What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?
I am the founder and CEO of a small Chicago based toy company, creating sets of sports action figures to inspire creative play in kids all year long.
What has been your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is staying in business for over 20 years and selling over one million of the toys I created for my own kids, to other families!
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
“I know how it looks. But just start. Nothing is insurmountable.” - Lin-Manuel Miranda
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I got into the industry for my kids. In 1999 I was a mom of two boys, ages 2 & 3, and was desperate to find a toy that would inspire them to play on their own while I made dinner! They both spent hours playing sports with any ball they could find, but they were not too interested in any of the traditional toys we had at home. I had so many memories of my own brothers staying happily entertained with action figures while growing up, I thought sports themed action figures may be the answer for my kids! When I could not find anything on the market like what I was imagining, I decided to design my own. Football Guys was my first introduction in 2001.
What are you working on now?
I am designing 2 new NHL Hockey Guys styles to join the 8 styles we currently offer.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
The emails I receive from families letting me know how much their kids are enjoying our toys is one of the main reasons I stay in the industry! I recently received an email from a mom telling me she was putting one of our toys in a “memory box” she was filling to pass on to her future grandkids. Her son loved playing with Football Guys so much that he had asked her to never give his set away. I love knowing that families are thinking about passing on out sets to the next generation. Hearing that story was very meaningful to me.
If you look back at yourself 10 years ago is this where you thought you’d be? Where did you think you’d be? What changed? What went right?
Ten years ago I definitely believed I would still actively be running Kaskey Kids. I am beyond thrilled with the success our toys have had, but as most founder’s hope, I wish we could have experienced even more growth with expansion outside of the U.S and Canada. There is always so much to keep us busy in the U.S, this goal continues to sit at the top of my to-do list.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I am excited because I believe families are looking to find toys that inspire their kids to play creatively more than ever. Inventors and manufacturers are hearing this and designing so many fun options. Kids will have no problem finding a toy that interests them!
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
If you have an interest, pursue it.
Do you have a typical workday and how does it play out for you?
Every day is unique!
What’s your workspace setup like?
I have always worked out of a home office. It is a dedicated workspace, separated from the hub of the home that has always made it very easy for me to work at odd hours throughout the day and night. This flexibility was a huge help when we had young kids at home.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Hearing from parents of young kids about how much our toys are played with in their home is beyond rewarding. Social media has made it so easy for families to share photos and videos of their kids playing with their favorite sets. These images always put a smile on my face. Handwritten letters from kids asking us to introduce specific colors or a different sport are also unbelievably meaningful. We wish we could follow through on every request we receive!
What and/or who inspires you?
My kids inspire me.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
When I am out for a walk or exercising!
Where were you born?
In Scarsdale, NY. I moved to Chicago with my family in 1997.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up with 2 younger brothers and amazing, supportive parents in a neighborhood filled with kids. We spent hours after school playing outside and coming home at dusk when the cowbell rang to let us know dinner was ready. There was a lot of unstructured playtime where we created our own games, clubs and contests which kept all ages happily entertained.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I signed off on a design for a toy even though my instinct told me it was not yet right. We had a timeline to follow so this product would launch by Q4 and although I knew the design was not what I envisioned, I allowed myself to be convinced otherwise. I still regret the decision.
What do you read every day, and why?
The Wall Street Journal. I have been reading it since my freshman year in college.
Who is the person you most admire?
Who might be role models for the work you do?
I admire more individuals than I can count that founded companies from the ground up to create a product they imagined.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
I play a game or do a puzzle. Currently I am addicted to Wordle, Euchre and the NY Times Daily Mini Crossword. Depending on the day, I will on occasion try a full crossword puzzle with little success!
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night, during a show my husband and I are watching.
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Playing outside in the neighborhood with friends and going to large family gatherings around the holidays.
Do you have any kiddos?
We have 4 kids, 3 boys and a girl. The youngest is a freshman in college.
Do you have any pets?
A chocolate Lab.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Häagen-Dazs Carmel Cone Ice Cream
What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
Their smile and eyes.
Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
I prefer happy, uplifting movies.
What is your favorite night out?
Dinner with friends.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Do you have any special talents?
Tell us about your hobbies?
Golf is my favorite hobby at the moment.
Summer of Winter?
I love a little bit of all the seasons.
What is your eye color?
I’m lucky that….
I have such amazingly supportive family and friends.
I hope to introduce more styles for girls and a few more sports. Lacrosse is at the top of my list.
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