Speakers

Speakers_Header.png

Kirsten Anderson

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgPlay Through the Ages!
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am


Kirsten Anderson’s career has always followed the fun! She spent 25 years in the specialty toy industry managing and then opening her own toy store before age 30. Kirsten quickly became known as Canada’s white lab coat wearing Toyologist, and the go-to resident play & toy expert on Global News.

After travelling the world from Nuremberg to Melbourne in search of precious playthings, winning National Toy Store of the Year, a ballooning obsession with pouring over child development and play research it was time for a leap. Kirsten sold her beloved toy store and took another risk with an evolved mission of bringing the benefits of play to not just children but adults who she sees also experiencing a serious play and fun deficit – especially at work.

With this lifelong love of playing with ideas and problems Kirsten played to her strengths to create social change and unlock potential in teams founding Integrate Play Solutions. Engagement and creativity are foundations in all of her Lego® Serious Play® and Empathy Toy facilitations, professional speaking, training and coaching organizations, education, and communities globally. For those companies interested in increasing their bottom line Kirsten speaks to Creativity/Innovation, Leadership, Curiosity, Culture, and the Playful Mindset.
Always a passionate advocate of play for children while also breaking down barriers to playfulness for adults Kirsten is building bridges to success one fun block at a time.

Lindsay Anvik

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgWow Merchandising: 100+ Examples to Drive Sales
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm

Lightning Learning: Top 3 Merchandising Tips

Monday, June 11, 2018
1:00pm-1:15pm

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
1:00pm-1:15pm

                                                                          Consultation Station: Merchandising
                                                                          Monday, June 11, 2018
                                                                          Tuesday, June 12, 2018
                                                                          Register for your 30 minute session now!

Lindsay Anvik is a fourth generation entrepreneur. She travels the world giving seminars and working with everyone from mom and pop businesses to Fortune 500 companies to major museums. Her marketing and business development strategies that have led to coverage in the New York Times, InStyle Magazine, The New York Post, Metro New York and many others. She's also been featured several times as a business expert on MSNBC.


Adrienne Appell

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgOpenSpace: Toy Trend Spotting
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am


As The Toy Association’s leading trend specialist, Adrienne Appell maintains close communication with representatives of the Association’s member toy companies to stay abreast of what’s new, next, and cutting-edge in the toy industry. She also publishes articles on trends in parallel industries that may influence the toy and youth space.

Adrienne is interviewed frequently by national and local consumer and business media on toy trends and related topics. She is also responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with the media, including bloggers and other social media contacts. In addition to regular reports on local New York-metro area networks, her media interviews include Good Morning America, WABC-TV, WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV, Good Day New York (FOX), NY-1, Reuters, the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

Adrienne has more than a decade of experience in the toy/youth industry. Prior to joining The Toy Association, she worked in the corporate communications division of Scholastic, Inc. Adrienne began her career at the global public relations agency Weber Shandwick, working on client accounts such as Kodak, Disney, and Compaq computers.

Adrienne lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and two young children.

Jean Bailey

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgTheorists, Thought Leaders & Thinking Behind the Value of Play
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm

OpenSpace: The Aging Population
Sunday, June 10, 2018
3:30-4:30pm

Jean Bailey is a consultant to the toy industry and former director of the National Lekotek Center, a non-profit that works with children of all abilities utilizing toys and play. For the last decade she has promoted, studied, written articles and white papers and reviewed research on toys and play as it relates to child development. Bailey has presented on the subject of toys and play internationally and brings with her years of experience in marketing, communications and adult education.



Roger Bildsten

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgMighty Together | Managing the Bottom Line
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am - 11:30am 

Roger Bildsten has been a leader in the specialty toy industry for many years, serving as CEO at both International Playthings and Manhattan Toy.  He has been elected to multiple board terms at ASTRA and TIA, also contributing on industry committees and panels.  Roger is based in Minneapolis and in 2007 founded Hip Hooray LLC, providing hands-on global expertise for respected companies in the children’s industry.  When he isn’t otherwise working or playing, Roger is honing his skills as a writer of fiction for young readers.

Roger Bildsten is internationally recognized for his ability to successfully step into challenging business situations. He has twice been recruited to lead mid-size specialty gift companies, achieving impressive results for stakeholders. Roger has entered and built new markets on every continent. He continues today helping companies zero in on opportunities and implement effective growth strategies.

 



Christine Blumberg

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgMighty Together: Managing the Bottom Line
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am - 11:30am


Ever since leaving college, Christine Blumberg always wanted to work in children's products. She moved to California and landed a job at Walt Disney Records working on packaging, pricing and promotions. She loved living in Los Angeles and working at Disney was a dream come true.

After working at Disney for over five years, Christine accepted a job as Director of Marketing for Jim Henson Productions in New York City. Within three years, Disney called her back and asked if she wanted to accept a position in sales back with Walt Disney Records. This was her first sales job!

After working at Disney, Christine went to work at Ravensburger. Ravensburger was a different challenge for her - specialty sales. This is where Christine got her first exposure to the world of sales representatives and independent toy stores. After working at Ravensburger, Christine’s husband, Alan Blumberg and her brother, Jeff Roberts, started a rep group in 2000.

They have now been selling to independent toy and gift accounts in New England for over fifteen years. Their relationships with both vendors and accounts are invaluable to them. Christine, Alan and Jeff have made lifelong friends and feel that they bring a tremendous service to their accounts.



Kevin Carroll

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgYou Lost Me at Hello
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Having grown up in a large Irish Catholic family, Kevin Carroll was destined to make his livelihood by talking. After 17 years in the advertising business (he got out on account of good behavior), Kevin launched his own speaking, training and executive coaching business. Today his passion is helping his clients communicate clearly, concisely and confidently. Companies such as GE, Microsoft, and Heineken have been tapping into Kevin’s expertise for over 20 years. He is a past-president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Speakers Association and during his career has written three books and fathered two children.

In 2010, Kevin teamed up with Steve Mark, a friend from his advertising days, to see if they could come up with a new game. The result was TENZI.

Damien Crocker

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgMighty Together: Managing the Bottom Line
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am - 11:30am



As an ASTRA member, Damien has served on the Marketplace & Academy Planning Committee, including acting as Chair of the Breakout Session Sub-Committee and a member of the Keynote and Game & Kit Session Sub-Committees. In addition, he has acted as Chair of the Excellence Awards Committee. Damien was also selected to participate in the recent millennial focus group in Chicago. As both a millennial and a Canadian, Damien hopes to bring a unique perspective to the table.

Damien is a Sales Manager at HABA USA. Prior to HABA he worked for Orb Factory. Business honors for The Orb Factory include recognition as the 2011 Toy Collection Vendor of the Year, 2011 ASTRA Manufacturer Excellence Award, 2011 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Creative Play), 2013 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Just for Fun) and 2015 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids (Creative Play).

In his free time, Damien enjoys live music, camping, outdoor activities of all varieties, and, of course, playing with toys.

Catherine Croft

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgOpenSpace: STEM
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Dr. Croft earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Virginia after receiving her B.S. in Biology from Duke University. She performed eight years of neuroscience research, mainly at the National Institutes of Health.  In 2015, she co-founded Catlilli Games, a tabletop STEM game company.  She is also a Biology teacher at Fauquier High School.




Brice Elvington

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgMighty Together: Managing the Bottom Line
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am - 11:30am



Brice spent 8 years in Biotech as a chemical engineer, during which time the private company he worked for was acquired by a larger corporation.  Missing the more personal feel of a small business, he left to help his wife start her own pediatric dental practice, as well as providing support for his parents toy store.  After delivering the news his wife was pregnant with twins, he sensed his parents were ready to close the store to enjoy being first time grandparents, so he decided to assume ownership, calling it his "real world MBA program".  A month after the purchase was complete, he found out his wife was expecting another child, and it has been a roller coaster ride of learning and balancing family life in the four years since then.  The goal of Toy Shop Florence is aligned with the mission of ASTRA, and hopefully will also serve as an opportunity to teach his own children skills to complement what they learn in school.

Cassandra Forcier

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgOpenSpace: Neighborhood Toy Store Day & Best Toys for Kids
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am - 11:30am



Cassandra Forcier, Building Blocks Toy Store Manager, CPE is a self-proclaimed toy expert! She has been in the business of fun for just shy of ten years and is still loving every minute of it. She uses her knowledge of the ever changing toy industry, as an opportunity to offer new ideas and expand the minds of parents and children. Play is not only for kids, it is just as important for parents to get in on the fun. Cassandra knows this well, being a mother of three, and wants others to be able to see the importance of play. 




Patrick Glaser

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgNavigating Industry Consolidation Beyond Big Retail: What a Look at the Independent Toy Industry Over the Past 15 Years Tell Us About Its FutureOpenSpace: Neighborhood Toy Store Day & Best Toys for Kids
Sunday, June 10, 2018
11:45am - 12:45pm



With a background in both opinion research as well as nonprofit management, Vice President of Research and Analytics Patrick Glaser enthusiastically focuses on research services for McKinley Advisor’s clients. He describes his personal goal for each client as the relentless pursuit of high quality, actionable data that is tailored to meet stakeholders’ needs.

Patrick has an extensive background in marketing research as well as association management—possessing both technical knowledge of research as well as a substantive understanding of associations. Prior to joining McKinley, Patrick spent five years leading internal and public-release research for the Marketing Research Association (MRA). He has also served as a survey methodologist for Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and as a project manager for the Center for Survey Research & Analysis (CSRA).

Professionally, Patrick has placed a priority on advancing the science behind research methods. To that end, he has published and presented work in academic journals and student textbooks, survey research trade publications, and at numerous professional and academic association conferences. When not volunteering, Patrick enjoys sailing, traveling, and spending time with his wife Gillian and their two dogs. Patrick has a BA in political science, a Masters of Public Administration (MPA), and an MA in survey research, all from the University of Connecticut.

Amy Jauman

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgCertificate in Social Media Management
Saturday, June 9, 2018
8:00am - 5:00pm

Lightning Learning: Top 3 Tips for Creating a Social Media Presence
Monday, June 11, 2018 & Tuesday, June 12, 2018
3:00pm - 3:15pm


Consultation Stations
Monday, June 11, 2018 & Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Register Now!


Amy Jauman, speaker, professor, and social media strategist who bills herself as “an educator for the business environment.” She focuses on using social media, experiential learning techniques, and online resources to make information meaningful to adult learners in traditional and remote business and educational environments. In 2017, she authored the NISM textbook Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists: Master the Six Content Domains of the SMS Exam. Amy has a Master’s Degree in Experiential Education and a Doctorate in Organization Development. In 2013 she became a certified Social Media Strategist (SMS) and Certified Instructor through the National Institute of Social Media (NISM). In March of 2014, Amy was accepted as one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. She is also the marketing director the Minnesota chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA).




Deb de Sherbinin

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpg

OpenSpace: Product Diversification 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
3:30pm - 4:30pm 

Deb de Sherbinin, the founder and principal of Perk Consulting, has deep experience in product innovation, brand development and marketing. Throughout her career she has thrived on the challenges of ‘getting it right’ with product concepts, brand development, marketing strategy and product launches. She founded Perk Consulting as an expansion of her marketing and product consultancy KidSmart which focuses exclusively on the children’s space. Deb brings more than twenty-five years experience building world-class brands and growing startups to a wider array of lifestyle, entertainment and mission-based brands.

Deb’s clients have included well-known large toy companies as well as growing companies seeking to get to the next level with new product and marketing strategies. She has contributed her expertise to the missions of many organizations including Women in Toys, Licensing and Entertainment (WIT) where she serves as secretary and Empowerment Initiatives co-chair. She is a board advisor to women-owned companies Guard Up and Lesson Face.  Deb is a mentor for startup accelerator, Mass Challenge.  She received her BA from Boston University and her MBA from Boston College Carroll Graduate School of Management.

Sarah Fowles & Matthew Poulson

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgWe Are Family: Inspiring the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Family Business
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm


Sarah Fowles, CPE, is co-owner of the toy store Ruckus & Glee, LLC in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. By day she is a licensed attorney and Human Resources Consultant with Associated Benefits and Risk Consulting, where she distills the complexity of employment laws into
understandable action items that meet a client’s business goals. By night and weekend, she is Ruckus & Glee’s marketing and PR director, trend specialist, bookkeeper, and special events manager.

Matthew Poulson, CMR, is the co-founder of the toy store Ruckus & Glee, LLC in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He handles all aspects of the store’s day-to-day business operations, including customer service, staff management, product receiving and merchandising, and accounts payable. Prior to opening Ruckus & Glee, he had a career in theater and nonprofit management.

Brett Hall & Melanie Hall

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgWe Are Family: Inspiring the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Family Business
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm


Melanie Hall, Chief Accountability Officer and Muse at Hall of Toys. A dietitian for Kellogg Company by day, Melanie spends many evenings and weekends on projects reflecting her organization, training, marketing, and event planning skills cultivated from many years of work in both the public health and food marketing sector. Melanie entered the toy industry with the opening of Hall of Toys alongside her husband Brett in 2015. Melanie helps with digital communications, website maintenance, layout and design of their holiday gift guides, and dreaming up business development and public relations ideas. Melanie and Brett raise their two boys in Battle Creek Michigan. In her free time, Melanie is an amateur triathlete, foodie, and an avid fan of naps.

Brett Hall, CMR, is the founder and Manager of Fun at Hall of Toys in Battle Creek, MI. In a prior life, he worked for six years at, then was general manager for, a specialty bicycle store where he spent most of each paycheck. Since this store was in Davis, CA, otherwise known as Bike Town, USA, it focused on bikes for the whole family and especially kids, not enthusiast riders. Before that, Brett was an all-around worker at a canoe/kayak rental spot that featured a kids’ education program, his favorite part of the job. In high school, he coached and ran a youth track & field program. Just prior to opening Hall of Toys, Brett spent four years working for a 60+ year old local toy store before the owners retired and he decided to start his own. This is a very long way of saying that he does not want to add up the number of years he has been working with kids and teaching them about things that would make them better adults, so you can do the math if you want. He knows that kids are the future, so we should give them the tools they will need to make it a better place for themselves and future generations.

Maggie Lynn Held

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgBarefoot in the Pitch
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm


Maggie Lynn Held hails from a professional Theatre background. She performed at Opryland USA, Busch Gardens Theme Park,
A Cruise Line Overseas, Several Regional and Children’s Theatre Productions, just to name a few. Maggie hit the pavement in The Big Apple in early 97’. While in NY, Maggie starred in the first regional production of “Songs for A New World” and booked a bundle of
National and Regional Voice Over spots. Maggie also explored the world of Playwriting and Artisitc Directing. The excitement and joy of creating something from nothing began to overshadow the mainstage. In the fall of 2007 began the first developments of Scribfolio®
Back then the compny was called “Lil’ Abstracts LLC” . The concept was still the same but the approach was much more theatrical. Maggie’s vision was to produce an interactive coloring book where people could create a masterpiece from a simple Scribble,
“Look from every angle, What do you see? Now show me.” Maggie has spent several years in the wellness and hospitality industry. All of these technique and modalities have helped bring the Scribfolio® brand full circle. Maggie is thrilled to have the help and support of her friends and family as she introduces herself to the world once again, this time as an Entrepreneur. Maggie’s goal is to spark imaginations and spread creativity one Scribble at a time. The founder of Scribfolio®

Robyn Johnson

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgHow Can Our Community Harness the Power of the Marketplace
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Robyn has been heralded as one of the country's foremost leaders on the topic of selling and marketing products on Amazon.com.  Robyn's is the founder of Best From The Nest a firm that works with resellers, brand owners, manufacturers, and authors to help them profitably scale or control their presence on Amazon.

Robyn Johnson started with only $100 and in less than four years grew her business to the seven-figure mark in eCommerce. She has authored an Amazon best-selling book, "The Unlikely Entrepreneur: How I Transformed $100 into a seven-figure business."

Additionally, Robyn has a popular podcast, "The Unstoppable Entrepreneur Show with Robyn Johnson."' She is also Vice President of the non-profit Internet Merchants Association.

Rieva Lesonsky

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgThe Changing Toy Market: Who's Buying & How to Reach Them
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am

Rieva Lesonsky is cofounder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content creation company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally- known speaker, best-selling author, and authority on entrepreneurship, Lesonsky has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Previously, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur magazine.

Greg Manns

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpg

Performance Data: Gauging the Independent Toy Industry
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am



Mr. Manns is a Senior Vice President of Industry Insights, Inc., headquartered in Dublin, Ohio.

Mr. Manns has conducted or overseen more than 300 research projects during his tenure at Industry Insights. Over the past 20+ years, his studies have been cited in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and numerous association journals.  

Mr. Manns is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP). He is an active member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA). He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

Craig Melby

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgLightning Learning: 5 Vital Lease Terms for Today’s Times
Monday, June 11, 2018
12:00-12:15pm
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
12:00-12:15pm

Consultation Station: Lease Negotiation
Monday, June 11, 2018
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Register for your 30 minute session now!

Craig Melby's core mission is helping companies prosper by picking the best facilities and negotiating the best, most flexible lease terms. He has been a Lease Negotiator, Site Selector, Speaker, Author and Entrepreneur for 35+ years. Mr. Melby’s companies provide unmatched resources and advice for facility expansions, relocations, lease extensions and other Facility/Landlord issues.

Mr. Melby has been in commercial real estate industry for more than 30 years and holds the industry’stop designation: Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).

Ellen Metrick

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgSafe Play: Human Factors' Impact on Toy Safety 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Ellen Metrick has been an active participant in the toy industry for 30 years. She has consulted with and worked for major toy manufacturers and retailers on toy design and quality from initial concept through post-production. She has created systems to research and evaluate toys’ impact on childhood development and their therapeutic value for children with special needs. She has written extensively for companies' websites, blogs, parent guides, package inserts and has had regular columns on creative applications for toys and play for such magazines as EdPlay, Educational Dealer, ASTRA, Parenting Special Needs and Chicago Special Parent.  She currently is a Human Factors Specialist with UL, LLC, providing safety risk assessments on children’s products through the lens of child development. With a background in special education, she has spent her career focused on how toys and play impact development for all children. She is a member of ASTRA, Toy Association, and Women in Toys.

Patricia Norins

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpg60 Innovative Marketing Ideas in 60 Minutes
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am


Patricia Norins has spent the past 25 years inspiring companies to utilize innovative marketing techniques to grow their sales and profits. She is the founder of two retail industry publications, Specialty Retail Report and Gift Shop. She has also launched and built successful retail conferences around the world including SPREE, the world’s largest show for the specialty retail industry.  Norins’ prior business was ranked in Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies.  In addition, Norins served as spokesperson for American Express's Small Business Saturday.  She is regularly quoted in newspapers across the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times as an authority in specialty retail.  Through her seminars, publications, training and websites, Norins has helped thousands of businesses to grow through creative and impactful marketing strategies.






Megan Philpott

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgThe Power of Play: An Interactive Experience
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm


Megan grew up a Hoosier in the great state of Indiana. With a background in early childhood education, she has seen it all. Through college she worked as a substitute teacher at the middle school level and later as a teacher in a daycare setting where she had the opportunity to lead a class in each of the different age groups (birth-5). It was in the daycare setting that Megan truly fell in love with and began to understand the power of play. After working in the position of Assistant Director in that daycare for a period of time, a change of pace for Megan’s life was needed and she became a personal nanny to a family with three little girls under the age of six. Here she was able to see even more the benefits of play for young children. Over the next few years Megan had the opportunity to learn through and experience lots of different children in lots of different settings at play. Eventually she landed in a small toy store in downtown Franklin, IN where she was really able to spread her creative wings. It was here that the play class program that she holds so dear to her heart really took form.

Megan now has been with that same toy store (Toodleydoo Toys) for three and a half years and has also added the title of Preschool Director at Victory Christian Preschool to her list of accomplishments. Megan and her husband, Adam, live in downtown Franklin, IN with their Jack Russell, Oliver, and urban farm. Teaching, play, art, and a good podcast are things that keep her creative spirit alive.

Peter Reynolds

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgCertified Play Experts Present: Become a Community Resource Center
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Peter’s first exposure to toys came in 1972 when he entered the toy industry, then later he spent 26 years as the President of BRIO US Corporation, the US subsidiary of BRIO of Sweden. The business grew exponentially ultimately growing to a top line sales in the mid-eight figures. BRIO’s core marketing philosophy was  built on Peter’s deep-rooted belief in the importance of play and therefore the need for good toys and a strong distribution network of specialty retailers. All marketing and promotional communication was focused on demonstrating the power of play and the subsequent empowerment and enrichment of the child

Peter was the driver of the very successful Wooden Railway system and it was BRIO who introduced the first demo tables, the first staff and consumer training Good Toy Workshops and the first in store Playdays.

After leaving BRIO  Peter consulted with two start-up companies: Think Like a Genius and Aha! Corporation, both involved in developing human potential and then helped to set up the US distribution of Hape Inc. becoming the General Manager for North America in March 2005.

Now with HABA USA Peter is still extremely passionate about the Good Play, Good Toys and the importance of the Specialty Retailer because they remain the only true motivators and communicators of the critical nature of play. He embraces leading edge research on child development and uses it in all his communication aspects of the HABA. 

Debbie Scholl

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgRetail Math 101: What You Need to Know to Survive & Thrive 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm



Owner/President of Fundamentally Toys in Houston Texas, established 1995.

Started retail career in 1976, working for Federated Department Stores in Cincinnati and Houston.  Worked in buying offices and financial management for May Company in the 1980’s.  Managed a wine boutique for several years before opening Fundamentally Toys in 1995.

Joined ASTRA in 1994 and has served as the Astra chair and in various committees.  Presented at numerous Astra conventions with solid reviews for providing useful, interesting information to help retailers improve their performance.

Retiring soon to Asheville North Carolina and hopes to continue working to help independent retailers compete in today’s changing marketplace.

Thom Singer

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgThe Paradox of Potential 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm

Thom Singer has an eclectic background working in sales, marketing and business development roles for Fortune 500 Companies, Law Firms, and entrepreneurial ventures.  He believes that all opportunities come from people, and when we work together to find “cooperative significance” with others we all discover more success.  

Singer is a professional master of ceremonies, speaker, trainer, consultant and the author of twelve books on the power of business relationships, business development, entrepreneurship, sales, legal marketing and presentation skills.  He speaks regularly at business and association conferences around the United States and beyond.

He is also the host of the widely popular “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast.  On this show he interviews entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and business leaders from a variety of industries.  He encourages his guests to share tips and ideas that can help those with an “entrepreneurial spirit” find their own path toward success.

Thom and his wife, Sara, make their home in Austin, Texas and are the parents of two highly spirited daughters.






Ron Solomon

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgLightning Learning: 10 Tips to Taming the MAPP Jungle 
Monday, June 11, 2018
12:00pm - 12:15pm

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
12:00pm - 12:15pm

Ronald Solomon has written books and television shows, created and run commercially successful products and services spanning children's toys and games, and information technology.

In 2006 Solomon started The Creditors Network, a unique, online system that helps vendors to exchange credit information on their shared customers. In 2012 the company added MAPP Trap to its portfolio in order to help companies keep track of how their products are being represented by online merchants. The system is currently in use by manufacturers in a variety of industries spanning, toys, games, juvenile products, pet products, gift, housewares, auto parts sporting goods, health, beauty and more.

From 1998-2010, Solomon successfully created and distributed his own line of award-winning products for the “tween” market. Through his company, Swingset Press, Solomon forged a successful niche in the specialty toy, gift, book and girls’ accessories markets. His products have received publicity in such venues as The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Radio Disney, AOL’s “Kid’s On Line”, InStyle Magazine, The Today Show, New York Magazine, Working Mother, Parenting and YM and more.

Before forming Swingset Press, Solomon spent over a decade in television. Starting in 1987, he worked with NBC to create the highly successful "TNBC"​ block of programming. He worked as a writer/producer and writer/co-executive producer on such iconic series as "Saved By The Bell,"​ "California Dreams"​ (co-created by Ron for NBC), and "Hang Time."​

After completing over 200 episodes, Solomon left NBC and wrote dozens of freelance scripts (produced) and original television pilots for Fred Silverman, UPN, Disney, and FOX Television.


Paul Sunderland

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgBuilding the Right Succession Plan 2.0
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm

Strategic Planning Made Simple
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm

Consultation Station: Succession Planning
Monday, June 11, 2018
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Register for your 30 minute session now!




Paul has been a lawyer and business consultant for almost forty years.  He advises clients and lectures widely to industry, trade and government groups on a variety of issues of interest to businesses including business startups, business and asset valuation, financing, contracts, the purchase and sale of businesses, as well as strategic and succession planning. 

Paul is a graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY where he received a B.A. in economics with highest honors and of the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, PA where he served as editor of the law review. 

In addition to working with businesses, Paul advises county governments on a variety of legal matter and he and his wife have operated a number of successful retail businesses as well as completing the revitalization of the historic Story Block Building, a century old mixed use project in Ouray, Colorado. 

Brian Turtle

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgOpenSpace: Community & In-Store Events 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
10:15am-11:30am

Having a “happy accident” lead to a twenty-year career in the toy industry isn’t what Brian Turtle everexpected, but it’s exactly what happened. In 1994 Brian and some college friends created the popular“Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. A board game soon followed, which was one of the originalproducts at Endless Games. After demoing his own game at several trade shows and store events, Brianstarted “officially working” at Endless Games in 1997 and has served as their National Sales Manager forover fifteen years. As his family grew, so did Brian’s appreciation for games as a great “unplugged”platform for human connection. He’s passionate about toys, games, and family; and considers himself lucky to work in an industry where the focus is FUN!

Ray Wehrs

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgGrowing Your Own Geeks: How Game Culture Keeps Customers in Your Store
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm


Ray Wehrs is the president and owner of Calliope Games.

A serial entrepreneur, Wehrs has owned and operated lighting ventures, an art gallery and custom framing business, and two game companies. He’s also a philanthropist, having worked with Seattle Children’s Hospital to raise more than a million dollars for the organization’s Uncompensated Care Fund.

Wehrs has been actively engaged with the toy and game industries since 1998, when his brother-in-law Jordan Weisman (former creative director for the Microsoft Xbox launch team) drafted him to help launch WizKids, a tabletop game publisher and leader in the core hobby gaming industry. During his time as director of sales at WizKids, Wehrs received numerous letters recounting the positive effect the company’s games had on families. Near the end of his tenure, his oldest daughter developed ITP, an autoimmune disease that aggressively attacks white blood cells. The combination of the letters and his daughter’s health drove home the importance of family so strongly that Wehrs decided to devote his career to “family time.”

As the founder of Calliope Games, Wehrs strives to create innovative and engaging ways to pull families together through the shared bonding and entertainment experience we call “board games.” His philosophy is simple: the fun is not found in the box, the cardboard, or the bits; rather, it’s created by the people who play the games. He views Calliope Games simply as the instigator of fun.

Phil Wrzesinski

c5f79576-4965-4abe-a95a-d72c9c17a8af.jpgGetting Your Customers to Talk (About You!)
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00pm-2:00pm

Profit Margin is Not Your Only Money Maker 
Sunday, June 10, 2018
2:15pm-3:15pm

Phil Wrzesinski is the former President and Owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, one of America’s largest and oldest independent toy and baby stores named one of the 25 Best Independent Stores in America in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin.

Phil uses what he learned in a lifetime of retail to help other independent retailers and small businesses with their Advertising, Pricing, Inventory Management, Customer Service, Hiring and Staff Trainings. His business presentations are always fun & informative, and full of useful tips you can implement right away. His first book, “Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art” is helping all types of businesses improve the quality of their staff.

Phil is the proud father of two boys and helps expectant fathers get off to a good start in their fatherhoods through a highly-touted class he teaches at the local hospital called “Babies 101: The Basics for New Dads”.

Phil also writes for several retail magazines and has a popular blog on retailing at www.PhilsForum.com.