Monday, December 22, 2008

Success in the toy biz is no game

I've long been a fan of the kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson, who serves as artist-in-residence at MIT.

But until last week, I knew very little about the toy company he helped found fifteen years ago, Hands On Toys.

Sunday's column focused on the story of Hands On, from 1993 to this holiday season. From the piece:

    Fifteen years later, with somewhat rueful chuckles, they describe the toy business as "a real roller coaster ride," in [CEO Andrew] Farrar's words. The Lawrence-based company is about the same size it was when it started, and still struggling to get its products into toy chests around the world. They have seen hot products ripped off by others; not-so-hot products dropped by big distributors; new ideas summarily rejected by big toy companies like Mattel; thousands of toy retailers go out of business; and the incredible rise of video games and electronic toys. Also, one of their products killed a dog.

    Success in the toy biz, says [COO Rustam] Booz, "is not an easy equation. It's very tough."

    One of their advisers and board members, strategy consultant David Wright, says he occasionally asks the founders, "Guys, do you still want to be doing this? But they are two of the stubbornest people I know - and I mean that in the best way possible."

Here's the video, in which Farrar and Booz show off a Ganson-designed toy prototype, the Catapult, and talk about bringing it to market:

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