Getting children to embrace the arts from a young age is strongly encouraged by both educators and a company known as “Kahootz Toys” that is on a mission to help kids embrace their creative side via a roster of toys that encourage drawing, sculpturing and more. From clay tools to stencil kits, Kahootz develops products in-house and also works with inventors to bring interesting and innovative playthings to the market. In fact, although Kahootz is focused on the arts and crafts market right now, they are not restricted to that category in the future. Recently Doug Cass, the co-owner and Head of Sales, spoke to Entertainment Vine about the company, its relationship with inventors, and its hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: When was your company started and why was that specific name chosen?
Doug Cass (DC): We all have been in the retail consumer goods market for many years, and had heard several times from retailers, that there were a lot of terrific ideas in the market from smaller entrepreneurs, but they struggled with ‘running’ a company and they did not understand the trade. We had the advantage of having a group of people based on Ann Arbor that had successfully operated a consumer goods company that were available. So, we simply were missing ‘the great idea’ so we set out to ‘be in Cahoots’ with someone that had a great idea, and pledged to help their great ideas become a reality.
MM: What kinds of items do you sell? Essentially, how would you describe your products?
DC: We’re a consumer goods company and sell primarily ‘kids arts and crafts’- although were not restricting ourselves to this category- this is just where we have been the most successful. Our products currently are dominated by ‘retro’ items that are generational and were enjoyed in the past, and we have brought them back ‘better than ever’.
MM: Right now many items does Kahootz offer overall?
DC: Very limited number of items, and brands: Spirograph, Fashion Plates, Play Doh, and Romper Room currently, and for the future, we just aligned with “Colorforms” to help relaunch that iconic brand.
MM: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?
DC: Absolutely. Inventors, people with the ‘great idea’ are crucial to our offering. We also work with licensing companies (Hasbro currently) as well as other Consumer Products companies that may need our assistance. We have unique talents with Product Creation, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and Sales to effectively get goods in front of consumers through on line, brick and mortar, or catalog retailers.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with this company?
DC: Absolutely the most rewarding is to be able to do what you want to do, with the people you are able to do it with. 12/15 of our staff members were with us during our last company from 2002-2011 we ran “Giddy Up” a consumer company also based in Ann Arbor. It sold to Elmers in 2006, and was then sold to CT based company in 2011, displacing several of our co-workers- thus the need to get ‘into Kahootz’!
MM: Where do you hope the company will be in ten years?
DC: We hope to be doing the same thing were doing today: bringing quality products to the consumer markets that we believe in. Essentially, products that have great value and resonate with the consumer. We do know however, that the ‘way’ consumers are purchasing is changing a record pace, so were focused on online marketing, social media, and communicating our products to the consumer in a way that connects with them. Most critically, we hope in ten years to continue to be working with the fantastic people we have the pleasure of working with right now on a day to day basis. No question, our greatest strength is our people.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy industry?
DC: The Toy industry is full of terrific opportunities, but it’s also a very volatile one as well. The consumer is always looking for what is ‘new’- trends come and go very quickly, so when things are not going well, it’s not because you are not succeeding, and when things are going well, it’s not that your infallible.
MM: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
DC: Our focus trade show is the Toy Show in New York City this year from Feb 18-21st at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. Thousands of vendors, and retailers converge to find out ‘whats new’ for the coming year. We look forward to showing our retail partners our line up there this year again!