stuff, and from there, Flair?
Yes, I then joined Flair as Product Development Manager and then the pace really picked up! Many products, many hats, more creativity and people management. Flair also massively honed my commercial skills as I had so much exposure across the whole business.
You’ve been in the industry since 1995. What have been some of the biggest changes to hit the industry since then, and has your approach to product development changed much in this time?
I’ve seen huge changes. Products have to work harder and harder to be successful. Impactful unique features, lower prices, being faster to market, less reliant on licences, thinner sliced licences; just some of the evolutions! Packaging has also changed significantly with it playing much more of an important role in the toy experience.
Now you’ve left Flair, what are your focusing on now with your new venture, Spectrum?
My skills are very wide ranging and cover the whole spectrum of the product development cycle. I can fit in at most points from ideation to production. Where I have specialist gaps – like illustration and CAD – I have the experience to manage these aspects via first class contacts and partners.
And how do you envision working with the inventor community with your new venture? What should they reach out to you for help with?
Over the years I have worked on many new internal and inventor concepts. I can help inventors with:
– Ideation/brainstorms: I can bring insights from a toy company perspective.
– Practical solutions: I can help make that great idea real while keeping the magic of the original concept.
– Costing: Estimating, factory costing and cost engineering.
– Project managing from concept to production using top level toy specialists where necessary.
Great stuff, and can I ask, how do you fuel your creativity? And was it helped or hindered by lockdown?
I love to play and create with my 8 and 10 year old kids. Lockdown was definitely a creative opportunity. LEGO is massive in our house and during lockdown we created the LEGO challenge: we took two sets of random words which we combined to create in 3D!
We made wooden figures and card playsets. We had watercolour painting sessions around Richmond. We also had ‘Game Workshop’ sessions where we would each design a game and rules and make it from cardboard. It was amazing what the kids came up with.
That sounds incredible! I might have a go at your LEGO challenge myself! As we’ve mentioned, you’ve been in toys for years now; what is it about this industry that you love?
I love the way a good toy excites and is enjoyed by the child. I also feel lucky to have met so many talented friends and colleagues in the industry.
Brill, thanks again for taking time out Pete, and good luck with all things Spectrum!
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