by Shannon Swindle | 19 Apr 2023
Biographies and Interviews
Hi Shannon! Thank you for taking time to share what you've been up to lately. Can you share with our readers what you do in our industry?
I am the Inventor Relations Manager for Games at Moose Toys. Outside the industry, it’s not a well-known profession. At first, people think I’m in Investor Relations. I usually explain that it’s similar to a scout in sports or an A&R rep in music. Instead of looking for the next great athlete or promising new artists, we’re looking for the next best toy or game. The essence of my job is relationships. I meet with inventors every week and then share the best ideas with our team. During my first six months at Moose, I saw over 700 concepts!
What is your claim to fame?
I once jumped into the (very polluted) Chicago River to save my dad’s dog who accidentally fell in.
What has been your biggest achievement?
Raising my son as a single mom and watching him grow into a kind, thoughtful, curious, responsible, and brave young man.
What is your biggest regret?
Not walking at my college graduation. I still have dreams that I didn’t graduate!
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
The more you experience in life, the more you have to offer others. Also, tough times don’t last, tough people do.
When did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
It was the summer of 2014, almost 10 years ago. Prior to the toy & game industry, I worked in the music industry, hospitality & tourism, and education. I left college after my freshman year to go on the road with a band, then worked at a record label called Aware Records. Our job was to find unsigned artists and increase their exposure through compilation albums. That was back in 1995. In many ways, it feels like my life has come full circle. Instead of looking for the best new bands, now I’m looking for the best new games.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
I genuinely care about the inventors I work with and the products we create. It’s an honor and a privilege to work at a company like Moose. I don’t take it for granted.
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?
I never thought I’d be where I am today. When I first started out in the industry, I was the only full-time employee at Utter Nonsense before it was acquired by PlayMonster. Then I was only one of three employees at Big G Creative, and now I work at one of the biggest toy & game companies in the world.
What was your favorite project to date?
I think the newest project is always my favorite. We’re working on a couple projects right now that I’m really excited about, which are launching in ’24.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
We work with over 300 professional inventors every year. Aside from high quality sell sheets and videos, I recommend sending detailed follow up notes. I always appreciate it when I receive notes with a brief description of the game. We document every concept and it’s helpful to have information in an email to refer back to, especially since we see so many products. Even though we take notes during a pitch, it’s possible to miss something. The more info you can provide, the better. No one can sell your concept better than you. If there’s something important you want us to remember, please put it in writing.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
Work hard. Be kind. Be humble. Be someone who other people want to work with. Accept responsibility for your actions. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Don’t make decisions based on fear. If you fall, get back up. Learn new things. Grow. Take care of yourself, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Find a great mentor. Trust your gut. Know what your core values are. Don’t burn bridges.
Do you have a typical workday and how does it play out for you?
I work mostly remotely from my home in Traverse City, Michigan, and commute to our LA office about once a month. I also travel to various toy fairs and inventor conferences throughout the year. In the beginning, getting used to the different time zones, and commuting, was an adjustment, but I’ve come to really appreciate it. Since I’m on EST and our team is on PST, I find that the most productive part of my day is in the morning because I have fewer distractions. And since my colleague, Heath, is in Australia, we’re able to chat in my evening, which is his morning.
When I’m in LA, it’s usually 2-3 days of straight playtesting. It’s nice to have a specific time set aside each month, just for playtesting. I enjoy spending time with our team, and I’m able to return prototypes quickly. Providing quick feedback to inventors and returning samples in a timely manner are very important to me.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with inventors and bringing ideas to life! There’s nothing like seeing a game “in the wild” (on shelf) for the first time.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
What should I make for dinner? How can I get a direct flight from Traverse City to Los Angeles?
What and/or who inspires you?
People who stand up for what they believe in.
What excites you?
Going somewhere I’ve never been before. I love discovering new places.
How do you define innovation?
To me, innovation is disruptive, it’s coming up with something new that hasn’t been done before. It’s the ability to take something familiar (like magic) but deliver it in a completely new and unique way. Magic Mixies is the perfect example. It’s one of the most innovative products I’ve ever seen – a great idea that’s executed brilliantly.
What words describe how you think or how your brain works?
Even though I’m a left-handed, right-brained creative, I’m also detail-oriented and organized. Intuition is a key trait of right-brained thinking and I do think that intuition plays a big role in my job.
Where were you born?
I was born and raised in the Chicago area, but I’ve lived all over including France, Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica.
How have your past experiences influenced who you are today?
I’ve had a non-traditional educational path and a non-traditional career path. I’ve always been driven by curiosity and eager to try new things. I’m a big believer in experiential learning and, of course, hard work.
When I was 16, I moved to Paris, France to live with a French family and go to school, which changed my life. After my freshman year of college, I ended up taking several years off to work and travel. I was a tour guide, I worked on a cruise ship, I studied Spanish, I taught English, and I did a year of service with AmeriCorps. When I went back to school, I was laser focused, like a grad student. I knew exactly what I wanted to study, and I loved my courses. When I told people I was going to major in International Studies and Cultural Anthropology, they laughed. But it’s amazing how much my background has helped me in my current role. I get to work with people from all over the world every day! Because I’ve had so many different experiences in life, I’m able to connect with people from all different backgrounds. One of my favorite quotes is by Brené Brown, “Connection is why we’re here. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
What do you read every day, and why?
Linkedin. Primarily to stay up to date with industry news. And, of course, the Bloom Report weekly!
How do you recharge or take a break?
I love getting outside and being surrounded by nature. We’re fortunate to live near a national park on the shores of Lake Michigan called Sleeping Bear Dunes. I enjoy hiking, biking, and swimming in the summer, and skiing in the winter. I love the quiet, natural beauty of northern Michigan and I’m happiest when exploring with my son and dog. Not only is Traverse City known as the Cherry Capital of the World, but it’s also called the Caribbean of the North thanks to its clear, turquoise blue waters.
Who is the person you most admire?
My mom. I would never be able to do what I do without her. She watches my son when I travel for work, and they have such a special bond. I think grandparents play a vital role in a child’s life and we’re lucky she lives so close to us. She’s also like sunshine in human form and makes every room brighter.
Who are role models for the work you do?
Heath Saber and David Norman. Heath has taught me so much about IR, and he’s always there to help. David is like a walking encyclopedia; he has tremendous knowledge and experience in games. He’s a great leader, too. He trusts his team and doesn’t micromanage, but he’s always there when I need him. I really enjoy working with them and learning from them.
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Playing games with my family around my grandparents’ kitchen table.
Are you named after anyone?
I’m named after the River Shannon in Ireland. And my son’s name is Cavan, which is a county in Ireland, where the River Shannon begins. Visiting Cavan, Ireland is on my bucket list. I haven’t been there yet.
Do you have a nickname?
My colleague, Heath, is the king of nicknames. He created my current nickname, The Swindler. The irony is not lost on me that my last name is Swindle and I work in product acquisition. However, my dad’s name is Will Swindle and he sold used cars and trucks! True story.
Do you have any kiddos?
One 12-year-old son. He is fun & fearless and wise beyond his years. He also helps keep me up to date on current trends.
What do you play with your kids?
So. Many. Games. It’s never-ending. I brought my son with me to LA one time to help playtest games. He loved visiting the Moose office and exploring LA! Now he wants to come to work with me every time I go. He’s grown up in this industry and has contributed to several games that I’ve worked on over the years. He especially loved going to CHITAG when it was at Navy Pier. You may have seen him zipping around "Cabana Land" (meeting rooms for the inventor pitches) on a Razor scooter!
Do you have any pets?
One big red goldendoodle named Fletcher. And I often watch my mom’s dog, a small white Maltese named Minnie. They are my office buddies. I love being able to “bring my dogs to work” every day. It would be quite lonely without them.
What are your favorite TV shows?
The Office, Schitt’s Creek, and Ted Lasso. Fun fact: My dad and Jason Sudeikis’ dad went to college together!
What are your favorite sports and sports teams?
Michigan State Spartans. March Madness is my favorite time of year. Go Green!
Favorite movie of all time?
I just saw Tetris (twice) and loved it!
Do you have any special talents?
The toy and game industry clearly has….
The best people! I have met the nicest, smartest, most creative, fun, thoughtful, and interesting people – who create joy every day.
Lots of fun and games! I’m really excited about our line for ’24 as it features innovative items from the inventor community.
Thank you for taking time to answer our questions thoughtfully and with a sense of play!
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