Rachel Griffin – Ironman Cancer Crusader

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

Honestly, it was by pure accident… or fate. I moved to Los Angeles fresh out of college to work in entertainment at CBS, unfortunately or fortunately, the job I was offered was given to someone else.  I was crushed, so instead of packing my bags and heading back home to NY, I went to a temp agency that ultimately placed me at Saban Entertainment / Fox Family Worldwide as the Executive Assistant to Haim Saban (CEO) and Mel Woods (COO). It was awesome.  Talk about learning from the best. Haim and Mel knew the kids business inside and out.  I learned so much from them physically and through osmosis.  It was hands down one of the best work experiences of my life.  

Two years after I started, Saban Entertainment / Fox Family Worldwide were sold to the Disney Company to become what is now ABC Family.  Mel Woods went to consult at MGA Entertainment and asked me to go with him, which I happily did, and after a few short months Dave Malacrida invited me to join his “PR Team of One” to help launch the Bratz Dolls and the rest, I guess, is history.   

What Trends Do You See in Toys? 

  • Robots. As technology advances, toys will advance.  Did you see how cool our (Spin Master’s) Zoomer  and Flutterbye Fairy were last year!!? Wait until you meet Boomer this year.
  • Digital extensions to toy lines through the creation of entertainment properties, companion applications, games and digital experiences will enhance the changing consumer play patterns.
  • Construction toys will continue to be hot sellers. I think our recent acquisition of Meccano and newly launched Ionix line will continue to shapeshift the construction aisle, allowing for builders to experience classic construction play in a brand new way.  

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Although I was not a “girlie girl” growing up, JEM and the HOLOGRAMS, RAINBOW BRITE and the CARE BEARS were my favorite toys and STOP THIEF and SCOTLAND YARD were my favorite games… my favorite sport to watch and play was and still is Baseball.

What musical instruments and music do you play?

I used to play piano as a kid and I bought a saxophone when I was 25, I had ambitions of becoming a killer saxophone player, but now it is used as decoration in my living room, but I think I can play “London Bridge is Falling Down” & “When the Saints Go Marching In.” 

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day has changed a little this year I have committed to doing the Cozumel Ironman.  (2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike ride and then a 26.2 mile run)  I know it sounds crazy, but it is something that I have always wanted to do.

So to answer your question, my typical day starts off or ends with training.  It is a nice bookend to a fun filled day at work. Some days I feel like Tom Hanks in BIG.  I spend tons of time playing with all of our products.  I want to make sure I know the ins and outs of them before I pitch them and other days I’m in meetings.  But most of my time I spend pitching media toy experts, press, bloggers or celebs on Spin Master’s hot toys.  Our latest success story was working with Backstage Creations on the MTV Movie Awards gift bag for one of our lines, Spattter by Wackytivities.  Tyler Posey from Teen Wolf loved it! 

What inspires you?

A lot of things inspire me for different reasons.  My parents and family inspire me on so many levels. My co-workers inspire me to be more creative. Paola, the young girl I have been mentoring for almost 10 years, inspires me to dream and to never take anything for granted. She is the first person in her entire extended family to graduate high school and go to college.  My Ironman teammates inspire me to never give up.  Every day, (well, not Mondays), we go out and swim, bike and run for miles.  Most days it is fun but some days it can be brutal, but every day, we remind ourselves that we are “Cancer Crusaders” and we are raising money to help save a life, to help cure cancer.  Now that’s inspiring, right?  
If you look around you, I promise you will find inspiration in everything you see. If you catch a red light, you may be inspired to “slow down and take it all in,” on the flip side, you hit a green light and you can be inspired to “pick up the pace, life is too short.”   

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Hmmm.. I guess the one mistake that sticks out in my head the most was back when I worked for Haim Saban.  I was a few weeks into my first job – July of 2000 - and I was rolling calls for Haim, when one of the calls I received was from President Bill Clinton.  At the time, Haim was one of the largest Democratic National Committee Contributors for the Al Gore Campaign and very close with the Clintons (still is). As I patched Haim to the call, rather shaky I imagine, as it was the president after all, I said “Haim, you have MR. Bill Clinton on the line.”  He of course greeted him with “Billy boy how are you?” When we finished the call, Haim very graciously reminded me that once you become president, you always have that title and should always address them as such, of course I knew that, but I was thrown off I actually had to use it.   But Haim’s correction was made in the most insightful and endearing way. He did not embarrass me or correct me in front of the President.  He could have made me feel so dumb, but he didn’t. He was a class act and that has always stuck with me.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

My iPhone is an extension of my body.  I use it for everything. Not only is my cell number on our company website and press releases, but I use the phone to monitor my workouts, photos, social media, read on the Kindle, watch MLB TV (GO METS!) and of course play games (I am seriously addicted to Words With Friends, What’s the Phrase, Dots and Dumb Ways to Die.)  

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I find humor in almost anything, so would it surprise you to hear that I laughed out loud today? Buzzfeed had “Vintage Easter Bunny Photos That Will Make Your Skin Crawl,” those pics were so funny.  Some of those bunnies were ridiculous and did not even look like bunnies, while others were so scary and the poor kids’ faces were priceless. 

What advice can you give to those entering the toy industry? 

The advice I would give to those entering the toy industry is the same advice I would give in life - “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” “Life is too short – Go For It!” and “Everything happens for a reason.”

My entire life I have lived by those mottos and surprise, I am still alive!   I have an awesome job, I have experienced countless adventures and I have an amazing family and network of friends and colleagues, which I also am happy to call family.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff:  If you let the little things in life get in your way, it will cloud your view of the overall picture, make you frustrated and upset.  It only takes 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown, if you sweat that small little muscle, think of how miserable you would look all the time and but think of how amazing you feel when you smile. 

Life is too short – Go For It: This is probably the motto I live most by.  I have an adventurous spirit and believe life is worth living.  At age 18, I went sky diving for the first time. At age 22 I backed a bag and moved across the country from NY to LA. At age 29, I quit my job at MGA to backpack around Europe by myself. I subsequently ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Ice Climbed in Switzerland and had a beer in Bosnia. At age 30 I moved to London with only a suitcase and the dream of living abroad, while there, Spin Master hired me to handle international PR and then relocated me back LA to head up PR in the LA office. At age 35 I flew in a sky stunt plane doing crazy loops and dives at the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show.  Now at age 36 I am going to complete my first Ironman, what’s next? Life is there for the taking and for living.  You must enjoy it, or why else are you here?

Everything Happens for a Reason:  I truly believe this and to be honest with you,  the reason may not be obvious at the time, but it will present itself later.  Fourteen years ago, I didn’t get that job at CBS and now I get paid to be a big kid.   Life is sweet. 

If you are interested to see following any of my crazy adventures, check out http://travelgriffinironwoman.blogspot.com/  

If you want to be a Cancer Crusader, please donate at http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineHIrn14/RachelHGriffin