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2024 Inventor Pitch & Innovation Conference
November 7th - 9th, 2024
Details for 2024 TBA! 

Global Toy & Game Industry's Premier Pitch & Education Event
Connect, Pitch, Learn at Largest and Longest Running Innovation Event

“I look forward to the People of Play Inventor Conference and the TAGIEs every year, but I have to say that this year was the best one yet! The toy and game community is an amazing group of people and Mary and this event have a way of amplifying all that is great about it. Where else can creators, inventors, manufacturers, retailers, and toy & game companies all come together for a few days in November to learn, share cool ideas and, if lucky, make that connection that leads to the next big thing? The energy is just so positive, and it reminds us of how lucky we are to do what we do. The POP inventor conference is not just about feeling good and celebrating our great industry though. It’s an essential component of Hasbro’s external innovation strategy.” - Angus Walker, Hasbro 

POP Week - It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year! - Shannon Swindle, Moose Games

Amazing show! The caliber of people and inventions were simply outstanding. The location is perfect! So convenient and affordable! Well done! -Erik Quam, Smart Toys

POP Inventor Pitch/Conference is unique as the only industry show dedicated and specifically catering to game and toy inventors and the executives that influence the path of innovation for their respective companies. It’s also a terrific venue for networking as each year we emerge with new customers and stronger relationships. If you choose this vocation, it’s absolutely essential to attend.  – Robert Fuhrer, NEXTOY


Last November's POP Pitch set a record for licensing products for fun-damental . We licensed concepts in a variety of categories with existing clients as well as some new ones. I'll be back - Gary Pyper, Fun-damental invention UK

POP Pitch meetings and connections we made were so invaluable we got more done in 3 days than we have in the past 3 yrs! It reinvigorated our spirits and gave us the boost we needed. I really can’t thank you enough or reiterate sufficiently how valuable that was for us. I already can’t wait for next year! -Alex Mackey, Lethal Chicken Games

Below is What Happened at the...
Inventor Pitch & Innovation Conference

Awesome Keynotes!

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Dr. Michelle Thaller

NASA Astrophysicist,  Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

If Dr. Thaller looks familiar, it means you probably enjoyed Michelle's introduction of the James Webb Telescope last year on one of your screens or one of the countless media appearances she has made over the years. She is extraordinary.. We had the good fortune to have her speak about ten years ago and Conference attendees still talk about it, so we had to ask her back!  More details about Dr. Thaller can be found on her Wikipedia page.

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Andrew Perlmutter

President, Funko

Andrew Perlmutter has served as Funko, Inc.'s President since December 2022, prior to which, he served as Chief Executive Officer from January 2022 through December 2022 and as a member of the Funko, Inc. board of directors since January, 2022. Previously, Mr. Perlmutter served as President of Funko, Inc. and FAH, LLC since October 2017 and as the Senior Vice President of Sales of FAH, LLC from June 2013 until October 2017. Prior to joining Funko, Mr. Perlmutter was a co-founder of Bottle Rocket Collective, a board and travel games company, where he oversaw product manufacturing and sales from December 2012 until December 2013. Mr. Perlmutter received a B.A. in Interpersonal Communications from Southern Illinois University.

Conference Panels! We'll be Sharing More Soon! 

Toys of the World: Japanese and American Business Partnerships in the Toy Industry
Cultural Differences and Historical Successes

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Robert Fuhrer

Owner of Nextoy LLC

Robert Fuhrer is the Founder and Owner of Nextoy LLC. His company connects great, original ideas with toy/game companies, such as Hasbro, Mattel, Spin Master, Goliath, The New York Times, PlayMonster, AndrewsMcMeel, Gakken, Kawada and many others, that turn the idea into product. Classic Nextoy products include Crocodile Dentist, Gator Golf, KenKen, Spirograph Animator, Will Shortz Games and iTop. On a business trip to Japan to 2007, Robert became fascinated with an unknown math-and-logic puzzle. So he set up KenKen Puzzles LLC and markets the popular KenKen puzzle worldwide with a popular website, mobile apps, books, and syndicated publications. AWARDS - Recipient of the I.D.I.O.T. (International Designer & Inventor of Toys) award. - TIME Magazine’s “Most Amazing Inventions” selection. - TOTY (Toy of the Year) 3x nominee for Most Innovative Toy of the Year. - Toy Industry of America, Caring For Children Award - Mojo Nation “Top 100 most Influential Figures Working In Toy and Game Design” BOARD MEMBER: - Chitag -Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Hudson Valley -Evan's Team -Ping Pong Parkinson

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Daizo Uehara

Global Award Winning Product Design and Development Leader

Read our interview with Daizo HERE!

Daizo is a creative and collaborative product developer who applies business and leadership skills to multi-disciplined consumer product development teams. He's experienced in multi tasked creative leadership roles at major toy companies for multi decades, holds Industry’s best in class skills and knowledge in product design, development and engineering applied to hundreds of toys and consumer goods for both hard and soft lines. He is a broadly known toy expert recognized as an influential business liaison by various major entertainment companies in Japan through numerous successes in IP acquisitions. His proven problem solving and analytical skills utilized in people, product, and process solutions.

Emergent Stories and Avatars: Ancient, Present, and Beyond


Nicholas Tragnark

Creative Director - Toy & Entertainment - Brand Innovation Lab at AMAZON

  • Nicholas Tragnark connects the dots of creative development, science & engineering, and business through play and storytelling innovation.  He is creatively spearheading partnerships with Toy and Family Entertainment Brands (Hasbro, Mattel, LEGO, SpinMaster, Pokemon, Disney, etc) at Amazon Brand Innovation Lab.  

  • Years of professional curiosity have lead him through 4 startup ventures, 10 industries, and 100+ studios and clients, ranging from designing Transformer robots and customer engagement for Barbie The Movie, to software inspired by neural connectomes and lunch chats about lasers and painting with Astronauts.

How AI Is Making Toy Innovation and Pitching Easier than EVER Before

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Azhelle Wade

The Toy Coach

In today's dynamic and ever-evolving world, the toy industry is experiencing a remarkable transformation thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Join The Toy Coach for an engaging and insightful talk, "Unlocking Creativity: How AI Is Revolutionizing Toy Ideation and Pitching," where we'll delve into the fascinating realm of AI-driven innovation in the world of toys and games.

Imagine a world where the process of dreaming up new toys, refining their designs, and presenting them to the world has become faster, more efficient, and brimming with creative possibilities. During this enlightening session, we will demystify AI, explore tailored AI tools you can start using today, and experience a live AI demo.

Whether you're a toy designer, inventor, entrepreneur, or simply a curious individual interested in the intersection of technology and creativity, this talk promises to open your eyes to the exciting world of AI-driven toy innovation. 

Prepare to be inspired, informed, and equipped with the knowledge to harness AI's potential in your own toy journey. The future of toy ideation and pitching promises to be easier and more exciting than ever before.

Fourth Quarter PR Advice: Holiday Guides, Influencers, Lead Times, QVC & More

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Rachel Griffin

Co-Founder at PlayWise Partners, QVC Host

​An Advisory Board member for POP, two-time Women In Toys: Wonder Woman of the Year Finalist, and PRSA member, Rachel is a dynamic and best practice driven public relations leader with over 19 years of award-winning excellence.  She has successfully launched numerous toy brands and franchises for top ten toy companies, including multiple Toy of the Year nominees and winners.  She excels at implementing and negotiating strategic marketing & promotions, while deepening brand awareness year over year through comprehensive media coverage, events, digital and social media. And, she's a good poker player if you are looking for a game!

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Amy Friedland

Executive Vice President at Freeman Public Relations

Working with Media & Influencers: A Blueprint for New Product Launches

Amy knows the toy and game PR business.  She’s worked with the industry’s biggest names and the smallest startups, helping them with brand awareness, new product launches, influencer campaigns and more.  In a nutshell, she helps her clients successfully move the needle at retail.  Amy has spearheaded numerous award-winning campaigns that have driven explosive consumer awareness. Influencer campaigns that she manages generate important “eyeballs” that help translate into sales. She loves brainstorming with her clients and has been known to color outside the lines of traditional PR with some off the wall ideas! Plus, she’s helped nominate and win more than a few TOTY and TAGIE’s for her clients over the years. 

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Christopher Byrne

The Toy Guy

Chris is a 35-year-plus veteran of the toy industry. He has held major marketing and creative positions for toy companies. Since 1988, he has run Byrne Communications, Inc., a consultancy for product development, strategic planning, licensing, and marketing. He has written seven books on the industry and speaks extensively on the role of child development in play and toy design and consults to the investment community in the U.S. and internationally about the business of toys. He appears regularly on Live with Kelly and Ryan and is the creator and co-host of The Playground Podcast, now in its fifth season.

The consequences of underprioritizing contracts, copyrights and trademarks in toys and entertainment.  Discussion of potential legal scenarios, and how failing to conduct searches, delayed IP filings, and not having properly drafted contracts prior to engagement of creative services can cause unnecessary stress and expense. 

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Charlotte Towne

aka The Mermaid Lawyer®️

The founder of Charlotte Towne Law has been practicing entertainment law since 2009.  Charlotte Towne represents a broad range of creators, innovators, and businesses with their trademark, copyright, and contract needs.  She is also a patented toy inventor and professional mermaid, performing at corporate events.  Charlotte protects her clients' valuable IP treasures through trademark searches, trademark filings, copyright filings, and contracts. 

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Francesco Sardone

As a partner at Carter, DeLuca & Farrell, and with over 20 years of Intellectual Property (IP) Law experience, I have developed an expertise in all aspects of IP law, including U.S. and international patent, trademark and copyright prosecution. I have been fortunate enough to work with individual, small, medium, large and start-up who are looking to protect their ideas and/or build IP portfolios. I primarily work in the mechanical, electromechanical and medical arts, with an emphasis on medical and surgical devices including robotics, as well as, working with clients in the toy and game industries, and in the sports and fitness industry. My practice also includes conducting due diligence investigations, validity studies and clearance searches and preparing freedom-to-practice and validity opinions. 

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Andrew Himebaugh

Intellectual Property Attorney
I have extensive experience with design and utility patent procurement, enforcement, and defense as well as experience with trademark and copyright disputes. My approach to protecting my clients' passion, ideas, and livelihood through intellectual property is holistic, always prioritizing high client satisfaction and sustainable commercial and monetization for client properties. I regularly represent clients who are enforcing intellectual property rights or defending against such claims in United States Federal District Courts, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (such as in proceedings of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board). As such, I have experience with many types of disputes and the stages thereof, including appeals and settlement.

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Jason Keener

Intellectual Property Attorney

Over 18 years of experience in intellectual property matters involving patent, copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets. I regularly represents clients seeking to enforce or monetize their intellectual property assets as well as defending clients against claims of infringement asserted by both competitors and non-practicing entities. I have assisted a number of gaming companies with their intellectual property matters, including assisting established companies such as Games Workshop in its copyright and trademark matters, as well individual artists in disputes about the proper scope of use of their artwork in sequels to popular card games. nnovative solutions are an integral part of my intellectual property philosophy. As part of that philosophy, I not only looks for opportunities to push the law i

Toy Stories - Legends and Lore - Fact or Fiction

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Brendan Boyle

Toy Inventor and Design for Play Experience Designer Toy Inventor and Design for Play Experience Designer with Fuse London 

Brendan Boyle is a toy inventor, adjunct professor at Stanford University’s d.School, and the Founder of the IDEO Play Lab. He believes that play is the key to innovation and has spoken to creative leaders, entrepreneurs, and students about the importance of playful exploration and risk-taking.

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Mary Couzin

President and Founder of Chicago Toy and Game Group dba People of Play - POP!

After inventing, self-producing and licensing her own toys and games, Mary turned her passion for invention to help other inventors through In 2003, Mary launched the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (CHITAG) with a plan to create the largest American celebration of play. In 2006 she introduced the Toy & Game Inventor's Conference to help new inventors connect with industry experts, and in 2008 the Toy & Game Innovator of the Year Awards (TAGIEs) to honor and celebrate toy and game innovators. Tracks for professional inventors, design students, social media and play in education have been added to the Conferences through the years. Thinking to celebrate play in an edgier way, she launched PlayCHIC, a toy and game inspired fashion event in 2011. 2006 saw the debut of the Young Inventor Challenge which has over 250 kids competing from around North America and overseas. It’s all about encouraging inventiveness and creativity in kids!

Who's Getting POP Roasted This Year???  Rich Mazel, VP Of Innovation & Inventor Relations at Spin Master - That's Who! 
Roasters include Naomi Brugnatelli, David Fuhrer, Brendan Boyle, Ciaran Larkin and of course, our Roastee from last year, Matt 'the Nooch' Nuccio.

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Are You Ready for the Toy Takedown?
Details & Contestant Applications TBA!

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Where is the Roast & Toy TakeDown Happening?


Four Conference Tracks Tailored to Your Needs

2023 Agenda

Wednesday Evening, November 1st, Warm-Up! 

6:00pm at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar - the POP Roast of Rich Mazel and Toy Takedown with Brian Turtle, Tom Rushton and Matt Nuccio.

  • The POP Roast of Rich Mazel, VP of Innovation & Inventor Relations at Spin Master

  • The Toy Industry Takedown - a Family Feud Style Game organized by the 3 Super Heroes pictured above... we can't wait to see what happens! 


Thursday, November 2nd

  • 6:30pm - 9:00am – Breakfast in atrium - doesn't mean you need to be there at 6:30am. Arrive as you wish. (cooked to order)

  • 8:00 - 9:00am - Registration outside Ballroom/Conference room. 

  • 9:00am Keynote - Andrew Perlmutter, President of Funko, is our Opening Keynote.

  • 9:30am Keynote - Michelle Thaller, NASA Astrophysicist,  Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

  • 10:00am Robert Fuhrer and Daizo Uehara: Toys of the World:Japanese and American Business Partnerships in the Toy Industry

  • 10:30am - Nicholas Tragnark - Emergent Stories and Avatars: Ancient, Present, and Beyond

  • 11:00am - Azhelle Wade - How AI Is Making Toy Innovation and Pitching Easier than EVER Before

  • 12:00pm - 2:00pm – A BBQ lunch served just outside the conference room. New Inventor and Design Student Exhibition during lunch. Included in your registration is an exhibit table with this "Speed Meeting/Pitch" opportunity to pitch your toy, game or app prototypes, products, and ideas to dozens of companies for licensing and feedback. If a Product Acquisition Exec is interested in you or your idea, they will set a meeting with you for sometime later in Conference. 

  • 2:00pm - 3:00pm Rachel Griffin, Amy Friedland and Chris ByrneMaking the Play: Essential Role for Toys and Games in 2023 and Beyond. Send questions you have for these three mavens to and we will forward to them for answers during their presentation.

  • 3:00pm - 4:00pm - Charlotte Towne, Frank Sardone, Andy Himebaugh and Jason Keener  - The consequences of underprioritizing contracts, copyrights and trademarks in toys and entertainment.  Discussion of potential legal scenarios, and how failing to conduct searches, delayed IP filings, and not having properly drafted contracts prior to engagement of creative services can cause unnecessary stress and expense. 

  • 4:00pm - 5:00pm - Toy Stories with Brendan Boyle and Mary Couzin.

  • 5:00pm - 6:300pm – Evening Reception - two complimentary drinks - beers, wines, and premium spirits, appetizers (in hotel atrium)

Friday, November 3rd

  • 6:30am - 9:30am – Breakfast in atrium - arrive when you wish (cooked to order). Great opp to have a chat with someone from industry.

  • 10:00am - 10:30am – Mentoring with a Product Acquisition Executive (we will give you info and suite number)

  • 11:00am - 5:00pm – Advice from Experts! Book a meeting for advice from experts in manufacturing, legal, design, shipping, retail, other shows, exhibiting, social media, marketing/pr, pitching, financial and more!

  • 11:00am Lunch is on your own. Service opens in the atrium or you can enjoy the plethora of dining options nearly!  

  • 5:30pm - 6:00pm – Evening Reception - two complimentary drinks - beers, wines, premium spirits, appetizers  (in hotel atrium)

  • 6:00pm - The Toy & Game Int'l Innovation Excellence Awards - the TAGIEs! This year the celebration is at Joe's Live Concert Venue - hot hot hot! Included in your conference registration! 

Saturday and Sunday November 4th and 5th

Chicago Toy & Game Fair - discount on table or booth if you attend Conference

  • 7:30am - 10:30am – Breakfast in lobby - arrive when you wish  (cooked to order). Great opp to have a chat with someone from industry.

  • 9:00 - 6pm Walk or exhibit at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair right across the street in the convention center! Information here.

  • 5:30 - 7:00pm – Evening Reception - two complimentary drinks - a variety of beer, wine, and premium spirits  (in hotel atrium)

Professional Inventor Track by Invite
Product Acquisition Exec Track by Invite

Conference Hotel - Embassy Suites

Group rate has ended. There might be a few rooms left. (If not, the Doubletree is right next store! Made-to-Order Breakfast, Evening Cocktails & Complimentary Shuttles to/from Airport & Around Rosemont. TAGIEs, POP Roast, Fair & more just 1-3 blocks away!

No other event offers you so many fun and unique networking opportunities and is so easy for you to get to meetings! Rooms are arranged around a light and plant-filled atrium. All suites have separate living rooms with a four-person dining table for meetings, mini-kitchens and more.  Your meetings will be in these suites or in the meeting spaces. Sounds great, right? Well, it gets even better....


Gift bag when you check-in, 24-hour business center, complimentary made-to-order breakfast each morning and cocktails and snacks each evening - with your colleagues in the atrium. The closeness to all transportation and free shuttles to/from O'Hare aiport and around Rosemont - no need to spend money on taxis, Lyfts or Ubers!  Indoor pool and fitness center are added perks, and fabulous restaurants all within walking distance - or take the free shuttle! 

Book Hotel Now! 

We Expect These Companies and More This Year! 
(These are the companies that participated in 2022)

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Execs from these companies - 75 companies! - are attending, ready for pitches & networking... and even more are registering! Don't be left out! Register today!  Deals are being made!

Industry Experts for One-on-One Mentoring on Friday and Saturday

In-person or via Zoom for 15 Minutes, More Experts TBA


Rob Yusim

Founder & President of Product Counsel

Toy Product Invention Licensing;

Navigating Start-up & Small Toy Companies to success;

DIrect To Consumer Product/Brand Launch

(TV, Connected, Streaming, Social)

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Amy Friedland

Executive Vice President

Freeman Public Relations

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Azhelle Wade

The Toy Coach

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Charlotte Towne

aka Mermaid Lawyer

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Gene Murtha

ASTRA Board Member, POP Executive Committee Member, SCORE District Director and as a Regional VP for the Mid-Atlantic States, Inventor, former President GUND and SVP Mattel.

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Christopher Byrne

The Toy Guy

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Rachel Griffin


PlayWise Partners

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Andrew Himebaugh

Intellectual Property Attorney

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Jerry Cleary

President, In-Sync Consulting LLC, President, fromerly President of Tonka Toys, EVP Mattel 

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Tami Murphy

Founder, President

Tamic Strategies And GPI

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Francesco Sardone

Attorney Partner

Carter, DeLuca & Farrell

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Jason Keener

Intellectual Property Attorney

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Lisa Wuennemann

Marketing Strategist | Brand Management | Strategic Partnerships | Communications Professional | Digital Marketing

The Toy & Game Innovation Awards - The TAGIEs 
Joe's Live - Super Hot Venue!

This is a celebratory event you do not want to miss! Mark November 3rd for the TAGIEs - it is part of your ticket for the Conference and Pitch event!  To reserve separately, click here

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Mentor/Judge at the Young Inventor Challenge November 4th at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (just across the street)

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One of our most passionate and fun events! Make a difference in a child's life and encourage the next generation in our industry.

More information about mentoring, judging and sponsoring on this page!

What Past Attendees Say...

"CHITAG/POP's Inventor Conferences are timed optimally.

There is no better time of year for inventors to pitch ideas to us!"

Ben Dermer​, SVP Creative Development and Innovation. 

Deputy Creative Officer, Spin Master Ltd. 

“One of the first purchases we made as a new design studio was to sign up for a full POP Pro membership. The relationships we have made, the lessons learned and ultimately the deals we have signed as a result of our involvement with POP has paid for itself many many times over. It could cost 10x as much a nd still be a deal!” -Jordan Goddard, Co-Founder, Indy Toy Lab

"I love the CHITAG/POP events!

They're extremely well run with a great amount of thought put into them."

Carly McGinnis, Chief Operating Officer at Exploding Kittens

I highly recommend attending POP's Inventor Conferences. The knowledge, networking and access to decision makers is unmatched worldwide. I got my start the industry at these Conferences a few years ago and am now on track to hitting over a million games sold this summer of 2023! -Bob Kamp


It’s an annual rite of passage for our industry. Keep doing a great job bringing the community together and promoting the spirit of play.” –John Bell, Director, Product Design & Development, Buffalo Games

I attended CHITAG for the first time, and thought it was a fantastic event. It was great to connect with peers and learn from the quality talks. Look forward to attending next time! Gabby Toniolo, Bella Products, Australia


“This event makes me fall in love with the Toy & Game Industry each year!” - Megan Hinterman Kanous, PSI, Inc.

"Thank you for putting on such an informative and comprehensive conference and show.  ChiTAG is an excellent way to meet fellow inventors.  Our company, 1015 Creative, grew out of it.  Michael Adams and I met each other three years ago and within a year we were working together.  In October of last year we formed 1015 Creative, LLC with Damon Brown, bringing together a combined history of over 25 licensed games and 80 years of experience in game design, illustration and product development.  Our new company of successful inventors collaborating together debuted at the 2016 ChiTAG show.  We owe our success to the event and environment you have created." -Eric Foster, Principal at 1015 Creative, LLC.

"The Innovation Conferences are a must for anyone - inventors or company people - in the toy and game industry.  The information you'll learn, the pitching and the networking is incredible. Mary and her team are to be congratulated; there is nothing else like it in the world!" - Tanya Thompson, Hasbro   

"I don't think I have learned more about the Toy Biz since?... ever. I didn't want it to end." - Carle Wunderlich, Best of Best Toys, Inc. 

"Mary, you and your team throw one heck of an innovation conference!  It was a fantastic experience with a great group of people in the inventor community worldwide who are so clearly passionate about what they do and collaborative in spirit. Great keynotes/speakers, too!"  -Patty Sullivan, Highlights

"Chicago Toy & Game Week’s Professional Inventors Track is not just fertile ground for making the connections necessary to do business, it’s the annual gathering of the inventor tribe. In the whole wide world, there’s not a better place for independent toy and game inventors to go to catch up with each other, build friendships and strategic alliances, and spend quality time engaged with others who truly understand the nuances of the toy and game invention industry and share the common goal of expanding and improving our business opportunities. No other convention compares in personal warmth, richness of content, generosity of information sharing, and glorious un-rushed bubbles of quiet time to meet in depth and set a well-considered course right before the show season swings into hyper-warp mode and calm clarity morphs into frazzle." - Peggy Brown of Peggy Brown Creative

"Thank you for putting on such an informative and comprehensive conference and show.  ChiTAG is an excellent way to meet fellow inventors.  Our company, 1015 Creative, grew out of it.  Michael Adams and I met each other three years ago and within a year we were working together.  In October of last year we formed 1015 Creative, LLC with Damon Brown, bringing together a combined history of over 25 licensed games and 80 years of experience in game design, illustration and product development.  Our new company of successful inventors collaborating together debuted at the 2016 ChiTAG show.  We owe our success to the event and environment you have created." -Eric Foster, Principal at 1015 Creative, LLC.

“We are not mere creators of trinkets and insignificant baubles and playthings. we are the toymakers, the shamans, the wizards, the blacksmiths, the court jesters and sometimes even the town fool, and what we do – the toys that we create, contribute to the ever-evolving ever-advancing forward motion of the civilized world.” –Bruce Lund

Thank You to our 2023 Conference Sponsors!
Be a 2024 Innovation Conference Supporter - Contact Us! 

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