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2022 Rising Stars

JULIA CRUSE, Senior Manager, Consumer Products Licensing at Warner Bros. Discovery

Based in U.S.

Katie KotchkaIn her role, Cruse oversees licensees and new business across HGTV, Food Network, and Animal Planet brands and sub-brands, developing and executing near and long-term licensing strategies by brand, category, and retailer. She manages licensees across the toy, home, QSR, and food categories and maintains strong relationships with retail licensees including Macy’s and Target. Cruse’s responsibilities also include budgeting, forecasting, sales prospecting, contract negotiation, product development, and product approvals. Cruse began her career at Iconix Brand Group, where she worked with classic character brands including Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake supporting licensees across the toy, gift, and seasonal categories. She is based in New York City, is an avid cook and loves traveling in her spare time.


ZACH FIEGEL, Director, Consumer Products Partnerships at NBA

Based in U.S.

Zach FiegelZach Fiegel joined the NBA’s Associates Program in 2014 and began his licensing career in 2015, working as a coordinator for the NBA’s global merchandising business. Today, he is part of the team that manages the NBA’s global merchandising partnerships in the apparel, headwear, basketball, and eCommerce categories, working with partners including Nike, New Era, Wilson, Fanatics, Outerstuff, and Mitchell & Ness to grow merchandise’s impact as an engagement tool with fans around the globe. Zach grew up in Illinois, graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2014, and is a proud brother of four younger siblings.


MELANIE KAPLAN, Licensing Manager at Sesame Workshop

Based in U.S.

Melanie KaplanMelanie Kaplan is licensing manager at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and educational organization behind Sesame Street. Kaplan, who has been at the Workshop since 2020, manages the customization and print-on-demand business and oversees the marketing and product development across a variety of categories in North America including apparel, accessories, footwear, health and beauty, food, and infant. She works directly with brands to elevate Sesame Street through unique collaboration executions, most recently with Pair Eyewear, Under Armour, Pottery Barn Kids, Hanna Andersson, and Hedley & Bennett. Kaplan, who resides in New York, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Media Management from The State University of New York at New Paltz. Prior to joining Sesame Workshop, she worked in merchandising at Marvel Entertainment.


JIMMY LEEE, Licensing Director at Semk Holdings International

Based in China

Jimmy LeeJimmy Lee has been fascinated by character images since childhood. He studied strategic brand management for his Master’s degree at the University of Hull, England. After graduating, he joined Semk Global Marketing in 2017 and was responsible for licensing events and themed parks in the Mainland China market, where he gained experience in everything from project planning to implementation. He has also developed a number of cultural and tourism licensing and F&B projects. Now, Jimmy is in charge of Semk’s LBE business, where he focuses on implementing new licensing strategies for its characters and the market.


ARIANNA MARKS, Deputy General Counsel at Beanstalk

Based in U.S.

Arianna MarksArianna is responsible for representing high-profile celebrity and corporate clients in all legal matters relating to brand equity and extension, as well as enforcing and protecting clients’ intellectual property rights. Arianna leads negotiations and drafts international commercial agreements for licenses, publishing, sponsorship, marketing, vendors, product, eCommerce and advertising. Additionally, Arianna facilitates short-term and long-range strategic planning approaches across the legal and business teams to grow Beanstalk in the U.S. and internationally. Arianna began her full-time career at Beanstalk in 2018 and has more than five years of experience in the legal field, with a keen understanding of the licensing industry. She received her BA in government and politics at the University of Maryland and her Juris Doctor from New York Law School.



Based in Ukraine

Tetiana RubanTetiana led the Nerd Agency in 2020. She gathered a team, acquired brands in the middle of the pandemic, and played a major part in closing licensing deals. Nerd Agency has launched dozens of licensed products with these licensing partners. And even now, regardless of the war in Ukraine, the agency continues to operate, acquiring new properties, making new deals, and launching products. Nerd Agency went international and is now focused on the CEE market. Additionally, Tetiana was the idea author and general producer of the charity licensed brand ‘Call me Ukraine.’ Tetiana holds a doctorate of philosophy in international economics from Kyiv National Economics University.

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