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People Profile: Jeff Chapp, Senior Director of Toys & Hardlines, North America at Sesame Workshop image

People Profile: Jeff Chapp, Senior Director of Toys & Hardlines, North America at Sesame Workshop

The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. Each week we profile one of these professionals in this ongoing series.

How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find you)?
My earliest career interests centered around content development and creating great shows for kids. One of my first “real” jobs was as the assistant to the creator and executive producer of Blue’s Clues at Nickelodeon. This role not only gave me incredible insight into how a TV show gets made, but also exposed me to everything that goes into supporting a great franchise on the network side. Every so often, a member of the consumer products team would send pre-production toy samples to my supervisor for review, and this really sparked my curiosity in licensing. Once Blue’s Clues ended its initial production, I was fortunate to join the toy team. I quickly realized that everything I love about content development—initial ideation, the production process, and seeing a final product—is directly translatable to what I do in licensing.

What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
I touch so many aspects of the licensing process and work with multiple departments at Sesame Workshop, as well as regularly meeting with my licensees, so no two days are ever the same. I do make it a point, however, to check in with my amazing team every day, even if it is to simply say hello. A strong and healthy team dynamic is important to me, and I want to ensure my team feels fully supported in what they do.

What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
I’m very proud of what’s happening right now with Sesame Street across the board in toys. We’re expanding the brand in core categories, but also into new areas. Key to all of this is our new multi-year partnership with Just Play—not only are they our master toy licensee in North America, EMEA, and LATAM, but they are a significant supporter of Sesame Workshop’s social impact work as well. Just Play launched with Sesame Street in 2023 and the line was an immediate hit at retail. Our Elmo Slide item was one of the top-selling feature plush items of the year. We’re also expanding our offerings for our adult fan audience with new collectible lines from Funko, Super7, NECA, and Super Impulse, as well as collaborations with the artists Britto and S. Preston.

What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
There is more content of every type than ever before, available on an ever-growing list of platforms. With this, there are more brands in the licensed space competing for the same retail placement. In spite of the increase in brands, I think traditional retail has become more selective on which properties to support. On the other hand, this has opened up opportunities for brands to find new retail channels—particularly on eCommerce and via DTC companies.

What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
The growth of the sheer number of new preschool properties competing for the same space at retail poses challenges to all IP holders. At Sesame Workshop, we’re a nonprofit organization and are constantly evolving our content and product offerings to meet the moment for our audience. I’m thrilled that, as a 55-year-old evergreen brand, Sesame Street is as relevant as ever. 

In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
It’s essential to be a great partner to your licensees, not only to celebrate when business is good but also to support one another when you hit bumps in the road. Our licensees are such important advocates for our brand and I want to ensure they feel motivated and supported to make great Sesame Street product. When I sign a new licensee, I hope we’ll be partners for the long run.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what’s your favorite quote?
Very early in my career, a mentor of mine taught me to always look for the silver lining when dealing with a setback or challenge. No matter how difficult a situation may be, there’s always some sort of upside—you just might need to adjust your perspective to see it.

What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
One that has always stuck out to me is a collaboration between Swatch and James Bond for a line of 007 Villains watches, which was launched around 2008. There were so many things I liked about this, including how the product highlighted classic characters from the franchise who otherwise wouldn’t be front and center in a licensing program. I really don’t remember seeing anything quite like this at the time and it was such a great way to appeal to an adult fan audience, myself included. I bought the Hugo Drax/Moonraker watch.

If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
I love to travel and get away every chance I get. If I weren’t in licensing, I would love to work in the hospitality industry—maybe working on reward program for an airline or hotel company.

The last licensed product I bought was…
The Magnum PI Ferrari from Playmobil. I love the build of the car itself and especially the figures of the core cast. I’m a toy collector and a child of the ’80s, and this item perfectly captures two of my favorite things as a kid!

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