Given the current state of the toy industry, some would say you’d have to be really crazy or really cocky to launch a new toy company. Bill Beebe and Kim McQuilken admit that it’s a bit of both in their case. But with top-grade kids entertainment pedigrees and a history of working successfully together, their Naples, Florida-based outfit is already making a name for itself in licensing circles.
Beebe has spent the last 28 years selling and marketing toys, most recently serving as Bandai’s chief marketing officer and doing a stint as SVP of sales at Playmates Toys before that. McQuilken is no slouch, either. The former NFL quarterback hails from Cartoon Network, where his last position saw him overseeing the network’s L&M division as EVP of advertising sales and marketing. The two execs partnered several times on consumer products programs for CN properties, most notably working together on Ben 10′s toy line.
Hooga Loo Toys only opened for business in September 2007, but the experience of its two co-founders and managing directors is patently evident in the speed with which the shop has signed its first licenses and set up manufacturing operations in Hong Kong.
Beebe and McQuilken wasted no time in snapping up master toy rights to DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which hits theaters in November; upcoming spin-off TV series The Penguins of Madagascar, slated for a Q1 2009 debut on Nicktoons; and a spring 2009 long-form version of Decode’s Naughty Naughty Pets short series, which currently airs on Cartoon Network and Boomerang in the US.
Because its owners have such extensive entertainment backgrounds, Hooga Loo will continue to focus on building a portfolio of licensed properties, with an eye to balancing evenly between girl-skewing and boy-skewing lines. Beebe would like to produce specialty-quality products (plastics, electronics, plush, etc.) primarily for mass distribution, but with the potential to cross over into other channels. Promotional product development is another area of business the toyco is exploring, and Pamela McSweeney from the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. has been brought in to lead the charge.
Hooga Loo’s doors are wide open to properties that may have been turned down by other toycos. ‘We think that by taking a risk on some of the smaller brands, something will break out,’ says Beebe. And although the industry is still hungover from last summer’s mass recalls, and feeling the strain of rising labor and raw materials costs, McQuilken says Hooga Loo has the advantage of starting with a clean slate. ‘We’re not constrained by previous relationships, whether they govern pricing at the factory or prices we set with retailers,’ he says. ‘We’re still going to have to negotiate hard like everyone else, but we don’t have to build the business by 10% to 15% this year, and then face layoffs if we don’t.’
Beebe and McQuilken will be hitting the market circuit in full force this year to establish connections with property owners and retail buyers alike, so look for them at Licensing Show and Fall Toy Fair.