American Specialty Toy Retailing Association

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  • Turning Challenge into Opportunity with Peter Sheahan

    Watch Peter Sheahan's presentation from ASTRA's 2018 Marketplace & Academy and stay up to date each month with new ideas from Peter on how to move from awareness to ownership and finding opportunity in disruption.

    Peter Sheahan is internationally known for his innovative business thinking and thought leadership. The keynote he presented at ASTRA's 2018 Marketplace & Academy was provocative, insightful, and packed full of real world examples that can shift the way you see your role and help you to find opportunities in change and disruption. 

    This package will share 12 actionable vignettes to help you navigate disruptive forces and turn it into competitive advantage. Register for this education package so that you are alerted when the monthly vignette is available. Peter will share the following content:

    1. Moving from Awareness to Ownership
    2. Moving from Agreement to Alignment
    3. Creating a Leadership Aspiration
    4. Creating Capacity through Deselection
    5. Defining vs. Enabling
    6. Intentionally Intervene
    7. Leverage vs. Control
    8. Burning Platform vs. Burning Desire
    9. The Opportunity is in the Disruption
    10. Move Towards the Edge of Disruption
    11. Lead the Customer into the Future
    12. Optimism
  • Create Your Own Buzz: In-Store Event Planning

    Register for this webinar series to hear Megan's presentation from the Dallas Market Center, download materials shared and listen to her extended podcasts providing additional tips on planning in-store events.

    ASTRA hosted a brainstorming session on in-store events with Megan Philpott of Toodleydoo Toys from on Thursday, January 17 at the Dallas Market Center:

    With the craziness of the holidays behind you and a fresh year before you, it’s time to create your own buzz. Megan Philpott (@theplayfulgal) will share her expertise during an interactive brainstorming session. Together we will look at the 2019 calendar to see how to bring the people to you even when there is not a holiday in sight. Participants can expect to:

    • Learn how to look at a calendar with a fresh set of eyes
    • Glean valuable insight from community happenings
    • Brainstorm and network with like-minded people
    • Gain confidence with event sharing on social media

    Participants were able to walk away with Megan’s go-to event planning template, plus a calendar full of event ideas. 

    Register for this webinar series to hear Megan's presentation from the Dallas Market Center, download materials shared and listen to her extended podcasts providing additional tips on planning in-store events. 

  • CMSR Workshop @ Marketplace

    ASTRA will be hosting the Certified Master Sales Representative Workshop at Marketplace & Academy in Pittsburgh, PA. Will you join us for an afternoon of professional development on the topic of customer service?

    Who: Sales Representatives

    What: Certified Master Sales Representative Workshop, $149/person

    When: Sunday, June 9, 2019 @ 3:30pm - 5:00pm

    Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center 

    Why: Join ASTRA for the Certified Master Sales Representative Workshop. This is your chance to expand your professional development on the topic of customer service. Registrants will walk out the door with the customer service component of CMSR complete and gain access to the remainder of the program to complete online and become fully credentialed. 

    By registering for this event, I am granting permission to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) and its agents and employees the irrevocable and unrestricted right to reproduce photographs, video and sound taken of me or members of my family, for the purpose of publication, promotion, illustration, advertising or trade, in any manner or in any medium. I hereby release ASTRA and its legal representatives for all claims and liability relating to said images, video or sound. 

  • Certified Master Sales Representative

    Recorded On: 01/03/2019

    Certified Master Sales Representative

    Welcome to the Certified Master Sales Representative program. This program is designed to give sales reps the tools to be successful in owning and operating an independent business.

    Requirements to enroll:

    • Must be a sales representative
    • Must be currently employed within the specialty toy industry
    • Each candidate must have their own email address to access the program (contact ASTRA if you need to be added your organizations' roster)

    The content tracks may be taken in any order. Handouts are downloadable and recommended for use during the completion of the CMSR program. 

    Member Rate: $149 Non-Member Rate: $699

    Testing: To receive the certificate, candidates are required to pass the tests within each content track with 80% or greater results. A candidate has 3 attempts to pass the test. All tests relate to the content within the course or combination of courses. 

    Jean Bailey


    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.

    Melissa Beran

    UL LLC | Senior Human Factors Specialist

    Melissa Beran, M.A. has been a Senior Human Factors Specialist with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in Westmont, Illinois, USA since 2011, where she is active in consumer product safety. Previously, she served as a Research Scientist with Intertek for 11 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling. With over 17 years of experience in psychology and social services, Melissa’s expertise in qualitative analysis and her ability to gather information about human experience and behavior equips her to critically assess consumer products and detect potential hazards before they go into production. Melissa is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, including the Children’s Issues Technical Group, and has presented at national conferences on such topics as the foreseeable use of consumer products and the various behavioral strategies used by children as they explore.  

    Kevin Carroll

    KJC Communications LLC | Managing Director

    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.

    Lillian Davis

    Diverse Marketing | Sales Representative

    Lillian came to the toy world in June 2007 after many years in the investment and insurance industries where she developed her marketing and management skills. Lillian is currently a sales representative for Diverse Marketing, handling the state of Kansas and western Missouri. She is a motivated self-starter with excellent people skills and the ability to pay attention to details. Lillian’s stores consider her a business partner rather than a sales rep.

    Lillian has a business degree from Georgia State University. She has 2 children, now in college (but not necessarily grown up), and has also been a foster mom.  

    Alexandra Eidenberg

    The Insurance People | President

    Alexandra Eidenberg is the co-founder and President of The Insurance People. She has been a licensed insurance agent for over 9 years and educates people about their options and the market so they can make the best decisions for their families and businesses. Her passion for helping others is evident in everything she pursues and the networking community of Chicagoland knows her well for her bubbly personality and giving nature. 

    Alexandra makes insurance fun, inviting and understandable. Her company, The Insurance People, is contracted to numerous carriers to serve their clients needs. The Insurance People offers products and services to everyday families and businesses that want great insurance at the right price. Alexandra's personal specialty is health insurance. 

    Many know Alexandra for her community involvement and work with Mom+Baby, a not for profit that supports women and children. She is on the Board of the Small Business Advocacy Council and is endorsed by Stand Up, eWomenNetwork, Founding Moms and more! Alexandra is passionate about the community and helping others. She is an advocate for her clients, colleagues, and friends and works hard to ensure that others succeed and have access to needed resources.

    Alexandra resides in Wilmette, IL with her husband Roger, twin daughters Ana & Miriam, and son Owen. 

    Alexandra Eidenberg, President
    773-697-8082 xt. 1003

    Connect with Alexandra: 

    Rieva Lesonsky

    GrowBiz Media | CEO & President

    Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog She’s a nationally-known speaker, best-selling author, and authority on entrepreneurship and has covered the industry for more than 30 years. Prior to starting GrowBiz Media, she was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur magazine.

    Lesonsky regularly writes about small business and entrepreneurship for numerous websites. She also consults with and produces content for corporations targeting entrepreneurs and small business owners.  

    Lesonsky has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart show and Oprah, and can regularly be seen on MSNBC’s Your Business

    Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, and was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate. In 2009, she was honored as one of publishing’s top innovators. The Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization honored her for helping drive “the entrepreneurial revolution in secondary education.” The ASBDC awarded her a “Champion of Small Business” award and in 2012 she received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She’s been named one of the nation’s top 100 Small Business Influencers and is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.




    Gwen Ottenberg

    Imagine That! Toys | Owner

    Imagine That Toys is a family owned and operated specialty toy store in Wichita, Kansas and our online store.  Gwen Ottenberg is the woman who is always playing.  She has over thirty years of experience in the toy world.  Come in and pick her brain on that toy that you loved as a child.  She is always ready for a challenge.

    Natalie Remien

    Levin Ginsburg Attorneys | Lawyer

    Natalie A. Remien is an Intellectual Property and Privacy attorney. Natalie is the Chair  and  Founder of the firm’s Privacy and Data Security Practice Group, where she leverages her understanding of business and IT to assist clients in identifying areas of corporate risk and mitigating such risk through regulatory compliance and corporate governance at all levels of the organization. Through corporate agreements, employee policies and training, privacy notices and terms of service, appropriate insurance coverage, and security breach notification  strategies,  Natalie helps companies decrease risk of lawsuits, fines and damage to corporate goodwill and reputation in the marketplace. Additionally, Natalie has nearly two decades-worth of experience intellectual property identification, counseling, protection, licensing and enforcement.

    Natalie is a champion for business owners and has a particular affinity for representing companies that provide goods and services for children. To that end, Natalie is a Preferred Provider to the American Specialty Toy Association, and a regular writer and contributor to the Chicago Toy and Game monthly newsletter. Although Natalie has represented many clients in diverse industries, her passion lies in representing companies in the toy and gift arena, with particular emphasis on children’s educational development and security of smart and connected toys.

    Morris Saunders

    Levin Ginsburg Attorneys | Lawyer

    Morris’s practice concentrates in business and tax areas, including, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, business succession planning, deferred compensation, qualified and non-qualified employee benefit plans, and also in wealth preservation and estate planning. He deals extensively in the negotiation and preparation of commercial real estate and equipment purchase and sales agreement and leases, software licensing agreements and other business agreements.

    Morris is a member of various bar associations. He is also a member of the Family Firm Institute and a founding member of the Private Directors Association. He has spoken to various professional and community groups about business entities, estate planning, trusts, estates, business succession planning and deferred compensation. Morris has hosted a series of workshops for the College of Lake County aimed at teaching small business owners various legal aspects of forming business entities, maintaining those entities and other issues facing business owners.

    TJ Simmons

    Kahootz Toys | Sales Manager

    Organizational and communication skills make you good at your job and passion drives the success. I have an incredible passion for the toy industry as a true believer that play is the key factor in development for every child, person and family as a whole. I pour that passion into my work and consistently move forward, constantly improving.

    Lyne Tumlinson

    Lift Team Coaching | Leadership Coach

    Award-winning Leadership Coach Lyne Tumlinson works with non-profit and small business leaders motivated to discover their best self, to develop their best team and create positive results for their dream organization. Her multi-faceted background in personality, cultural diversity, and leadership development have been the perfect storm of preparation for her true calling.

    Known for bringing energy and enthusiasm to her work, she inspires clients by integrating her top values of Faith, Fun, and Fellowship with her top Strengths – Includer, Maximizer, and Individualization.

    Lyne’s previous experiences include serving as career services director at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), cross-cultural trainer at the University of Kansas, and outplacement assistant for a private HR consultant in Overland Park.

    Tumlinson earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Kansas and has studied Psychology, Business, and Russian studies. She is an ICF-certified coach (PCC), Certified Strengths Strategy Coach and Association Executive (CAE). Professional accolades include the Avatar Coach Award from the International Coach Federation’s Midwest Regional Advisory Council, the Allied Member of Excellence award from the Kansas City Society of Association Executives and the Volunteer of the Year award from Ad Astra Area Aquatics swim team in Lawrence, Kansas.

    Ariel Weinstein

    UL LLC | Senior Regulatory Analyst

    Ariel Weinstein has a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois. She has been working in the consumer products industry since 2008 and with UL as a Regulatory Analyst since 2014. She focused on toys and juvenile products for the first 6 years of her career and now focuses solely on toys. She sits on the ASTM Toy subcommittee where she works to improve the toy standards with other members of the industry. She tracks laws, regulations, and standards that apply to toys in 120+ markets. 

    Beth Ziesenis

    Your Nerdy Best Friend

    Meet Beth Ziesenis, your own personal Nerdy Best Friend. Beth Z keeps up with all the new online applications and downloads that can help you look like you're working with a team of marketing, computer and productivity experts, even if you suffer from a shrinking staff and a disappearing budget. Named an editor's pick for best speaker of 2013 by MeetingsNet and a Favorite Speaker by Meetings & Conventions magazine in 2014, Beth Ziesenis is an author, speaker, technology consultant and selfproclaimed nerd. Since her first Commodore 64 computer, Beth has been fascinated with technology and computer shortcuts that make people's lives easier. Beth helps computer users all over the country filter through thousands of apps, gadgets, widgets and doodads to find the perfect free and bargain technology tools for business and personal use through presentations and her books, including the latest title, Release Your Inner Nerd, available on

  • Building the Right Succession Plan

    This session was recorded at ASTRA's 2016 Marketplace & Academy. Paul Sunderland shares content on how to extract the value from your business which you have worked so hard to develop in this presentation titled, Building the Right Succession Plan.

    This session was recorded at ASTRA's 2016 Marketplace & Academy. Paul Sunderland shares content on how to extract the value from your business which you have worked so hard to develop in this presentation titled, Building the Right Succession Plan. 

    Paul Sunderland


    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.  

  • Benchmarking Survey 2018

    Having specific financial statistics from the specialty toy industry can help your business in lease negotiations, securing lines of credit and determining the areas that can provide you with the greatest return on your investment.

    "I love the way they take information and give me the benchmarks to compare against other stores like me. It gives me the places to look for more money in my business." --Gwen Ottenberg, Imagine That Toys, Wichita, KS

    In turbulent times, financial benchmarking information is more important than ever before. The best source of financial benchmarks for the specialty toy industry is the ASTRA Retailer Benchmarking Survey. The information in this report provides answers to questions such as, "are the most successful firms in a down market placing more emphasis on gross margin or expense control?"

    ASTRA members can purchase a summary report that provides a financial and operating profile of the entire industry that includes an explanatory webinar.  

  • Certified Play Expert (In-Person)

    2 Day Interactive Workshop

    ASTRA is pleased to be hosting our upcoming Certified Play Expert (CPE) Workshop in Omaha, NE this September!

    ASTRA invites toy industry professionals, therapists, librarians, educators and anyone in the business of play to take part in this event. Become a Certified Play Expert at our in-person, interactive 2-day workshop.


    • Saturday, September 15, 2018 @ 8am-5pm (tentative times)
    • Sunday, September 16, 2018 @ 8am-5pm (tentative times)




    • Breakfast and lunch on both days
    • Certificate of graduation
    • Certified Play Expert pin


    Hotel Deco | Park Room
    1504 Harney Street
    Omaha, NE 68102

  • 2018 ASTRA Academy Recordings- ALL ACCESS

    Access to 3 video recorded breakout sessions including handouts/slides along with the Lunch & Learn and keynote presentations. Access to 4 audio recordings of Lightning Learning on the show floor are also included in this package.

    ASTRA and the education committee curated the following Marketplace & Academy sessions for recording and post show viewing: 

    Sunday, 6/10 @ 10:15am: The Changing Toy Market: Who's Buying & How to Reach Them | Rieva Lesonsky

    Sunday, 6/10 @ 11:45am: Lunch & Learn: Navigating Industry Consolidation | Patrick Glaser

    Sunday, 6/10 @ 1:00pm: Building the Right Succession Plan 2.0 | Paul Sunderland

    Sunday, 6/10 @ 2:15pm: The Paradox of Potential | Thom Singer

    Monday, 6/11 @ 10:00am: 3 Approaches to Business Valuation | Paul Sunderland (audio only)

    Monday, 6/11 @ 12noon: 10 Tips to Taming the MAPP Jungle | Ron Solomon (audio only)

    Monday, 6/11 @ 1:00pm: Top 3 Merchandising Tips | Lindsay Anvik (audio only)

    Monday, 6/11 @ 3:00pm: Top 3 Tips for Creating a Social Media Presence (audio only)

    Wednesday, 6/13 @ 8:30am: Fl!p: Proven Strategies for Turning Challenge Into Opportunity | Peter Sheahan

  • On-Demand Webinars for Exhibitor Success

    Fellow exhibitors who watched said: “I've been in charge of our tradeshow booth for the last 8 years at a variety of shows, and I learned new things and was reminded of what was important. In addition, as I was listening I found myself thinking of new ideas to market our booth and writing them on sticky notes which are now stuck all over my desk!” “We learned some very important pre-marketing strategies that will hopefully help generate lots of customers and sales. Great information on PRE show marketing.” "This will get you thinking coherently and strategically about your tradeshow strategies"

    Do you want more exhibiting success and better ROI?  ASTRA can help you get it!

    ASTRA has partnered with Jefferson Davis of Competitive Edge to bring you complimentary education! These webinars will provide you with the tools to add value, expand your exhibiting know-how, and improve your company's exhibiting performance and ROI for ASTRA's 2018 Marketplace & Academy. 

    Fellow exhibitors who watched said:
    “I've been in charge of our tradeshow booth for the last 8 years at a variety of shows, and I learned new things and was reminded of what was important. In addition, as I was listening I found myself thinking of new ideas to market our booth and writing them on sticky notes which are now stuck all over my desk!”

    “We learned some very important pre-marketing strategies that will hopefully help generate lots of customers and sales. Great information on PRE show marketing.”

    "This will get you thinking coherently and strategically about your tradeshow strategies."

  • Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

    Watch this presentation from Randy Kravitz, executive director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Chicagoland.

    Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses offers a practical business education and a supportive network of peers and advisers—at no cost to participants. Accepted small business owners will learn practical skills to grow their business, including negotiations, marketing, employee management and more. Participants also receive one-on-one business advising and get expert guidance from Goldman Sachs professionals, attorneys and others.

    Market expansion and industry viability are two key areas of ASTRA’s strategic plan. ASTRA’s goal is to create nominating partnerships with all eleven Goldman Sachs programs across the United States in California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Utah to support these goals.

    Chicagoland ASTRA members are encouraged to apply for the next Goldman Sachs cohort. Click “Apply Now” by February 7, 2018 to be considered for the program:

    Randy Kravitz

    Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Executive Director

    Randy Kravitz, Interim Executive Director brings a wealth of experience from successful careers in Fortune 500 companies, as well as small business where he is both an owner and consultant. After receiving his BS in Business Administration from Miami University (Ohio) and MBA at Xavier University, Randy worked in key international, product management/development, sales and executive management roles for General Mills Toy Division, American Greetings Corp. and United Stationers Supply Co.

    Randy’s strong connection to international business stems from over 20 years setting up and managing operations throughout the Far East designing and sourcing, then selling consumer products into European, Scandinavian, Australian and North American markets. In addition, he has overseen the acquisition and management of a large corporate division in the Canadian market and directed the activities of a domestic startup into a $350 Million business. In 2006, Randy purchased a small consumer products business in the health and wellness space. He developed new products and marketing programs resulting in successful product placements in resort spas, health centers, day spas and salons across the US.

    Randy joined 10KSB in November 2014 and as Interim Executive Director oversees 10KSB Chicago’s outreach and recruiting; partnerships; curriculum delivery; business support services; and Alumni activities. Outside of 10KSB he is involved with his wife Jeannette in sponsorKIDS Charities, their 501c(3) involved in children’s cultural education and travel activities.