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September 2011 | Vol. X - No. 9
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11 Manufacturers Speak: What Inspired Me to Create My First Product

Making Almost Anything Out Of Practically Nothing


Have you ever looked at a toy and wondered (for better or for worse!), "how did someone think that up?" At TDmonthly, we're always interested in the stories behind toys, so we asked manufacturers what inspired them to get involved in the toy business. From doodles come to life to a card game created while in the Air Force, the manufacturers below make it clear that with a little creativity and business savvy you can create a toy or game out of almost anything.

Keep an eye out for full-length interviews with many of these companies in future issues of TDmonthly; any previously published interviews are linked to the respondents name. Companies whose status could not be confirmed are in smaller font at the end of the article.

What inspired you to create your first toy and start your company?

Steve Hurd, Creator, WESTWORK DESIGNS: In architecture school, my favorite period in history was when the great cathedrals of the world were being built. I had always liked playing with building blocks and tried building a cathedral type of building with some of my blocks, to no avail. The set didn't have the pieces needed for the cathedral I envisioned in my head. So the architect in me began designing a cathedral in modular form but with pieces unique to cathedrals.

Tom Sebazco, Founder, ENI Puzzle Land Co.: My father-in-law(retired architect) and brother-in-law(PhD Purdue University Aeronamic Astrodynamic Engineering [Rocket Scientist]) wanted to make a toy for my nephew (Eddie) that would teach him basic mathmatical fundamentals; so the brother and father discussed and the father-in-law carved one out of wood... five years later we had a family business.

Pat Gesualdo, President/CEO, DAD (DRUMS AND DISABILITIES): The idea for my non-profit organization D.A.D. (Drums and Disabilities), came from my own severe battle with a disability as a child. Drumming helped me to alleviate my disability by the time I graduated High School. As a top drummer, I pioneered Drum Therapy. Having the great opportunity of working with various major artists and record company projects, I wanted to be able to give back to help the kids, the parents, and the teachers.

Wendy Bryan, Creator, I Heart Guts: Oddly enough, it took a broken heart for me to come up with the concept of happy organs. I'd had a string of bad relationships and was doodling a lot of sad anatomically-correct hearts. Later on, my husband saw the drawings and encouraged me to do more than just draw them.

Janette Beraha, CEO, OSHI MAT LLC: A need! I had my first baby and needed a mat to take to his stimulation classes and after searching endlessly online, I could not find it, [so I created Oshi Mat].

David Rolls, Founder, MasterPieces Puzzle Co.: [My] parents were on a cruise and stated it would have been nice if there were puzzles on the ship. Therein began the reason to get into the puzzle business.

M. Kevin Bowen, Creator, Noval Fun: I created Noval, my first game, while stationed in the Air Force. I was introduced to many new card games that were favorites among my fellow soldiers, but they all seemed to require money, complicated rules, score-keeping, and lots of time to play. We needed a quicker, simpler game so I started creating one. It took most of the time I was in the military and a few years after that to play-test and tweak the game that eventually became Noval.

Jessie Silbert, Founder, Celestial Buddies: The idea for planetary plush came from a melding of two loves, stuffed animals and science. As a child, 90% of my toys were stuffed animals, and to the consternation of my parents, I never outgrew them, amassing a huge collection over the years. I've always been interested in nature and spend a lot of my free time watching documentaries. My idea for Celestial Buddies came to me while I was watching a BBC series on the Planets.

Wendy McGee, co-founder and president, Precious Impressions: Precious Impressions was started in 1996 by my brother Heath and me. He is a dentist and I am a dental hygienist. The idea of molding hands came from the idea of molding teeth. I had just had my first daughter, Kaylee, and wanted to see if I could make molds and statues of her hands and feet. After doing this [for friends and family], we realized that there did not seem to be an at-home kit on the market. With our dental background we were able to put together an affordable and easy-to-use kit. We started in the craft and baby industry, and soon found a place within many toy and gift stores.

Patricia Lasker, President, Vida Games: I have three grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 8, and I needed a game for them, so I created Green Alligators. Because it was designed to be fun first and educational second, they didn’t know that they were learning.

Laura Lind, President, Fun Furnishings: Fun Furnishings was born when my gals were two and four. As a result of our family's frustrated effort to find attractive, reasonably priced juvenile furnishings, my entrepreneurial dream and consumer needs joined together, and we launched a new business. In the last two-and-a-half years, I have taken responsibility for running it.


See their creations below!




MSRP: $160.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: November 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
Wooden Toys
General Toys



Designed by architect Steven W. Hurd, these blocks are the first in a series of architecturally themed building blocks created for all ages. Each set is designed around a particular building type, but the unique pieces allow for creativity and imaginative construction. The blocks are carved from imported hardwood, and the set includes 145 pieces, 15 different shapes, a printed plan and instructions. Castle Blocks are also available. “The Cathedral shape offers a dramatic initial building project and the unique shapes allow for a different level of imaginative play than most sets of building blocks,” Hurd told TDmonthly. Launch date: November 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11539      (added 2/21/2007)
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MSRP: $12.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Puzzles & Skill



The Eni Puzzle is a unique puzzle that is simple to play and designed to enhance problem solving and dexterity in both young children and seniors. The Eni Puzzle is cylindrically shaped and divided by several ring shaped sections. Each ring section is composed of a multitude of colored tiles that rotate independently. The tiles can travel each ring by one empty space and then be rotated into different positions. The puzzle is solved by a combination of ring rotations and the movement of colored tiles between rings.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 25936      (added 11/3/2009)
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MSRP: $24.95
Age Range: 2 and up
Target Age Range: 3 to 5
Specialty: Yes (as of 2010)
Made in: United States
Launch Date: November 2010
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Special Needs
Developmental Toys



The Drum Therapy® Kit, designed to help autistic and special needs children and adults develop retention, coordination, self-esteem, fine motor skill, sensory integration, social skills, and physical and cognitive functioning, can also help children get better grades in school, and make homework much easier. "[Used by] Doctors, School Systems, and Therapists throughout the world," Pat Gesualdo, President/CEO of DAD, told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 31285      (added 12/8/2010)
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MSRP: $67.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Plush



This entire guts set can be yours to cuddle or to give away (donate organs without having surgery). It includes a heart (6" x 8.5"), lungs (9" x 9"), a liver (8" x 6.5") and a kidney (5" x 6.5"). It is made in China.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 16566      (added 12/13/2007)
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Age Range: 0 to 2
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Infant & Toddler



Oshi Mat is a recyclable, easy to clean, non-toxic foam mat designed for infants. It is made of thermal plastic elastomer (TPE) and is 100-percent PVCSafe and LatexSafe certified. Awards: The Toy Man Q2 Top 10 Award
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 29874      (added 8/2/2010)
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MSRP: $4.99
Age Range: 5 and up
SKU or Item #: 0705988207037
Launch Date: July 2007
Gender: Girls
Category: Puzzles & Skill



In the magical world of Bella Sara horses, Bella and her three friends invite all kids to hours of imaginative play.  Every Bella Sara puzzle comes with a rare foil card, whose unique activation code allows kids to go online and activate their very own horse.  Cards can be collected, traded and used to play fun card games.  Launch date: July 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13411      (added 6/13/2007)
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MSRP: $9.99
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games
General Games



Noval is a strategy-based card game for 2-4 players, featuring uniquely shaped cards and easy to learn gameplay. The first player without any cards wins. Seems easy enough, but Noval is packed full of surprises and often frustrating twists. Kids will have fun bragging after they force other players to pick up piles of cards, and opponenys will have fun trying to get revenge by making the player do the same. There is no complicated score keeping and game rules are simple and exciting. Players match or beat other players cards. If they can’t they pick up the pile of already played cards. Three hidden cards will keep players guessing who will win down to their last card.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 31969      (added 3/21/2011)
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MSRP: $28.00
Age Range: 3 and up
Target Age Range: 3 to 5
Specialty: Yes (as of 2011)
Made in: China
SKU or Item #: Sun, Mars, Earth, Moon
Launch Date: March 2011
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Plush
Educational
Science & Nature



Celestial Buddies, an original line of educational plush characters, is inspired by planets and other celestial bodies. Each plush planetary pal is designed to capture the unique variations of the actual object it represents through fabric, color, size and shape. "Celestial Buddies is a unique, innovative plush toy series not replicated in today’s market. While most Solar System toys are for school children interested in science, Celestial Buddies has a much wider age appeal from babies all the way up to adults," Jessica Silbert, owner and president of Celestial Buddies, told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 31576      (added 1/25/2011)
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A safe, easy and fun product designed to create a lasting impression of an infant´s feet or hands. Our unique color changing gel sets in under three minutes to create the mold that you will cherish for a lifetime. Precious Impressions come in both crystal and precious stone finishes. All of our products are safe and non toxic.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1761      (added 12/9/2004)
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Justina HuddlestonWriter's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author

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