Exceptional Magazine : 2017 Exceptional Magazine
41 Exceptional Australia 2017 The child of Polish refugee parents, Manny is an object lesson in entrepreneurship. He wasn’t taught to be an entrepreneur; he learnt from doing, and built a global, market-leading company in one of the most competitive industry sectors – children’s toys. Manny’s move into toys was, in one sense, unintentional. He had launched his first business in 1974, a giftware company called Skansen, from the proceeds of seven months spent working on a rig in his hometown of Perth, Australia. “I had no guidance from mentors and entered the business space with no experience,” he said. “Every decision and opportunity helped shape my skills and showed me in practical terms how to run a successful business.” He built Skansen into one of Australia’s largest giftware companies, taking it public 19 years later. In 2000, he rescued a failing toy manufacturer, Moose Enterprise (Moose), which had just 10 staff members. He took on the ailing company primarily as an investment proposition after retiring from Skansen. Little did he know that 15 years later it would be one of the top five toy companies in the US. From the beginning, he set a clear company purpose, to make children happy. He has increased sales by 7200%. After Manny moved to Moose, one of its first major commercial successes was Mighty Beanz, a small toy based on the Mexican jumping bean. Soon the Trash Pack followed – grotesques all packed into their own rubbish bin. Social listening revealed that some 30% of the decidedly ‘un cute’ toys were being collected by girls, a category largely untapped by incumbent market leaders. But in 2007, the company’s winning streak ran out. Moose’s entire stock of the hit Bindeez craft toys had to be recalled when they were found to have been contaminated with an unauthorised chemical by the manufacturer. “Everyone said it was impossible to survive the recall,” Manny said, “but we persevered and the company pulled through. I’m most proud that we didn’t lose any staff through this process.” In 2015, Moose created its biggest hit to date with Shopkins, googly-eyed collectibles for girls. In 2015, Shopkins won the Toy Industry Association’s ‘Girl Toy of the Year’ award in the US, beating Barbie. One Shopkins 12- pack was the top-selling toy in the US in 2015 — and no-one, bar LEGO, has ever managed to beat American toy manufacturers to the top of the charts. Moose toys are all supported with in-house webisodes. The Moose YouTube channel has had more than a billion hits and continues to drive traffic towards sales in the 80-country distribution base. The famous Shopkins product has received more than 100 million hits on YouTube. Today, Moose employs more than 300 people in its Melbourne headquarters, the US, China, Hong Kong and the UK, and it continues to achieve aggressive growth rates of around 100% per year. Moose looks for niches in the market and focuses on innovation. Every individual in the business has ideas; the key is being able to translate and commercialise those ideas. Moose takes pride in trying to create trends in the market space, and it has been able to achieve this feat both nationally and internationally. Most of the people Moose employs are new to the toy industry and bring a fresh perspective. “Being proactively involved in the forever-changing environment is vital in order to continue being innovative, both in terms of our business operations and customer offerings,” Manny says. “Given how innovative our business is, I truly believe that if we turned our attention to something different, with no knowledge of that industry, we would have the resources and personnel to achieve success.” EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognises the contributions of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. On receiving the 2016 EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year award, Manny said: “I’m honoured and delighted to receive this prestigious award for Moose, our employees and for Australia. I was up against an amazing group of entrepreneurs and have been inspired by their stories. We are a company that succeeds by focusing on innovation with integrity and a clear purpose to make children happy. This has allowed us to grow exponentially, while overcoming huge challenges.” Dr Andrew Walker and Glenn Keys, 2016 Australian EY Entrepreneurs Of The Year, will compete in Monte Carlo in June for the title of 2017 World Entrepreneur Of The Year. Australian program alumni are invited to join them for all the excitement of this spectacular four-day conference and gala event. Visit ey.com/weoy to find out more.
2016 Exceptional Magazine