Victoria Lawson ’20 is representing Syracuse University this week as a member of the Toy Fair Student Congress 2020 at the US Toy Fair. Lawson is a VPA Industrial and Interaction Design student and a Whitman EEE minor, specializing in product design and packaging. She is the guest of Adam ’96 (Whitman) and Amy Fazackerley, members of the SU Libraries Advisory Council, who are co-founders of Lay-n-Go, a patented activity mat, cleanup, storage and carryall solution in one. The event is the annual gathering tapping into the $27B U.S. domestic toy market, held at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City. It is also a showcase for innovation, with more than 7,000 toys making their world debut each year.
The LaunchPad ran a campus competition to select a student who is an exemplary innovator, inventor, and packaging/product designer to represent the University at this event. Lawson was selected for this honor. She is a Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow who manages the LaunchPad’s graphic and user design portfolio, and mentors other student startups. She is also founder and CEO of her own firm, Weird and Woke Design. Lawson is doing an entrepreneurial marketing research project on Lay-n-Go as part of Professor Elizabeth Wimer’s EEE class, so the trip is especially relevant to her academic experience.
The Fazackerley’s founded Lay-N-Go when Adam kept buying LEGO® sets for their three children, and Amy looked everywhere for something that made cleanup easy, contained the small pieces, could be used on the go, and was machine washable. There was no solution on the market that did all of these things, so they spent the next year designing, testing, re-engineering and producing what would become Lay-n-Go’s first product. The product line now includes: The COSMO, the ultimate cosmetic bag; The WIRED, to easily organize chargers, cords, thumb drives, etc.; The PLAY, to manage large toy collections; and The LITE, a play mat that is perfect for life on the go.
The Fazackerley’s are active LaunchPad mentors and worked closely with VPA School of Design students Alec Gillinder and Quinn King to help bring MedUX, their portable IV solution, to market. They have worked with Kelsey Davis, founder of CLLCTVE, including introducing her to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where they are both on the Small Business Council. They are also currently working with Matt Shumer, founder of VISOS and winner of the recent campus ACC InVenture Prize, on strategies to sell his product into military markets. The Fazackerley’s also employ Syracuse University students as interns at Lay-n-Go.
The global toy community gathers at Toy Fair to buy and sell product, pitch and exchange ideas, meet with partners, and learn about consumer trends at the trade-only event for play professionals. The show features over 1,000 exhibitors showcasing more than 150,000 toys and entertainment products – from classic to the latest tech toys. The show will be attended by an estimated 30,000 global play professionals, as well buyers from up to 100 countries. Two special features include the Launch Pad, a first-time exhibitor hall showcasing new innovation, and the Knowledge Network, special sessions focused on licensing, retailing, global research, safety, compliance, environmental issues, and more.
New this year is the inaugural Student Congress designed for students across design, marketing and entrepreneurship courses. Designed to help students learn more about the industry and think of it as a future career destination, the Congress kicks off with a ‘Meet and Eat’ session, where students can network over breakfast. This is followed by a panel session called ‘Toy Story: Not the Movie… The Career!’ chaired by ChizComm’s Kathleen Campisano and featuring Funko president Andrew Perlmutter, SuperAwesome’s head of global sales Lee Veitch, ViacomCBS account exec Michelle Grossman and Mattel’s senior director of inventor relations and strategic partnerships, Dave Harris. Students will hear panelists speak about their varying roles and will ultimately better understand the scope of careers within the toy industry and get a feel for which opportunities interest them.
Following the panel session, Mojo Nation’s Billy Langsworthy and Deej Johnson will be hosting the Student Congress Innovation Workshop. This hands-on workshop will provide students with a raft of creative techniques used by designers in the industry and help them understand the various routes they have to choose from once they have a great idea for a new toy or game. The Student Congress will close with a series of booth visits where students are invited to walk the show floor and meet with exhibiting companies.
“For many years Toy Fair New York has opened its doors to an average of 250 university level students,” said Marian Bossard, Executive Vice President, Global Market Events at The Toy Association. “The Congress will bring soon-to-the-workforce students together with an industry ready to welcome new talent.”