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Big Monster Toys breeds breakthrough playthings

IT's hard not to get the creative juices flowing while working in the shadow of a giant stuffed giraffe and taking tea in a caboose-shaped kitchen. That's exactly the environment the folks behind Chicago-based Big Monster Toys say breeds innovative product development. 'An eight-foot-square cubicle with fluorescent lights is just not conducive to coming up with the next great idea,' insists CEO Don Rosenwinkel.
October 1, 2008

IT’s hard not to get the creative juices flowing while working in the shadow of a giant stuffed giraffe and taking tea in a caboose-shaped kitchen. That’s exactly the environment the folks behind Chicago-based Big Monster Toys say breeds innovative product development. ‘An eight-foot-square cubicle with fluorescent lights is just not conducive to coming up with the next great idea,’ insists CEO Don Rosenwinkel.

And he certainly would know. Rosenwinkel is one of five founding partners who collectively possess 125 years of industry expertise, having formed BMT from the ashes of Marvin Glass & Associates 20 years ago. Put simply, BMT’s business model revolves around dreaming up original product concepts and licensing them to larger companies, including Mattel, Hasbro and Jakks Pacific. The shop currently employs some 30 people from diverse backgrounds including mechanical and electric engineering, model-making and tailoring.

BMT most recently focused its efforts on a void in the girls electronic market and came up with a virtual-pet-and-plush range called MyMeebas, which rolled out from Mattel last month for US$20. From development to finished product, MyMeebas took approximately 18 months to create – a typical production cycle. ‘We come up with 500 concepts a year, but only 200 of them actually make it to the point where we spend some time with them,’ says Rosenwinkel. ‘Of that 200, if we sell 10% of those concepts, that’s a good year.’ And no idea is ever completely dismissed. The ones that don’t make it past the table, whether due to timing or technology limitations, get archived with a mind to being revisited in a year or two.

BMT doesn’t work on commissioned concepts, nor does it take pitches from external sources. Generating all projects in-house, its staffers largely develop ideas by keeping their eyes on general trends, product news and kids research.

The toy hatchery is currently working on its spring/fall 2010 product concepts, and Rosenwinkel remains tight-lipped about upcoming projects. But he’ll be attending Fall Toy Preview in Dallas this month, and is always open to talking to new potential clients.

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