Spin Master’s three founders, Anton Rabie, Ronnen Harary and Ben Varadi are being inducted into the US Toy Association Hall of Fame at the end of September 2023, and will be the first founders of a Canadian company to receive this incredible honor.
Fresh from graduating Western University, they first established their foothold in the toy manufacturing industry with a novel introduction called Earth Buddy. With $10,000 of their own money they made the item and with its initial success started a now almost 30-year history of producing hit toys including Bakugan, PAW Patrol and Hatchimals. The company now includes three creative centers spanning toys, entertainment and digital games and is one of the top 5 toy manufacturers globally.
The same day of the induction ceremony (September 29th), Spin Master’s second feature film, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, will be released in theatres globally. A perfect moment to celebrate their relationship, honor their entrepreneurial roots, and showcase the amazing story of how a small Canadian start-up found its way onto the global stage and into the lives of children and families around the world through iconic brands like mobile game studio, Toca Boca; the #1 preschool property PAW Patrol, and through awesome toy innovations from Kinetic Sand to Bitzee, this holiday season’s latest craze.
A History of Spin Master
It’s the classic story of the American Dream, with a Canadian twist! Three guys fresh out of school launched a company in 1994, naively taking on the challenges of on of the most competitive industries: Toys. Their journey was made remarkable not only by their tremendous record of success, but also their resilience in the face of devastating downfalls.
Anton Rabie and Ronnen Harary met at summer camp at age 8, continuing their friendship through high school and in college Western University. Recognizing similar backgrounds, shared values of competitiveness, a desire to build and create, and entrepreneurialism, the pair started a small venture together. Featuring candid student photos from Frosh Week, they made ‘Campus Faces’ posters that were distributed to students, printing with, and advertising local businesses. Their successful venture spread to six other campuses over the next four years, and the pair decided to continue this partnership beyond school. It was also at Western that Anton befriended Ben Varadi.
After 4 years operating a profitable student venture, Ronnen and Anton decided to start a business partnership. An early opportunity came when Ronnen’s mom shared a newspaper story of a hot new Israeli item: pantyhose-covered sawdust heads, with grass seeds which grew like hair. Every flat surface in Ronnen’s mom’s home quickly became the first informal ‘factory’ of the nascent entrepreneurs. When they got their first order for “The Earth Buddy”, it far surpassed their expectations. They realized they needed help with manufacturing – which is when they called on Ben to help. Following the Earth Buddy, they looked for the next big item – Ronnen spied kids playing on the playground with something now known as Devil Sticks. Capitalizing on grassroots marketing to their core consumer, the trio was sent cross-country in vans to demo the product. By the end of 1995, the partners had sold more than 600,000 units.
One of the key components of their success has been the involvement with the inventor community – this started early on in their business when they met with inventors who pitched them various product ideas. One such idea was the Sky Shark – brought to them from British inventors John Dixon and Peter Manning. Ben thought it was brilliant and was enamored with how it captured the magic of flight, fuelled by kid power. The team rebuilt the plane, gave it a cool design, and put an aggressive marketing plan behind it. In short order, it became a hit. This really put Spin Master on the map as a toy manufacturer, and in this way the three fell into the business of toys. When they asked the inventors why they brought this idea to Spin – the inventors said it was easy – everyone else in the industry had passed on the item. A linchpin of Spin Master’s success has historically been fostering respectful collaboration with hundreds of independent inventors. Passion for innovation and a track record for creating category-busting brands makes Spin Master their first stop.
In close to 3 short decades, Spin Master has flourished from a grassroots $10,00 start up to a leading global children’s entertainment company!