Dreams do come true, even for toymakers! Exactly one year ago, no one walking the aisles of Toy Fair 2020 had ever heard of Story Time Chess. A little less than a year later The Toy Association presented the coveted 2021 People’s Choice Award, which is determined solely by consumer votes, to Story Time Chess at its first-ever virtual Annual Awards on February 12, 2021! We won this coveted award against some of the largest brands in the world including Disney, Pokémon, Star Wars, Mattel, and Hasbro.
How did that happen? Like every once-upon-a-time tale, there are dangers and struggles and then good news. “Being based in NYC in 2020,” explains a very proud Andrew Kashian, founder of Story Time Chess, upon hearing of his historic win, “we went through a really rough year, starting with the pandemic hitting our beloved city especially hard. Weeks after Toy Fair 2020, we had incredible struggles with our factory, and then retailers had to shut down or pivot to online sales.”
Story Time Chess, created as an introduction to the iconic game of chess, endured just as families had to huddle in place at home. With whimsical characters like King Chomper, Bea and Bop the Bishops, and Clip and Clop the Knights, youngsters learn the rules of the game and discover the marvels of strategy! “We started with the highest-pledged chess game in Kickstarter history,” reveals Kashian, “and hit our goal in under 12 hours. Then our online sales throughout the pandemic were amazing and we sold out several times.”
Simultaneously, the buzz on Story Time Chess permeated through the toy industry as they scooped up seven national awards, winning every contest that they entered (listed in alphabetical order): Hot Diggity Award Mom’s Choice Award PAL Top Ten Award Parents’ Choice Foundation Award The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval Tillywig Brain Child Award Winner Toy Insider Hot Summer Toys Winner By October 2021, eight months after their inaugural Toy Fair showing, Story Time Chess claimed the highest nomination of all and became a TOTY Finalist.
Frequently referred to as the “Oscars” of the industry, finalists are nominated from within the toy world including influencers, academia, media, and more. “Being nominated in our first months of circulation was a thrill. The fact that the People’s Choice is the most important of the TOTY Awards you can win shows that consumers truly love our game. I could not have written this scenario any better!” Kashian said.
Echoing Story Time Chess’ delight in the midst of uncertainty and upheaval that continues to swirl around us, Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association spoke for everyone in the toy world. Each TOTY finalist and winner “underscores the joy of play in uncertain times, the togetherness of family game night, as well as the swiftly-evolving retail and e-commerce landscape. The TOTYs continue to reflect the toy and play community’s passion and perseverance.” The People’s Choice award, selected by online consumer votes, was audited for accuracy, including the judging and voting process, and The NPD Group validated marketplace acceptance. Descriptions of all TOTY finalists can be found here.