• Pamela Brill

Relatively Speaking

Rebecca OestreicherRebecca Oestreicher collaborated with her father Paul on a toy design, which resulted in TagsMania
In the incestuous world of the gift and toy industry, it's not unusual to run into business people who are related to one another. And when those relationships involve breeding future entrepreneurs, they help set the stage for the next generation of toy and gift manufacturers.
     Testing out her own interest in the toy retail business is 13-year-old Rebecca Oestreicher, whose father Paul founded TagsMania. Rebecca's involvement with the company actually predates her recent role in helping to develop its Tagsdale plush toy. "After watching her grab, shake and bite the wash labels on her soft toys when she was a baby, I sketched out the first tag toy ideas in 1998," explains Oestreicher. Because he was working on other projects at the time, the TagBall and TagRattle developmental toys - the result of Rebecca's early experience - didn't make it to the toy and gift market until 2010.

From Dinner Table to Store Shelves
     But one year earlier than the initial product launch, a discussion around the family dinner table led to the idea of yet another tag-based toy. It was Rebecca who suggested they design a tag-horse in 2009. "Starting with the mane and tail made out of tags, we thought we could even go one further when we thought of Clydesdales: we could make the hooves out of tags, too," explains Paul. And so the Tagsdale plush horse was birthed, and Rebecca was credited as being its product design assistant.

Faith NicoleFaith Nicole launched her own line of fashion and travel accessories as a separate business from that of her parents.
     "Rebecca possesses the qualities of a great entrepreneur - someone who uses both her left and right brains," boasts her dad, who describes her as smart, imaginative and detail-oriented. "She enjoys thinking about problems and creative solutions. And Rebecca excels at math and art: a wonderful combination when designing and evaluating products with precision."
     Rebecca prides herself on what her friends say about her work. "They know I'm interested in both art and engineering, so they think this is really cool," she says modestly.
     As to whether she sees this venture as a stepping stone to a future career in the toy industry, she is unsure about where she'll end up. Instead, Rebecca's job satisfaction resides a little closer to home. "Helping to design TagsMania toys is fun and interesting, but the best part is the extra time I get to spend with my dad," she says. "He really values my opinions, so that makes me feel pretty special.

     Flaunting Fashion "No stranger to the retail community, 18-year-old designer Faith Nicole spent nearly all of her life entrenched in the business of buying and selling gifts. When she was a baby, her parents, Bret and Dianna Mouse, started their own gift shop and eventually expanded into seven retail locations across Oklahoma. Having designed their own product line, they ventured into the wholesale market with Drake Design - The Faith Collection. This sparked an interest in their daughter, who was intrigued by all she saw.
     "Growing up in the business, I realized the passion that my parents had for their company and wanted to experience the same type of love for what I did," Nicole explains. Such aspirations resulted in Flaunt, Nicole's own line of travel bags and accessories, which launched earlier this year at the Atlanta and Dallas gift shows. A hit with retailers, Flaunt's debut collection laid the groundwork for the company's first year in operation, for which multimillion dollar sales are projected.
     To establish her brand's identity, Nicole consulted fashion magazines and paid close attention to consumer trends. "I worked to create a line that fit my style, as well as my business plan, which helped me to love Flaunt even more," she says.
FLAUNTING A CAUSE     Although her parents continue to be a source of inspiration for Nicole, she is careful to follow her own career path. "They have set an amazing business example and I have followed it faithfully," she remarks. "However, while they strive to create products that are functional in the home, I work to create products that are functional for you."

From Boardroom to Classroom
     Having recently graduated from high school and gearing up for her freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, Nicole will surely be able to harness her business expertise in the classroom. She is well-aware that her studies and her work with Flaunt will be equally vying for her time, and so has taken the appropriate measures. "I am balancing work and school by taking fewer [class] hours, so that I am not overwhelmed with classes and homework while juggling work," she remarks. "I am excited to see how they both work together."
     For other young people who have an eye toward the business world, Nicole emphasizes the importance of being passionate about your ideas and surrounding yourself with a strong support system. "Just know that any dream that is worth it will be hard work, but you can do it," she enthuses.

Pamela BrillPamela Brill | Editor-at-Large, Gifts and Decorative Accessories

Pamela Brill, the proud mother of two young daughters, has been writing about parenting and children's products for over a decade. Before she began her freelance writing career, she served at the helm of two industry publications: Small World, which specialized in baby products, and Playthings, which is now part of Gifts & Decorative Accessories. She is currently an Editor-at-Large for Gifts & Decorative Accessories. Her previous blog postings can be viewed at www.talkingwalnut.com

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