384: How To Make It In The Toy Industry W/ Azhelle Wade 

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384: How To Make It In The Toy Industry W/ Azhelle Wade 

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This episode we’re getting a masterclass from The Toy Coach herself, Azhelle Wade. At first second-guessing herself, Azhelle eventually found confidence in her talent, leading to her working for big toy companies like Mattel and Toys R Us. She’s climbed up and across the ladder in the toy world, starting out as a designer, later gaining 3 toy patents, and eventually becoming a VP at a toy company. Her online course, Toy Creators Academy empowers newbies in the toy industry with step-by-step  guidance, downloadable worksheets, and group coaching.

In this episode she shares about:

  • Choosing between the corporate path vs inventor path vs entrepreneur path in the toy industry
  • How she found her niche of coaching toy makers while also pursuing her own toy aspirations
  • The success she has found in marketing through her podcast Making It In the Toy Industry and maintaining an Evergreen model for her courses

Highlights include:

04:14 Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

06:56 Understanding the Different Paths in the Toy Industry

08:40 The Transition from Corporate to Entrepreneurship

17:15 The Benefits of Having a Podcast

25:05 What Sets The Toy Coach Apart

32:25 The Stress of Running a Hands-On Course

34:47 The Strategy of the Evergreen Model & Seasonal Webinars

40:20 The Importance of Promoting Your Course

46:25 The Strategy of Targeting Local Stores First

53:20 The Challenges and Opportunities of B2B Consulting

55:48 Advice for Side Hustlers Transitioning to Full-Time Entrepreneurs

Check out episode 384 of Side Hustle Pro podcast out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube more shows on the HubSpot Podcast Network, at https://www.hubspot.com/podcastnetwork

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Guest Social Media Info

Azhelle’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thetoycoach/ 

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:00

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Hey friends, welcome welcome back to the show. Today in the guest chair, I have Azhelle Wade she spent the past 12 plus years working for companies like Toys R Us Party City and Madame Alexander just to name a few. She has climbed up and across the ladder in the toy world starting out as a designer, later gaining three toy patents and eventually becoming a VP at a toy company. But after building and mentoring a diverse and talented team towards success, she had the vision to do the same with newcomers to the toy industry. With that thought, a gel combined her industry knowledge, inspirational mantras, and extra passionate toy talks to create the now highly rated toy podcast, making it in the toy industry. Today a gel is known industry wide as the toy coach. She joyfully works as a consultant for popular IPs and toy companies of all sizes. And her online course toy creators Academy empowers newbies in the toy industry with step by step guidance, downloadable worksheets and group coaching. In today's episode, we chat about everything from toys to Evergreen webinars, I learned so much and I hope you do too. Let's get right into it.

Okay, okay. Azhelle, welcome. Welcome to the guest chair.

Azhelle Wade 2:36

Thank you for having me. Nicaila. I'm excited.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:39

I'm excited to talk with you. You have such an interesting background. I mean, I've never met a toy coach. I didn't even know it existed. So take us back. I understand that you actually went to college to study? Was it toy making? design 2020 Design? How did you even know this major existed? And what made you gravitate to that? Well, I

Azhelle Wade 3:05

didn't know it existed. I actually first studied visual exhibition design. Okay, so every design I did, I made it look like it was for kids, because I just loved kids growing up. I wanted to be a teacher. I just like love kids. So I remember once I designed this exhibit for the Science Museum, it was a school project. And it looked like a twist a giant Twister. It's like a big white tent where you would come in and you put your hand on places and lights would shine different Twister colors all over the Yeah, it was just a cool design. And some one of my teachers saw that all of my designs were kid focused. And he was like, you know, there's a toy design program here. And I said, that doesn't sound like a real major. And he said, No, no, it's a real thing. You can have a good career, they make good money there. And I was like, I don't believe you. So I looked it up. And I met the person who founded the program. And she took a liking to me and I just worked really hard to get accepted. And then I got in. What

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:03

was your plan for that program? Like, what what did you want to do after?

Azhelle Wade 4:08

I mean, I really didn't know like, I mean, I thought the idea of being a toy designer was cool, but I always have had a lot of impostor syndrome. So I was like, I can't get there. And then once I got in the program, oh, everybody was so talented. I mean, they were so talented. And you know, I hoped that one day I would work for a big toy company and have a big job designing toys and developing toys but I didn't think it was really going to happen because I just felt like everyone was so much better than me.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:39

Oh no. Snap out of that. No, you have to because of how fabulous how you know bomb you are today. You're just like, so amazing doing all of this. I know you had to snap out of that. What did it take? Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 4:52

two things. It was a thing called Winterim. So when you go through the Fit program, the first half you're it's like In the first semester, you're developing a lot of toy ideas, and you're making what they call concept boards for those ideas. And then, after the whole first semester, they have this thing called Winter room where everybody else is home for the holidays, and you go back to school for weeks, and you redo all of the work that you did in the first semester. Yeah, it's a very tumultuous time, that's when a lot of people leave the program as well. A lot of people get kicked out. Like it's a whole thing. That when Trump was really where I got to just hyper focus on my ability to draw my ideas, because the I couldn't illustrate what I wanted to make. And I remember the first drawing that I did, where I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is like, really good. I was like, this looks like a character. And he's cute. And I was so proud of myself. And I was like, I can do this. Like, I don't know how I got here, but I can do this. So ever since that one drawing. And it wasn't even that good of a toy idea. But the drawing was so good. Ever since then, I was like, okay, I can do this. I have my own style, it doesn't look like everybody else's. And but it still is colorful and toy yedek and round and cute. And like I have it. You know, now

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:09

you have worked since then for amazing. Well known toy brands like Toys R Us, you Party City. And what's it Madame Alexander, Alexander? Alexander. That's I just was twisted over though, to make it an American. Which was down. So as you were there, are you actually designing toys that they then go off and sell? So you're kind of like an intrapreneur? Is that what that was? So

Azhelle Wade 6:38

interesting. I've heard that term before. But I didn't know that that's what it applied to?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:42

Well, you know, when I think about you designing something for a brand that they didn't get to us. And so it takes out a whole new meaning. They're like the typical employee. How did you feel about it? Well, you

Azhelle Wade 6:57

know, okay, so when I teach people about the toy industry, I teach, there's three different paths, the corporate path, entrepreneur path, and the inventor path. The corporate path is the one I was on. And it was the only one where you do design something that somebody else owns. And there's a sadness to that. But also, there's this liberation, because you don't have to put the money behind it to make it real. And you almost get this guarantee that your product is going to go to market in some way, shape, or form, even if it's going to be changed a little bit, or you know, it's going to be cost reduced. It's going to make it to market and you have a whole team of people helping make it the best possible product that it can be. So on one hand where you're like, oh, I don't own this design. On the other hand, you're like, I work for this major toy company. And this product is in, you know, 2000 targets. You're like, you're like, Well, I mean, that's pretty cool. It's worth it. That is pretty cool.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:59

What are the two other paths? Can you tell us a little bit more about those? Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 8:03

so the toy inventor path is one where you're an independent, and you're developing product ideas to sell the ideas. So that path is all about licensing. So co inventors meet with companies like Mattel and Hasbro and Spin Master and they pitch them ideas for licensing kind of Hasbro Spin Master Mattel will develop the idea and give the inventor a portion of this the wholesale sales. And the entrepreneur path is one where you're developing a product to sell. So that's your direct to consumer market in developing a specific toy, you're going to sell it to a specific person or to a retailer.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:36

Got it. That was really insightful. I did not know about these different pathways. I think when I think about toy companies, the naive part of me just would think they just Mattel just there's just a Mattel guy. Wish toys, right? You don't think about the individual designer, and you worked for companies. You were on the I guess you would call it corporate path for over 12 years. When did you decide to shift and make a pivot from that path to entrepreneurship?

Azhelle Wade 9:06

It was in the pandemic. So I guess, the pandemic happen and you know, you stayed home and I realized how much time I wasn't at home. And that kind of just changed something in me where I started to feel like what am I really working for? And you know, maybe if I was in a higher earning position, I wouldn't have felt that way. I mean, I was earning well, but like maybe if it was like an astronomical amount of the time, I'm just gonna keep earning, you know, but I was just earning enough that once I started staying home, and I saw how much more money I had. I was like, Wait a second. I think I'm earning this big six figure salary, which I am. But most of it's going and getting me to work. And that doesn't make any sense.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:51

Yeah, because where were you based, right before the pandemic hit.

Azhelle Wade 9:55

I was in New York in New York City and Washington Heights. And I was worked in a town called Chestnut Ridge, which is in New York, but you have to cross the bridge to get there. So tolls, you know, tolls car in the city life in the city, it just didn't make a ton of sense. And I'm like, I'm working so hard for this big awesome salary in this big job. And so much of that money is just going to like New York State. Why? You know, so I remember thinking like, okay, there's got to be a better way, I guess I could have gone to a job closer to my house, maybe that would have been a better plan. But I just remember thinking, There's got to be a better way, maybe there's something else I can do. And people started reaching out to me asking me if I could help them with their toys because of my podcast. And I was like, no, no, I have a full time job. I don't need to do freelance work. I'm not No thank you. I'm too busy. But then one day, somebody reached out to me and they were big enough. And they had the budget enough that what they were offering, I just looked at, you know, the cost difference? And I'm like, well, actually, I think this might make sense. Like, it's, you know, I take a bit of a pay cut, but you know, a lot less responsibility. And I could focus on building whatever business I wanted to build and figure out like what I'm going to do next while I do this one client or two clients, and I just thought, I think I'm gonna take a risk. I'm going to try to do this and see what happens. So that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:21

person reached out to you to be a consulting client, or to give you another job. Okay, she had helped them develop a specific product. Got it? Got it. Got it. And at that point, had you dabbled at all in any kind of side work? You mentioned the podcast. So How long had you been doing the podcast at that point?

Azhelle Wade 11:40

So I had started the podcast in January, and I'd left my job in July, the podcast, I'd run it by my boss to make sure you know, everything would be okay, you know that I'm doing a podcast about the toy industry. And he's like, yeah, just don't, you know, let any of our secrets and I was like, Don't worry, it's all about my perception and how I do the toy industry. So I had the podcast January, and I left in July. And it just, it just gave me this vision for if I was building an audience, and people were starting to know who I was, and opportunities just kind of opened up. And I felt like I wasn't going to be able to really explore them if I was tied down to a job, especially in the midst of a pandemic, because then you had to relearn how to be a leader when no one was in person that just took a lot like I couldn't, there was no way I'd be able to build a business like this and figure that out at the same time.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:32

That's really interesting. I'm also wondering if you felt that it would be hard to not have a conflict of interest now that people were coming to you to make their own toys. If you work at a toy producer?

Azhelle Wade 12:45

Well, I would just tell them, No, I have a full time job. I can't work with you. And then I would direct them to my friends that were freelancers. So I'd be like, No, I can't help you. But here's the Safety Consultant, or here's this product developer. And I would just connect people all the time, because I didn't, you know, I didn't want to do that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:08

So now you start taking on clients. And what happens next, as you're developing this business, what happens next?

Azhelle Wade 13:15

So before I took on client, I had always been listening to this podcast, you might know it. Online Marketing made easy. Oh, yes. Amy Porterfield, Amy Porterfield. So I've been listening to her podcast. And there was one day where she said something. And I realized that, oh, I could be doing online stuff for what I know, in the toy industry. Like it just clicked. I had been listening to her podcasts because I had a side hustle of a costume company that I've been doing for years. And I was trying to figure out how to market it online. So that's why I was listening. But then one day, I was like, Wait, why am I trying to do this for something new? Why don't I just try to do this for what I know about toys. So the podcast was already going at this point. And I finally get that light bulb moment.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:01

And then to connect those dots. Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 14:04

like you, I just didn't see myself as that way or that person. And then yeah, when that happened, it changed my mind. So once I got the client, I knew that I was going to build an education company, and that this was going to kind of be my starting point. But I could keep things going, just pay my bills, just you know, and then build that company in the background.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:24

I can totally relate to that starting the podcast, and while you're like, let me explore what business do I want to do? And it's like, does the podcast you're like, why is taking you someplace like pay attention? Who is your target audience for that podcast?

Azhelle Wade 14:42

It was people who want to invent toys and either license them or sell them and didn't know where to start? So it's people outside of the toy industry.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:53

Okay, got it. You know, we had a guest on this podcast recently. The creator of the A, you might I've seen her a unicorn, Afro unicorn. So I learned we learned here inside hustle pro world, more about the whole licensing space. But I'm sure you just have this wealth of information across the board about toys. And I can imagine that when you see someone talking about what you need to know, like, people just gravitate to you, I'm sure.

Azhelle Wade 15:21

It's funny, because I think in the early days of my business, it was a lot easier for me to do a live and say, we're going to talk about this, and I would just start talking. And I think

Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:33

it started out as lives or like, plan scripted, or, you know, outline notes. No,

Azhelle Wade 15:39

they were, oh, my episodes. Oh, I'm gonna be talking about my episodes. My episodes have more scripted, because I was like, I am type A, I want it to be perfect. So they were I recorded my first episode, like 20 times, like I was a little bit neurotic. So like, I wanted it to be perfect. Yes, then, like, 12 people listen, but it's okay. But now was one of my most listened to episodes. But back then. Yeah, it was embarrassing. But I remember early on, like, I would have Instagram lives just, you know, connect with the audience. And I would be like, yeah, we're just going to talk about this, like a one on one question about the toy industry. And these days, you know, I find myself saying,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:26

What should I talk about? What

Azhelle Wade 16:27

should I talk about? And I almost forget that there are new people coming in every day that need me to just talk about the 101. I don't have to keep going up, like my audience is the new people, but also the people who haven't quite figured everything out yet. So you're either new or you're in your first like five years, and you're still figuring it out. And that's the people that I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:47

can help the most. Yes. That's such an important reminder for me as well. Because even the 101 stuff, things change, new tools come as shortcuts, better ways to do things. Now we have AI, like everything is shifting how you do those one on one steps. So just constantly, you know, supporting people in that level is not a bad thing. Yeah.

So with your podcast, are you also taking advertising and monetizing the podcast? Or is it mainly kind of like a lead magnet that's bringing people into your consulting business?

Azhelle Wade 17:25

I am trying to monetize an advertised podcast I'm trying but you know what, I am not as hard of a Salesman on that. I'm like, Hey, if you want to promote yourself on this podcast, and reach like, 1000s of people, because you just feel like you can it's like one email like I don't, I just don't really, I don't know. There's something? I don't know. I get a little nervous about it. But I do have sponsors like Hasbro has been a sponsor. sponsor. Yeah. So I've had sponsors, but it's not every week. So you'll hear me and my podcast say, this is a weekly podcast brought to you by the toy coach.com. And if I ever say someone else's name, then that means I have sponsor.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:05

So what's really the roadmap for taking an idea from this concept to actually being on a shelf?

Azhelle Wade 18:13

Yeah. So in my program, I outline this as not nine modules. And it's this, the roadmap is the same. So step one, you want to do your market research, identify the market, understand the market, what are things currently selling for, for whatever category you think you want to innovate? Then step two is really refining your idea. Because once you do that research, you're going to probably say, Oh, I thought that I could make this plush, like 6999. And I'm seeing that all of the plush available are 4999. So I need to revise this idea of reduce from features, maybe make it smaller, figure something out to make it more affordable, right? Step three is figuring out your toy path. So inventor, entrepreneur, corporate, understanding what all those mean financially and time investment wise, so you can choose the best path for you right now. And then step four is branding. So regardless of what path you're picking, you either have to brand, your inventor studio, brand, your toy brand, or brand yourself to get a job in corporate. And step five, is all about developing the product. So this is like the process like sketching, hiring a freelancer or working with someone in another department. If it's corporate, then and it goes all the way to the sample creation and the product development. So that whole that whole process, and usually that's very US base that product development step. Then Step six is where you go into the factory you're working with the factory because you have that first sample you have your specification packet from the previous step, you have your bill of materials from the previous step, and this factory is going to tell you this is what this product will cost based on your sample based on your specification drawings based on your bill of materials, your BLM. Once you get that pricing and you figure out that pricing, you are going to move on to marketing So that's where you're hopefully you do this all throughout. But this is the order I put it in my program. So the marketing like building your email list, getting people's contact information and let them know about your upcoming launch. And all the while the factory will be finalizing and safety testing your product, right. Then in my program, I actually split the last few steps. So depending on what path you choose module eight as it is my program, but the next step could be for the inventors. So that's where you have to learn about licensing, like what is toy licensing? How do I start doing it, building your toy company contact list? What do you say when you reach out to them preparing your pitch materials for the product that you create when you do reach out to those two companies. And then alternatively, if you're going the entrepreneur path and you're selling that product, you want to prepare your pitch materials for a toy trade show. Choose a toy tradeshow to attend and start preparing your product to sell wholesale so you need to get inventory. That's like a quick rough overview of the process.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:07

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Azhelle Wade 23:04

Why don't you join toy creators Academy? But but no. A lot of people can be found on LinkedIn these days, like so many people can be found on LinkedIn, all you need is one connection in the toy industry. And then you'll start to see like who everybody's connected to, like their factories that I've identified because of people I'm connected to in Mattel, because I can see who they're connected to. And then those factories list on LinkedIn like what kind of products they do. Now the important thing is you need to vet the factories and the Freelancers you're working with. So just knowing like things to ask them how many years they've been open, what certifications do they have when you're talking to factories, and freelancers like you? Will they sign your work for hire agreement? You know, how long will it take for them to deliver the product, and freelancers, just choosing the right Freelancer based on what you're going to create. Don't choose someone who does playsets to design your plush. You know, that's really important.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:01

I love the fact that you are an example of what I love so much about podcasting, and why I encourage so many people to consider starting one now it's not for everyone. But it is such a powerful platform. If there's something that you want to be hired for, if there's something that you want to be known for, you need to start letting people know what you do and showing them that you have this knowledge by getting up there and doing your episodes each and every week or whichever cadence works for you. Because that's how they can vet you. Now when you search for the toy coach when people search your name, like so much information comes up and who you're going to go with someone who just has a website who says hey, I can do all this or someone who you can listen to them talk about it. You can set for yourself hey, I like what she's saying. I like her knowledge base I like you know She sounds like she knows what she's doing. Now let me go and really test out my my assumption for It is way easier to get hired, especially if you're doing a consulting or client based business. So I love that you show that with the steps that you've taken since leaving corporate. So are you also developing your own toys?

Azhelle Wade 25:13

I'm not, not right now. So I find it to be a little bit of a conflict of interest, because I work with so many students, and they tell me all of their ideas, because I have to try very hard to, you know, want to nurture their ideas, and I don't want to be influenced in the creation of something of my own.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:33

That's very good of you. Because I know it that does get dicey. And anyone can be like, Hey, I gave you that idea. Yeah, it's really Yeah, I can see how that could be a conflict of interest.

Azhelle Wade 25:43

Well, there's also there aren't many people that understand the toy industry, that coach that aren't developing their own products. So I think the benefit of working with me is that I have invented I have patents, I am an inventor, but I'm not currently developing anything in the toy industry on my own right now. So that you can feel, you know, I'm in this for you. It's not like, I'm also looking and saying like, Oh, I want to develop that idea. I've partnered with students on ideas, but like if they already had an idea, and I'm like, let me help you, and let's partner on this. But I'm not out for myself, which I think makes a huge difference in how they learn and how they can feel comfortable sharing with me, that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:27

is really, really thoughtful of you, but also very smart. Because you're right, I didn't think about that. But if you are developing something, and you're going to someone who is also developing things, you can get a little nervous, like, hey, is this person going to, you know, steal my ideas? Or how's this going to work? So I'm so glad you shared that. I have ideas

Azhelle Wade 26:46

for like Toy coach, adult things like desktop, things like that would motivate you as a toy developer. So maybe those things one day those like adult desk toys.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:57

I'm curious to know more about the patents that you have? Can you share what those are for? How does that process work?

Azhelle Wade 27:04

So this actually happened at my very first toy job, I was part of the new product development team. And my whole job was to come up with ways that we could innovate a certain category. So the CMO would come up to me and say, Hey, this brand is doing something in this category. And they have like four feet of space at Walmart, we need to steal their space. Be like, okay, yeah, let me work on that. And I would just come up with things to compete with other toy company. So one of my first inventions was called Zip screens. And it was like, you know, screen printing is normally like, you have a paint tube, and you have a screen that have to like snap into place, and you have to squeeze the paint over. And then there's this giant squeegee that you've described the paint across the screen and all that. So I worked with my team, and we develop a one time you screen printing packet, where the squeegee was actually built into the packet. So you would tear open the packet and then just squeegee right from the packet. And the screen itself was like a peeling stick. So you would just stick the screen onto the clothing and you would just squeegee and then you would throw the squeegee the paint away because it was a one time use. And then that was it. It was like instead of the screen printing for like 15 minutes, it was like 10 seconds. It was crazy. So cool. Is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:17

that patent yours? Or is it still? Is it like jointly owned between you and the company? Yes.

Azhelle Wade 28:22

So it is jointly owned, my name is on it, which I'm grateful every day. I don't know that toy companies still do that. But I am on it with like six other people from the company.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:32

Very, very cool. Yeah. So back to what you're currently doing. Before you left, what were the steps you took to just get ready to kind of make that leap. I mean, you've been working in corporate for so many years, I'm sure that was a big transition. So what did you do mentally and financially to prepare

Azhelle Wade 28:50

financially? I would say if someone's listening to this trying to learn for themselves. I didn't have to do this by choice, but the pandemic forced me to save. So I would say six months of saving, like don't go outside. Don't order out, you know, cuz I looked at my

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:09

experience of the

Azhelle Wade 29:12

I looked at my bank account, and I was like, Oh, I can I can take a little sabbatical right now.

So that is how financially I prepared emotionally I asked my then boyfriend now husband, and I said, Hey, how would you feel if I just like did the toy coach full time and he was like, What do you mean? Like, what does that even mean? And I was like not really sure, but I'm pretty sure I could make enough money to cover rent. Would you support me if like something happened and I can't and he was like, okay. No, he was like, if anybody could do it, you could do it and he was very supportive. Yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:02

And how has it been since I mean, um, their ebbs and flows in business, a lot of people were saving during the pandemic, they had a lot more money to invest in stuff, and they've scaled back. So how has this been for you,

Azhelle Wade 30:12

girl, it's been a roller coaster. On Amy's podcast, too. It's a roller coaster. It's been an emotional roller coaster. So I was looking at my year to date, my earnings and stuff, it has been going up, I have been very conservative with how much I invest into ads. So unfortunately, I didn't have the big surge that everybody had in the pandemic, I started profitable. And I just kind of stayed there. So for me this year and the last year have not been bad because I didn't over invest probably in ads, which would have probably had me at this like really high pandemic year, and now this year would have been lower. But for me, it's been like a, I'm still on the incline of my roller coaster. But every day, you know, it's emotional, because you know, you don't know if you're gonna be on that incline, you're like, am I gonna make money that's gonna go up. But overall, if I look at the past three years, it is an incline. So we're doing good. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:10

what are your plans to mitigate that? Because I know it's not a great feeling when you have variable income, right? And I mean, it's part of the entrepreneurship life. But at the same time, we can do things like have another income stream to just help with that, and have a little bit of consistency. So what's your approach?

Azhelle Wade 31:30

Yeah, I mean, a lot of things. So I do occasionally take on one on one clients, and those clients will be a little bit longer term. So it might be three months, it might be six months. And that gives me kind of a base where I know I'm having this base come in, and it will cover needs worst case scenario. But then I'm sure you do this, you look back at your business, and you look at your launches, and you say what worked. And I just make sure to repeat the things that work just enough to get what I need. And then I continue to try other things and see if things flow other ways. That's what I do right now. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:07

when you say launches, what does that look like in your business? Are you doing webinars, for example, and then launching your course?

Azhelle Wade 32:16

Yes. So I am doing webinars, I'm now starting to do them monthly right now. They're like every other month, I'm working on doing the monthly, I used to have a very open closed system for my course, like the doors are open and the doors are closed. That was extremely stressful. Change.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:38

What was stressful about it? It was because

Azhelle Wade 32:40

when the doors opened, you had this flood of money, which was great. But the pressure to sell was so stressful. I mean, I would have and it was fun. But it was also just like, am I going to make this happen this time? I don't know. And then when the doors closed, I have a very hands on course. So it used to be a 12 week program. Now it's a 12 month program. But when it was a 12 week program, I was in meetings with them every week, I would have one on one calls with some of them. And it was just very hands on, so I couldn't do anything else. So after the three months would be up, also would be my money would also be up

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:26

for another lunch. Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 33:28

like I wouldn't be rushing to get clients or I wouldn't it was just too and I also do pitch events at the end of my course. So I do these pitch events at a very low cost of my students. And it's kind of like a wash financially, but it helps them grow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:41

What do you mean by pitch of it?

Azhelle Wade 33:42

So I'll invite like Hasbro, Mattel and Spin Master to come review the pitches of my students. And I'll invite retailers, and I did it virtually at first. So I could keep it super cheap for them. Originally, it was like $25 like so. So that wasn't about making money. We're just about keeping things like paying myself for my time, right? Like I would be doing that at the end of the launch. While my business is like you better make some more money or my business is like, Hello, we're still spending money. So yeah, yeah, so that was a stressful, and then I wasn't able to update the course the way I wanted to and take care of my students like I wanted to. So I switched to the Evergreen model. So it's open all the time. The difference now is I'll have like monthly specials or monthly bonuses, and that's when I'll do my launches. And it's just you know, occasionally if I do that, it's like a little injection of people and students but I'm trying to figure out how I can just make it more stable and I have an accountant and they meet with me and they say, Oh, your sales a little more stable and I'm like thank you I'm working on.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:47

So what is an evergreen model for your business? What does that look like?

Azhelle Wade 34:52

So the doors for Toy craters Academy are always open. You can join anytime depending on when you join. You might get a little Get Better bonuses than other times. But what we do is from the date that you join, you have 12 months in our private Facebook group. So every month, I'm going into this Facebook group with answering questions and teaching advanced trainings. But you have access for 12 months. So after that first free 12 months, you can pay for to continue access, if you want to continue access, or if you get an item licensed or placed in a store, you get free access. So it's like a little incentive to like, get the stuff done. You know, I want you to get it done. You know? Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:30

because that is an issue with programs too. Sometimes, it's really hard to get people to get out of that coasting phase of alright, this will always be here and actually take the action. Yeah, you gotta

Azhelle Wade 35:42

take it. Yeah. So that's my model now. Okay.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:46

And how do you go about having sales regularly for this evergreen model, one of the things that course creators often talk about when they decide to go evergreen, and Amy talks about this as well is, you know, there's a lower conversion rate, there's a lower opt in rate to the course than when you're doing like a really robust launch. So what's been the experience for you? How do you keep the sales going, when it's evergreen? For me, I

Azhelle Wade 36:13

have to disagree. Oh, right. That's great. Yeah, no, I think my sales have been the same, I would say almost exactly the same. Because like, revenue wise, maybe a little bit more even. I think that the launch model was a bit aggressive for my audience, like the constant emails. And I think, I think it kind of did a detriment to my brand, a little bit like the launch and also having to do it twice a year was I think, a lot. So I'm testing a lot of things. I'm gonna be real with you. I don't really know what's working. Something's working. I have the data, but I don't. It's chaos. I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:56

don't know. Like, I

Azhelle Wade 36:57

think that's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:59

your honestly.

Azhelle Wade 37:01

I don't know. It's scary. That's scary. But I'm like, I know, people listen to the podcast for a long time. And then there'll be like, I thought I could do this without joining your course. But two years later, I decided so like, it's just like, it's like a

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:15

long funnel in the

Azhelle Wade 37:18

road. But I'm figuring it out. I you know, I don't know what else to say.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:28

So other than the podcasts, are you creating content on Instagram or Tiktok? And through that content, inviting people into your world? And then that is what helps them convert? Like, do you do a follow up email sequence? Because I'm genuinely curious for myself? Because I'm getting ready to go evergreen with my course. Yeah. And so, you know, thinking through like, what do I want to do to consistently remind people like, Hey, I have this course I have this podcast course I have this Instagram course I have. Yeah.

Azhelle Wade 37:57

Yeah, I would say, I definitely think seasonal, like webinars are the way to go. I won't say launch because not a lot, but a seasonal or a topical webinar a month. Yeah, like so AI. I'm doing one this month about AI. Just something that people are talking about right now that they want to hear about from you and get them in one room and essentially do a little mini launch. And you can even turn it into a podcast episode later. So you have this content write emails I struggle with with Evergreen, I feel like the email addresses they give they don't check as much. So I think that's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:37

an interesting. Yeah, observation.

Azhelle Wade 38:40

And what's interesting is that people that join in Evergreen tend to almost already know they want to join before they get into the funnel, because I see them join the funnel, and they join like in the master class, like they joined immediately. And I'm like, you've known this, you know, you knew about this. You weren't new to you.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:01

Yeah, you they're aware of you. they've listened to some episodes. So again, why the podcast can be helpful. But the podcast also just to, you know, put that disclaimer out there. Yeah, it's helpful for getting your message across, but it should not be a sales salesy thing, like you're providing value. You gotta provide value, you gotta provide some value.

Azhelle Wade 39:24

I know, I agree. We should to provide value 100% But I gotta say, let me tell you what I've learned right now. Okay, okay.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:30

I learned I'm open to learn grow. Yes, I

Azhelle Wade 39:33

learned I give away too much my podcast, I'm not gonna give away less. I'm not because I know it'll be you know it. I want it to be useful. But I need to talk about myself and my students successes more, I realized that I can relate to that. Yep. Right. Because what I have is I have people emailing me and they're saying, oh, Joe, I contacted that retailer that you told me I should contact in your latest podcast episode, and they're taking in my product. And I just want to know, like, after I talked to them, they said, I should join your course like, can you tell me more about your course. And I'm like you already know about my course you need to stop.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:10

You know, maybe it's over that part. They didn't know me.

Azhelle Wade 40:15

Because I met this one in person, I told him about it. So no, but like, this happens all the time, like you give so much in your podcast, but not enough of explaining why the course is valuable. So I'm now experimenting with when I'm in the podcast within the content itself. I'm saying, you know, people into creators Academy know that I teach this and that if you want to join, go here. So this interjecting of talking about your course, in the middle of all your content, I think is going to be a game changer for me. So people join. Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:47

yes, that's true. Yeah, you are not alone in feeling like sometimes you either may forget or just don't find it comfortable to consistently talk about how you can help people, what they can buy from you where they can go to learn from you. And what I'm continually learning is, every time you feel like you're talking too much, you're probably not you probably need to update like 1,000% more. It's hard, though. It's hard. Listen, you're preaching to the choir. It just sometimes it just feels like Don't you guys know this? I said it back in my day.

Azhelle Wade 41:26

But you don't ever find myself. Everybody's getting so much content. All the yes, all this we have lives. We haven't kids. We're buying houses. We're busy, you know. And so you have to, I want to I actually before this call was thinking I need to set up like a mini launch sequence for a webinar. Okay, that texts people, because what if they missed their email, this webinars happening in six days, I need to send them a quick text like, Hey, you want to learn about AI? Here's the link, you know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:54

and with your monthly webinars, are you doing those live? Because to me, that's kind of a fusion live and evergreen. Okay. Evergreen I'm talking about is like a pre recorded webinar. So maybe that's why that's why you still get the same amount of sales because nobody knows what I'm talking about. But okay, girl, enlighten me.

Azhelle Wade 42:21

So I would say October was probably my biggest month, and I did do a live webinar, a live webinar then. But what I do with my live webinars is instead of doing them like you might do them like five times for a live launch, I'll do them like two or three times. Honestly, I'm just doing this one two times because three was too much. And then you turn it evergreen. So my vision is, by the end of the year of a year of doing this, I will have an evergreen for every month and then I can promote a different evergreen every single month like a different masterclass so that it feels more topical and it's not like I'm telling you come see the same masterclass all year round. I do have one core masterclass. But for example, October I did spooky mistakes new toy and game creators make. And for December I'm doing slaying your toy deal with AI.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:15

I love it. I love it. So like,

Azhelle Wade 43:18

you know, and then every year it becomes evergreen, but it becomes evergreen that fits in with what's going on in the season. Yes, my plan

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:25

is to you after you do like your second live once you feel like oh, this is um, you know, I've got a rhythm down? Do you just take that and make it the pre recorded? Or do you then record a pre recorded? Okay, no, no.

Azhelle Wade 43:39

Okay. And I intentionally go in and say things and make sure that I'm talking in a way that it can be evergreen, or I'll edit it after the fact to like cut out certain things. Sometimes you leave in the chat part when you talk to people there. Because like that just makes it feel more, you know, like, this is how she is with people. Yeah, like and what's interesting, you know, yeah, it's not a trick it says pre recorded, but it gives them this vibe, and leaving a chat box in the chat. Like even when it's pre recorded. I have a box so they can put in questions. And I get questions all the time. And usually when I answer those questions, people are like, Oh, great. I'm going to sign up right now. So like, I'll email an answer back. So it's like, yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:22

which service do you use for your pre recorded and your chat feature?

Azhelle Wade 44:26

Easy webinar, and I wish I found out about them sooner, like what would I do

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:30

only signed up for them? Because again, I'm getting ready to do this. So I love this conversation. For all y'all out there who you know, are doing webinars or you're doing master classes and you want to pivot I like I do and 2024 I hope this is helpful for you because I feel like a lot of people we came up in the webinar culture where we thought we only had to do a core one right like with a webinar, and every time we do it live so it's different because we're live. And so we're saying, you know, different things, but it's essentially the core presentation with the core slides. And we might take the title, but it's a core presentation. But I like this approach as well. And I'm gonna test it out actually, that's what I was planning to do. But this kind of confirms it for me like this would be a cool way to you know, make it more helpful like to have different topics, but that all come back to, for me, it's podcasting. Yes,

Azhelle Wade 45:27

because it's like, what are people concerned about in January with podcasting? What are they concerned about in March? Like it's different? It is it totally for me I'm toys. I'm like, people in December are concerned about sales like so fast. I don't know. Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:46

Love it, love it. So I hope you guys find this helpful. I know I am. And you know, this. This year, it's all about like, it's almost kind of like I'm having a free. I don't know what to call it. But I love being able to learn and show you guys that I'm learning in real time. Like, I never stop learning. And I don't bring people on because I'm some like expert in anything. I am genuinely interested in their path. And there's something I can take, you can take from every one of our guests that can help you in your business.

Azhelle Wade 46:16

Same me too. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:17

before we jump into the lightning round, oh, yeah, I know. Right? Time has flown, because this is so interesting. But I know you encourage your students to focus on getting their items placed in their toys placed in like the local mom and pop store first, versus going right after trying to get it to target you.

Azhelle Wade 46:42

Oh, my gosh, I did. Okay. I'm a mess. All right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:50

Why don't you do that? I think I know. But yeah, tell us tell us why. Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 46:54

because so many people want to go to Target and Walmart, because they think like, that's how they're going to make it big. And yeah, it could be. But if Walmart doesn't have to put your product out just because they bought it, so it might not get on shelves. And if it doesn't, there's this thing called chargebacks, where they will literally send back your product, I've termed this chargebacks. Right. So if you took out a line of credit to make this product, so you could sell it to Walmart, and because their quantities are so big, that might be 20,000 units, you know, then you're going to Where are you going to sell 20,000 units. So when that happens to you, but you already have a base of retailers, specialty retailers, or even direct to consumers that buy from you, at least you could say, okay, not great that we got a charge back from Walmart, but I have channels to sell this to. Plus, like when you're first starting out, it's easier to sell to specialty retailers, their requirements are much more chill, they, they don't require you to like package your toy in a certain way with a certain label. They don't have like certain like DCS, which are distribution centers that you have to send your product to, like they're just chill, you know, and it's just more of a relationship building, and it will help you get further faster. So chargebacks

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:07

remind me of when I did like seasonal retail, when when Yeah, it was working for Bloomingdale's. And you know, you get excited about the commission. But when people return, they will take that back out of your check. I'm like, wait a minute, wait a minute, that's not my fault that they returned it. Okay. Hello.

Azhelle Wade 48:29

There are two companies that have there are any companies that have those cards inside the products that says do not return to store and they're trying to avoid chargebacks? So they would rather take care of it directly with you than you going

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:42

back to the store. That makes so much sense. And it's unfortunate. Like, I'm glad you're giving people that tip though, I hope that people are really listening in. And are you ever surprised by how many people want to develop a toy? Like when I learned about you? I was just like, what? How many people out there want to develop toys like wow, this is nice to me.

Azhelle Wade 49:01

I wish I had thought that because it was challenging. At first I did not think that. I was like who doesn't want to develop? That was my mind.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:13

about it? Yeah. It's because you know what? Your target audience not mine. So yeah,

Azhelle Wade 49:19

I mean, I'm trying. But no, I didn't think that at all. I actually was surprised at how challenging it is to find these people early. Because like, people usually come to me when they're two years in, they've already made these mistakes, and they're trying to fix them. Which sucks because financially I'm like, Listen, this is what my program costs. And I know you've already spent a lot of money but if you don't want to waste another 5000 $10,000 You need this process, and you can pay a consultant and learn all this stuff. It's gonna cost you 1000s and 1000s to learn everything in this program, so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:54

or you could keep spending money marketing, just a product with a bad shot. A GE or you know, bad development, you know, it not going anywhere. And you're wondering why it's not going anywhere. Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 50:07

and the toy industry just have to say it's so much relationships. Unfortunately, it's so almost like a little, it's a niche, it's like a little clique. So you need to get in the click, if you want to be in the stores, you got to come to our trade shows, you got to get into the community, you got to know people. And that is a part of what my program helps with. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:29

the second thing that I think about when I think about, Alright, who's developing toys, what are they thinking? I'm wondering if two people come to you very internally focused, like they are developing toys that they always wanted, or they come up with an idea. And they're like, oh, everyone will want this. Yeah, do any kind of, you know, landscape research or anything? And it's like, no, nobody asked for that. Yes, some

Azhelle Wade 50:55

people are like that. And usually my Module One will fix them. Okay, good. Because see, the world is a bigger toy industry. But I've had some people that have gone through Module One of serving the industry and saying, you know, I don't care, I want to make this toy the way I want to make it and I'm like, Alright, I was like, I believe anything can work. But you're gonna have to really go into marketing, because you're gonna have to build your own audience, you're gonna find your own people because the retailer's aren't gonna get behind this, they're not ready for it. Right? So if you're up for that, go for it. But do not be surprised

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:29

if you can't sell it. You know, I can relate with some people I was talking about. There are different ways that you can go about podcasting, right. One of the hardest ways is to just make a show about something you want to talk about. With a name, that means something to you that no one else understands. I mean, you could you could launch it, it's gonna be really hard. Because you're always gonna have to explain to people like, Hey, this is my podcast. It's called this. Because it means this, you get it, you get it? Like, no, we don't get think about that we

Azhelle Wade 52:07

don't get I feel like I got so lucky. When I came up with the idea for my podcast inspired by people. I'm sure you teach people to do the research that was inspired by research. Yeah, but the name my husband came up with. And he was like, I don't know, what do you call it, making it in the toy industry? And I was like, Oh, my God, that's brilliant. It's so strange.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:26

That I love, like, you know exactly what it's like to fight me on this?

Azhelle Wade 52:34

I don't know. It's Seo, it's searching what?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:41

Search that exact phrase. But the different parts of the phrase are what they're searching for. So Anywho. All right. We're gonna transition into the lightning round. But before I do one last thing, for real this time. Have you ever thought about doing business to business consulting work? Yes.

Azhelle Wade 53:02

And if anybody listening wants to help me do that?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:09

Yeah, I've had a couple of toy store owners on the podcast as well. So I don't even know what it could look like. Again, I'm not in this industry. But I know that b2c is hard, right? Like you have to, I mean, b2b as hard as well, too. But it just feels like as we talked about, finding those people who want to develop a toy can be hard. Whereas finding a business, that sole purpose is to bring toys to market or, you know, they really need an eye of finding the right creators, you know, being able to say, that's gonna be a great product or character to license like that high that you have that knowledge that you have, don't discount it. And like, I don't know where you go from there. But that's what I'm visualizing for you.

Azhelle Wade 53:54

I don't know if you were part of Amy's school. But you know, you learn a way to sell. And that way to sell as DDC. I don't know the way to sell B to B. So I think I get very, I do the initial pitch, I do a follow up and then I'm like, Okay, I guess they don't want

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:13

I don't know. Yeah. So my experience with b2b is really with getting sponsorships and brand partnerships when I used to do it. Now I have a brand manager, but I used to, you know, go out there and do that. All of that whole cycle of getting sponsors on the show myself. And then of course, you know, DTC like you call it or b2c? Yeah, going directly to the consumer directly to like each individual person. I also do with my courses. So I see both ways. And I think that this the world that we're currently in with online marketing Made Easy, and, yeah, a lot of what we see is so hyper focused on that, and my recent guest, Kimberly Brown, and I talked about this. It's important to step back sometimes and say, Hey, is this the right thing? For my business, like I know everyone else is doing it right now. But it's exhausting. It's time consuming. And sometimes the revenue sometimes ROI is not what I want it to be. So just don't close your eyes to the other opportunities either just because like this is so what's emphasized right now?

Azhelle Wade 55:19

Yeah, so true. I'm gonna look through your podcasts if I can find that episode. Yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:23

is literally as we're recording this. It's the most recent episode. It's episode 381, I believe, because I'm losing track of numbers, but I know my guests. So we're gonna jump into the lightning round, you just answer the very first thing that comes to mind. Are You Ready? Ready? All right, here we go. All right. So what is a resource that has helped you in your business? Not Google, that you can share it with the side hustle pro audience.

Azhelle Wade 55:55

Oh, my gosh, Amy Porterfield. I'm sorry. for that. I have to say a DCA digital course Academy. I mean, I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:03

love it. Love it. Love it. Number two, who is a black woman entrepreneur, a non celebrity who you would want to switch places with for a day and why?

Azhelle Wade 56:13

Oh, no. I said April showers but she is a celebrity. So a black woman entrepreneur count

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:19

April, we can have one. Well, no, they're all

Azhelle Wade 56:23

celebrities. Yeah. Okay, let's kind of April.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:28

What exactly about April's path would you want to learn about,

Azhelle Wade 56:31

she's just so unafraid to be herself and she somehow finds people to just love that. And I struggle with that, you know, so I just would love to just feel her skin. Like when she's out there just being April. You know? Just yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:50

I get that. Number three, what is a non negotiable part of your day?

Azhelle Wade 56:56

Oh. I was gonna say sleep a bit. I was gonna say coffee. So I guess I should say sleep and coffee.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 57:04

You know, as you were getting ready to respond. I felt that coming from you. I felt the energy. I was like, she's gonna say sleep. I do love sleep. So good. Yeah, you gotta let the brain rest and simmer with new fresh ideas. Number four, what is a personal trait that has helped you significantly in business? Oh, I think my voice for sure. Why is that that's unique. Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 57:32

I think my voice. It's just, it sounds very authoritative. And it sounds like a little sexy, but like, not in like a raunchy way. Like, it sounds like and it sounds intellectual. Like it just has this nice balance that I think makes people trust me, especially when they're listening on the podcast. I think my face kind of ruins it. But on the podcast, when they're just listening, I think like, Oh, yes, yeah. Is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 58:01

it because your face is youthful? Right.

Azhelle Wade 58:04

I think it's the youth and the blackness. I think it's good to grow. When I first launched my brand, I didn't put my face anywhere. And everybody was like, supporting my brand. And then somebody found out it was me. And they were like, Oh, I thought this was like a toy industry editorials just to show and I was like, Wow, just a show. Yeah. There's somebody who knows me personally. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 58:26

yeah. Oh, well, they sound like a hater. Well,

Azhelle Wade 58:29

just old.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 58:33

Okay, all right. I'll save my comments. All right, last question. Number five. What's your parting advice for fellow side hustlers, who wants to be their own boss but are worried about losing a steady paycheck? Oh,

Azhelle Wade 58:47

okay. Have a budget, like have a very detailed budget for yourself and for your business. And then know that you're not going to make all the money you want right up front, figure out like the minimum you can make and then put yourself on a schedule to give yourself more money every I don't like three months. That's something I think I should have done. Okay. I just like randomly give myself raises, but I'm like, No, I should have had a schedule. Yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 59:11

Yeah. I like that idea schedule. All right. So where can people connect with you? And the toy coach and your podcast after this episode? Yeah,

Azhelle Wade 59:21

head over to the toy coach.com To learn more about me and you can find links to my podcast there. It's just the toy coach.com/podcast And if you're curious and you just want to see like my past work in the toy industry. I actually have a personal portfolio website a gel wade.com. So you can check that out too.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 59:38

Alright guys, so there you have it. Thank you so much for listening, and I will talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you liked the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can Follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up, talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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