Local toy company aims for innovation and novelty

  • Written by Deborah Stone
PlayVisions CEO
Play Visions CEO Mark Chernick. Courtesy photo.
Mark Chernick never expected to be the CEO of a toy company.

The local man graduated college with a degree in biology and went to work in the real estate industry.

He established his own business and then years later, sold it.

While at a friend’s house one day discussing possible new opportunities, he happened to glance at his friend’s four-year-old daughter, who was playing with stickers on the floor nearby. It was at that moment that the idea for Play Visions was born.

“Life has strange twists,” comments Chernick. “I never thought I would be where I am today. Things just happened because I was open to the opportunity.”

Founded in 1990 by Chernick and two of his high school classmates, Webb Nelson (president) and Jay Keron (CFO), Toy Visions is a Woodinville-based innovative impulse novelty toy company that manufactures over 300 products. Ideas for the items come from a variety of sources, notes Chernick.

He says, “They can come from pictures in a magazine, something in the news, in a store, all over the place, basically. And we’re constantly creating new items, which is why we are one of the leading developers of impulse novelty and trend products.”

In 2005, Play Visions acquired the company Cascade Toy, a well-known brand of top quality plush toys. The acquisition gave Play Visions the opportunity to innovate and take a run-of-the-mill plush item and make it unique.

“Zibbies,” for example, are cute plush animals, with a twist. They each have trademarked Hyperflex hair, a stretchy material that expands to 10 times its original size and returns back to its original form.

The company continued to grow and in 2007, it acquired Club Earth, a world-renowned brand of proprietary novelty toys.

According to Chernick, Club Earth’s nature and animal-themed products have been a perfect fit for the zoo, aquarium and museum business where the company has had a strong presence for many years.

He comments, “These are toys that are aimed at consumers who are environmentally conscious,” and adds as an aside, “My biology degree came in handy when we were developing products for Sea World and needed to write some descriptions. I had it all in my head.”

Play Visions’ products are distributed all over the country.

In addition to major retailers, zoos, museums and aquariums, its novelty items can be found in theme parks.

“We develop numerous products under licensed characters like Gumby and Homer Simpson,” says Chernick, “and have other licensed products under different brands such as LEGO, Hershey and Rubik.”

The local man attributes the company’s growth to innovation, commenting, “We’re in a trend industry and we’re always looking for new products and exploring new technologies and new materials. Right now, for instance, we are in the process of developing 50 or so new items, which will take from four to six months to bring to market.”

He adds, “We strive to be creative and design toys that are not seen anywhere else in the impulse novelty world. It’s about innovation, not imitation.”

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