Welcome to the Certified Master Retailer program. This program is designed to give retailers the tools to be successful in owning and operating a specialty toy store.
Requirements to enroll:
- Must be a retailer
- Must be currently employed within a retail store for 6 months or greater
- If you are considering opening a store and would like to take this program, please contact Ahren Hoffman via phone (312-955-9047) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- 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.
Member Rate: $149 Non-Member Rate: $699
Testing: To receive the certificate, candidates are required to pass the tests within each content track. A candidate has 3 attempts to pass the test with 80% or greater. This test may be taken before or after the course. All tests relate to the content within the course or combination of courses.
President, The Retail Smart Guys
Dan Jablons worked in retail while attending the Ohio State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Production. He has worked with retailers such as Walmart, Target, JC Penney, American Apparel, Betsey Johnson, Donna Karan, Jimmy Choo, Charles David, Diesel, Oakley, Tumi, Hollywood Bowl, and many others. He has worked for a clothing manufacturer where he piloted vendor-managed inventory programs, a leading point-of-sale provider (where he installed systems and provided merchandising help to retailers large and small) and internet marketing (where he helped retailers establish a presence on the web.)
In addition to his vast retail background, Dan also has a background in improvisational theatre. He has performed with comedy troupes all across the USA, and recently appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Dan combines his extensive knowledge of retail with his comedy skills to become one of the industry's most popular speakers. He has spoken at Magic, at local municipal and trade show events, and many other venues
Ahren Hoffman, CTRS, CPE
Director of Education & Training, ASTRA
Ahren Hoffman is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) as well as a Certified Play Expert (CPE) and began her career in the toy industry in 2007. In her past role as Manager of Industry Relations & Partnerships at the National Lekotek Center (where she developed this content for the CMR program), Hoffman evaluated toys and play products beneficial for all children, especially those with disabilities, at AblePlay.org, a project of Lekotek. Hoffman also provided support services to members of the toy industry to share the developmental potential and possibility of toys and play products for children of all abilities. These collaborations allowed Hoffman to contribute to the creation of multiple toy guides and have the opportunity to be published in a manual related to the benefits of sensory play.
Hoffman is active in the lecture circuit presenting to organizations and professionals in the field of child development as well as within the toy industry creating presentations and webinars for retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives. Hoffman also regularly contributes to a variety of print and online publications to advocate for the power of toys and play.
Hoffman received her Bachelors of Science in Therapeutic Recreation with a minor in Psychology at Central Michigan University.
Craig Melby, CCIM
President, Lease Smart
Craig Melby, CCIM achieved the industry's two top designations: currently a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), and a former member of the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors (SIOR). Has served as a Board Member for various organizations including the world's largest exclusive Tenant Representative organization, the International Tenant Representative Alliance.
Specialty is Site Selection, Lease Negotiations and Facility Acquisitions: finding facilities for expanding or relocating companies, and negotiating the best terms possible for the Tenant/Buyer.
Written many articles for industry publications and am co-author of the book on how to negotiate a lease: “Leasing Smart" – which has been required reading for the University of Florida's masters in real estate program. Also wrote “Professional Real Estate Investor's Handbook" – which has been approved by the Florida Real Estate Commission, and used as a continuing education textbook.
Craig is also an active entrepreneur, owning several successful ventures which give him an in-depth, real-world knowledge of what it takes to run a business. He speaks your language!
Andrew Starfield, CFBS
Financial Representative, MassMutual Greater Philadelphia
Andrew Starfield is a Financial Representative with MassMutual Greater Philadelphia. He works with individuals and small businesses to help them protect their most important assets, accumulate wealth, and make sound financial decisions for their futures. Proper protection starts with the implementation of a well thought out plan. Andrew works to effectively address all of his clients' goals and concerns, and ensures that the plan evolves in concert with the clients' needs. He specializes in working with closely-held businesses, and also works extensively with SBA Lenders and their borrowers, assisting them in obtaining the protection needed to secure their loans.
Andrew graduated from Lafayette College in 2004. His career in finance began with a private commercial lending firm, Ciena Capital, LLC. With Ciena, Andrew worked extensively with the shareholders of closely-held businesses. He gained extensive knowledge in many facets of finance and commercial lending. Through his client work at Ciena, most notably involving lending through the Small Business Administration, Andrew assisted members of the small business community in promoting government sponsored loan programs and increasing consumer access to capital. Working with the owners of closely-held family businesses gave Andrew deep insight into the most pressing issues facing our small business community today, laying the groundwork for his future commitment to helping clients through planning at First Financial Group. A
Andrew Starfield, CFBS
Executive Vice President, MassMutual Greater Philadelphia
Joseph W. Murray is the Executive Vice President of First Financial Group, a 125 year-old financial services firm located in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Joe has been with First Financial Group since 1989 and has remained committed to his practice while continuing to mentor to new associates. As the Director of Business and Estate Planning, he is a key promoter of comprehensive financial planning.
Joe's experience in business and estate planning markets is well known and is one of approximately 200 Certified Family Business Specialists in the country. He has been working with closely held business owners since 1983, addressing the growth and ultimate distribution problems that can affect them. Joe most enjoys helping business owners with charitable inclinations and enough wealth to give.
President, Merchandising Concepts
Anne M. Obarski, the “Eye on Performance",is an international retail speaker and customer service strategist who works closely with organizations who want to become CONTAGIOUS….on purpose! Anne founded Merchandise Concepts in 1984 and is proud to be celebrating her 30th year. Whether it's working with top level managers or frontline personnel she teaches organizations to consistently deliver remarkable customer service experiences that become their defining advantage.
Anne has a corporate background as a sportswear buyer for 8 stores for one of the largest department stores in the country. She honed her retail expertise while globe hopping looking for just the right merchandise for her diverse customers. She shared her extensive business expertise with college students as a retail business professor for 15 years. She accessed and shared “real world" retail operating procedures to guarantee the success of her students in their careers in the retail field. During her tenure, Anne was “stolen" to be a consultant for another retailer, and as they say…the rest is history.
Her business experience coupled with her classroom curriculum makes her uniquely qualified to work with business owners who regularly seek her advice on how to create contagious customer service.
Dana Campgana Lanham, MBA
President, Fun 2 Market
With over 20 years in the family entertainment, toy, education and leisure products industries, Dana Campagna Lanham is a strategic and creative marketing consultant identifying, analyzing and developing new markets and products for her global clients, focusing on the family, children and education. Her agency, Fun2Market Consulting in Davidson, NC, works retail and manufacturing clients to develop a competitive advantage and repeat customers through both strategic planning and program execution. Her clients include Spin Master, Funosophy, Briarpatch, USAopoly, ThinkFun, US Playing Cards, Carson-Dellosa, Identity Games/Find It, Planet FOAM and Zag Toys. Her retail clients have included Lowe's, Wal-Mart and Walgreen's.
Ms. Campagna Lanham has held executive marketing positions in the toy industry with Hasbro, Tyco and Mattel Toys where she developed and commercialized the game, puzzle and activity businesses. Dana has helped build children's toy brands and worked major entertainment and character properties including Disney®, Marvel®, Nickelodeon®, Hot Wheels®, Barbie®, Fisher Price®, Harry Potter® along with UNO®, Scrabble®, Pass the Pigs®, Taboo®, Yahtzee®, and many more toy and game brands.
Lanham was on the marketing faculty at Belk College at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught Retail, Internet Marketing, Advertising/Integrated Marketing Communications and Marketing Research and at Catawba College, in Salisbury, NC where she was on the marketing and communications faculty where she taught Intro to Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Operations Management and Small Business Management.
Dana has been a frequent participant at the Chicago Toy and Game Conference (ChiTaG) as a speaker and expert panelist. She was nominated for the Women in Toys Consultant of the Year in 2011. Lanham received her Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Western New England University in Springfield, MA., and Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a married, and the mother of two children, Morgan and Cooper, ages 9 and 5 years.
Sue Warfield, CPE
Director of Member Relations, ASTRA
Sue Warfield has been in the both the Retail and Toy Business for over 30 years. What began as a part-time retail job turned into a passion for retail. While attending college, she worked part time for the then Dayton's Department Store Chain. Though her “career" path had been International Trade, when she got her first great job in her field of study, she realized that as each day was coming to a close, she was looking forward to going to her part-time sales job at Dayton's – which for some reason, she had never given up. Answering an ad to become an assistant manager at a hobby and craft store, she got the job….and that was it. Retail and sales were where she wanted to be.
Over the ensuing years, Sue worked for 2 major, independently owned, retail chains based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and worked through the ranks to include store management, training, buying, and ultimately, director of retail operations. In 1990 she started her own retail consulting firm, Retail Specialties, and worked with clients around the US, developing training programs and working to improve their day to day operations. She entered the world of toy representation in 1995 and retail store ownership in 1999 when she and her husband opened a northwoods furnishings and décor store.
She joined ASTRA in 2000 and has been an active member ever since, serving on the Board for 7 years, including chair. Her most recent work contributions have been with Hotaling Imports, a long term ASTRA Member, and serving as chair of the ASTRA Membership Committee. Sue started her position as Director of Member Relations in August of 2014. She and her husband have 3 grown children and live in the northern Minnesota town of Ely, MN – gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Phil's Forum Publishing
I am an entrepreneur just like you. I started working at the ripe age of seven in 1973 when my grandfather paid me 10 cents an hour to put price tags on boxes.
I honed my entrepreneurial skills running the largest independent toy store in America from 1993 (when I left a career in Team Building) through December 2016, while also starting a weekly radio show, monthly magazine, and successful speaking career during those years.
Now I put on my cape and fight for you, bringing you the lessons I learned from decades of running a small business.
Owner, Legacy Toys & IT Consultant
Brad Ruoho has been in the technology sector for over 15 years, mainly helping small businesses with integrating POS to E-commerce and Web Development. He has also helped hundreds of businesses setup and use Quickbooks and other accounting systems to help their business run smoother. In 2013 he sold his I.T. Company and opened a Specialty Toy Store with his wife and 3 daughters in Northern Minnesota. This unique combination of experience gave him great insight that is beneficial to Toy Stores across the US!
Vice President, Interim HR Consulting
Kevin Cummings (KC) is Vice President of Interim HR Consulting and has over 20 years of human resource generalist experience helping businesses achieve objectives. KC is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) since 2003 and also a CSPHR through the Society of Human Resource Managers. A graduate of DePaul University, KC has an ability to advise both seasoned business leaders and entrepreneurs using the experience from the rigorous training from the Center for Creative Leadership. KC is also certified with the United States Professional Tennis Association (P1) and a competitive athlete.
Telephone: (312) 771-9971