by Cassidy Smith | 27 Feb 2022
Biographies and Interviews
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
Knowing Brian Turtle before he was inducted into WTHRA Hall of Fame.. I hope he still takes my calls or will I go straight to voicemail? I'm scared to try. ;)
Some would say it would be being one of those "Canadians" in the industry... yes we all know eachother and yes we have to be nice or we get kicked out of the country or given a Canadian goose as a pet.. you don't want that!
Others may say I'm that guy who created Lip Sync Battle at ASTRA. It truly was to have fun because thats what the Toy Industry should be right?
Most know me through my work for Hape for the past 18 years as their VP of Sales and Marketing has given me time to truly know how amazing this industry is and its like family! Many don't know my background has always been specialty even before toys... from working retail in a specialty store to being the Marketing Manager for specialty focused business. When a new opportunity presented its self I wanted to make sure it was dedicated to specialty as so many are doing the opposite and just feeding the Amazon Monster. So we have created a specialty focused Toy distribution company called Uniche Collective (Unique + Niche = Uniche). We are a little boutique distributor and appreciate those to give us a try! We would love to work with you when ready and i have added our digital link to our catalog and pricelist. For more info check out this article featuring us in Toybook!
What has been your biggest achievement?
Besides knowing Brian Turtle? Well...
One i am proud of is supporting the industry when we all were in a dark place during covid and helped with ASTRA Camp. Retailers were going through so much it was incredible to work with the tight talented crew at ASTRA to develop something to make people smile again and connect and bring hope. I feel ASTRA CAMP on Social media was a lighthouse during a dark time and I was very proud to be apart of that. I urge anyone who as not volenteered on a commitee to find an organization that means most to you and support them.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Be a nice human and Eat Ice cream!
What are you working on now?
Building a Specialty focused Toy Distributor that protects its lines and looks for truly special and unique lines for our Uniche Collective.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people.. Being able to get to know the people in this industry is the most rewarding thing. I have gotten to know some of the most incredible people and this industry is filled with them!
What and/or who inspires you?
Those that have to overcome obsticles and hardship and continue to be positive and shine.. that is incredibly inspiring to me! Terry Fox is one of my heros and reminds me everyday how lucky we all are and to keep a positive attitude and never give up!
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
Ideas happen everywhere all the time.. I keep a journal by my bed to scribble the ideas I may have before falling asleep so they are not forgotten.
Instead of flipping through Instagram in bed... I write the ideas of the day.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Escape back to nature... the Mountains are my escape and its amazing how taking a simple hike in the mountains recharges you.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Hmmm... thats a tough one... I loved Heman Battle Cat, Speak and Spell and Lite Bright. I think Lite Bright fuelled my interest to be creative.
What was your life like growing up?
Full of Saturday Cartoons, BMXing exploring and building. In one word it was Fun! All thanks to my amazing parents that encouranged and supported creativity and playing outside.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I grew up in Canada and as a child played out outside alot... made forts and swam in creeks - I played outside all day and didn't go home until the street lamps came on. My Mom is Norwegian, so we flew to Norway, travelled around and my fondest memory was going to Legoland in Denmark. I was amazed of all the wonder... I rode a real train made of Lego (that's me in the photo below)! Probably why i am in toys today!
Who is the person you most admire?
My first boss in Toys the lady who brought Bead and Wire Mazes to North America. Her name is Kathy Klaus with company called Educo. She is modest, humble, brillant and although she was the one who brought the idea to North America to every doctors office and toy store, she always reminded us it was an Austrilian primary school principal George Valentine that created the idea. She worked with him to bring the idea over to North America and gave him the recognition he deserved. I learned the importance to recognize the amazing inventors as so many companies copy and say they created the idea and the originators fade. I have learned so much from her and try to model my self after her maybe one day I can reach that high. I am excited to continue her story and plan to create a Kathy Klaus Signature Line shortly - I want her story to never fade and always be there to all know where these amazing toys came from and its history.
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Camping with my family and exploring nature.. the bonfires with Smores were pretty great too!
Are you named after anyone?
My Dad loved Westerns.. so was named after Hopalong Cassidy. This is the reason i created an Instagram handle @hop_along_cassidy.
"Toy Cowboy" - Can lasso fun from almost anywhere. Follow me but not too close I have spurs on my dress shoes!
What’s your favorite cereal?
Cap'n Crunch...the cereal of choice to pair with Saturday Morning Cartoons as a kid.
Tell us about your hobbies?
I love to paint, cook, hike well... invent toys ;)
Hugs or Kisses?
Can I have both? haha
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I am doing my best to build something beautiful that specialty can rely on and find unique products that are not everywhere and protected from online discounting.
Hootenanny Games' Whitney and Alex Kimerling Share Why the Name 'Hootenanny and More!
VOTING NOW OPEN FOR THE 2023 TOY & GAME INTERNATIONAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS - the TAGIEs
Christopher Byrne: New York Toy Fair: A Movable Feast
Toy Industry Vets, Educators and Mentors Join the People of Play Young Inventor Challenge Advisory Board
Elizabeth Hargrave... Created Wingspan! Hidden Role Podcast
Ted Fischer, Co-Founder and CEO of Ageless Innovation, on Unleashing the Power of Play
Lisa Wallace Shares how "I’m The Chef Too!" Moved from Her Kitchen to Kitchens Everywhere!
Hasbro's Tanya Thompson on Women Innovators of Play
Toy industry rebels build an invention studio from zero to one
Attention Toys and Games Marketers: Is it time for Tums or Veuve Clicquot?
Randy Klimpert Shares his Ukulele Collection
Steve Casino Peanut Art
Everyone's Talking about POP!
Princess Etch - a Multi-Talented Etch A Sketch Artist
Joseph Herscher of Joseph' s Machines.
Tom Dusenberry... Bought Atari, Wizards of the Coast, and Avalon Hill!
Matt Leacock created Pandemic... the game!
Scott Brown and Tim Swindle... are Launching a New Sport!
Daryl Andrews says... "GO TO CONVENTIONS!"
Ed Gartin is... the Evel Knievel of Inventor Relations!
POPDuo: Richard Dickson, Mattel’s President & COO, and Kedar Narayan, Young Inventor Challenge AMB
POPDuo: Will Shortz and Josh Wardle
POP Duo: Elan Lee, Co-Founder, Exploding Kittens.and Jeff Probst, Host and Exec Producer, Survivor
POP Duo: David Fuhrer, MNG Director, Blue Sq Innovations & Shawn Green, past Dodgers & Mets MLB Star
POP Duo: Bob Fuhrer, Founder, Nextoy and Tom Fazio, Golf Course Designer
Toy Inventors--The Heart and Soul of the Industry
Brian Turtle: 'Endless' Stories, Advice, Kevin Bacon and More! tBR Person of the Week
Jonathan Levy on Jon2.0 - from Co-Founding Mastermind Toys to Spin Master
Andrew Perlmutter's Journey from Glencoe to Funko with Crazy Ideas that turned out Golden
Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!