This Cincinnati Startup Wants to Help Create the Next Great American Toy

Dibzy gives inventors and entrepreneurs the tools to go from dream to reality

Have you ever thought about how a beloved children’s toy is created? The process is more complicated than you might think, and that’s where Cincinnati startup Dibzy comes in. The play experts at Dibzy serve as a miniature accelerator for great toy ideas. With their expertise, an inventor — or anyone with a great idea — doesn’t need the manufacturing power of a toy company to launch a successful idea. Instead, they just need a great toy.

“We turn ideas into market-ready toys and children’s products,” said Dibzy CEO and co-founder Carolyn Sullivan. “It starts with an idea. The most common way we begin is people submitting an idea through our portal. Based on our industry experience, we see if we think it has some merit or if there’s a place for it in the marketplace. If we accept the idea, our team uses our product development, design and marketing experience to work with that inventor to get their idea licensed by a toy company to take it to market. We polish up the idea, get it placed, and then we and our inventors share in the royalty payment or in the licensing fees that come from placing a product.”

The Toy business comes naturally to Sullivan, whose father owned the Dolly Toy Company in Tipp City, Ohio. She and her co-founders all have a variety of experience in the field, and formed Dibzy to give inventors a chance greater than the typical “long-shot” of going it alone. In the five years since Dibzy’s founding, the company has worked with a variety of entrepreneurs and inventors. Their most recent success story is Happy the Birthday Bird, a toy created by IT professional Monica Goodson that found success without being attached to a major manufacturer. For Sullivan, stories like Happy are what Dibzy is all about.

“I have another full-time job, so this is something I do because I love the toy industry,” she said. “I am a kid at heart and love to play, so it’s more of a passion project for me and my partners, who also have other gigs. This is something we do because we enjoy it and we enjoy helping other people. It’s fun to see somebody’s idea end up on the shelf. It’s fun to hand out samples to an inventor and hear them say, ‘Oh my gosh, this was an idea in my head and now I see the product at Walmart’ without them having to mortgage their house to do it. There’s a sense of pride we get from that.”

The reality, however, is that creating a toy can be an extremely difficult process. Dibzy has to guide inventors through design, packaging, social media, manufacturing resources and more, with each creation requiring its own unique path. And whether a creator is aiming for licensing or independent success, Dibzy’s goal is to keep inventors like Goodson participating in the creation of new and innovative toys.

“I think we serve an important role,” said Sullivan. “A lot of times, people have ideas but they don’t know what’s currently in development or what’s been tried before. We can provide some feedback or insight on trends — what’s going on in toys and what’s been tried before. We also have connections with manufacturers like Hasbro or Spinmaster, who appreciate people like us because we help filter ideas for them. We’re kind of an intermediary that helps vet ideas for manufacturers and also polish ideas to help reach a prototype for inventors. All of that really helps to make an idea more presentable and give it better odds to be placed with the bigger toy companies.”

Now, Dibzy is on the quest to help launch what Sullivan calls a “big hit,” or a toy that breaks into the mainstream as a perpetually popular product like the Game of Life or Barbie. She said a hit like that would be gratifying to the entire Dibzy team, and believes they’re in a place to achieve it.

“This region is perfect because we have a real history in toys,” she said. “Kenner was founded here and at one time Dayton was the toy capital of the world outside of Nuremberg, Germany. So we have a lot of history here in Ohio and the Cincinnati area that makes it special. But we also have access to resources like the team at HCDC, which has been great. And it’s just a really collaborative community that makes themselves available when you need them but also gives you space and time to figure things out. We want to get a couple of big hits with some of the bigger toy companies, and we can do it from here in Cincinnati.”

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