What began with a simple rod and connector set has led K’NEX Brands to take its place as a leading manufacturer of building and construction toy sets in the world. With headquarters and a manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pa., the company distributes products in more than 30 countries, as well as Lincoln Logs in North America.

From her first appearance in the national consciousness as a singer at age 16, Jessica Simpson has characterized all-American fashion, fun and good taste. The Camuto Group, led by founder, owner and CEO Vince Camuto, is taking the Jessica Simpson Collection of fashion and accessories to an even wider audience.

 “We anticipate the brand will achieve $1 billion in retail sales globally by the end of the year,” Camuto says. The Camuto Group acquired the master license for the Jessica Simpson Collection in 2005 and immediately began to create a line of footwear inspired by Simpson.

Think about Milwaukee and the image that usually comes to mind is beer, not fashion or crafts. But Milwaukee-based Fashion Angels Enterprises has created a solid reputation for the design and manufacture of high quality products for tween girls since 1996.

“Our core mission is all about the product and wanting to make the best product we can,” CEO Mark Miller says. “We will never shortchange the product or dumb it down. We will make it fun and innovative in a way that the consumer can have an extraordinary experience.”

The world of products aimed at “tweens” is an ever-changing one – what’s hot one minute will inevitably become passé in short order as new characters and brands enter the marketplace. The creators and licensees of these seemingly ephemeral brands face an uphill battle to stay relevant to a demographic notorious for being fickle.

Many of the largest entertainment studios in Hollywood take an exhaustive approach to the marketing of their properties – they will create anything and everything that relates to a television show or film and wait and see what interests and resonates with fans. 

Most popular children-oriented brands start their lives as traditional entertainments with fixed production cycles such as television series, films and comic books. While new characters, settings and elements within these properties are regularly introduced and then licensed for toys and other merchandise, the turnaround time could take weeks or months depending on the medium, leaving retailers and consumers hungry for something new in the interim.

For 20 years, Jillian Michaels has inspired countless people to lose weight and lead healthier, fulfilling lives through a combination of high-energy workout routines, easy-to-follow diet plans and motivational speaking. But when “The Biggest Loser” aired in 2004, contestants on the popular reality show, along with millions of viewers at home, were instantly captivated by the charismatic personal trainer. Michaels’ fame catapulted, earning her recognition as one of the leading health and wellness experts in the country.

Everybody loves puppets. Watch people of all ages at a toy store – they pick one up and make it say funny things in funny voices. That human tendency to speak through other characters is at the root of the appeal of the blockbuster app Talking Friends – which at press time was measured at more than 325 million downloads, averaging close to 1 million downloads a day.

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