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People Profile: Stephen Zelin, Coordinator of Toy Licensing at Paramount image

People Profile: Stephen Zelin, Coordinator of Toy Licensing at Paramount

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’re profiling one of these professionals in this ongoing series.

What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
I oversee our games, puzzles, and trading cards categories while also driving our international toy business. The highlights of the former consist of working hand-in-hand with partners daily by pitching them on the latest franchise initiatives, negotiating new deals, and managing all the other necessities in ensuring a great partnership (such as the PD process with our creative team as they do a great job in ensuring our product looks amazing on shelf).

For the international side, I essentially act as the operational heartbeat for our local teams in EMEA, LATAM, APAC, Canada, and ANZ. This means facilitating multi-territory deals between our local markets, persistently sharing updates from our global toy partners, organizing our local marketing plans for those partners, managing Paramount’s tradeshow presence at fairs like the Nuremberg Toy Fair, and serving as the primary contact between our local teams and Spin Master in our PAW Patrol toy line.

What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
A recent professional accomplishment has been seeing the elevated detail and enthusiastic response from fans for our incredible line of Yellowstone games and puzzles with Wilder Toys, Buffalo Games, Spin Master, and Theory11. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t add how the expertise and enthusiasm of my colleague, Cecilia Ferrini, also played a huge role in getting those products on-shelf too.

What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
From my point of view, I think greater alignment and connection globally. One thing that I’ve worked closely on at Paramount with Stephanie Bailey—who I’ve learned a ton from over the last several years—has been making our toy business more cohesive on a global and multi-regional level. As a result of driving this type of collaboration, we are fully maximizing our global deals across every country, making smarter regional deals with market specialists, and harnessing the local teams’ expertise to ensure we are really meeting the needs of every consumer.

In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have to succeed?
I’d say the ability to manage many projects at once and being organized. My most important work item is my to-do list. While it’ll never be 100% complete as new items are always added, there’s no greater feeling than crossing off a bunch of tasks on a given day and the feeling of being on top of everything.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Or what is your favorite quote?
In general, I like to remind myself to relax and know you can’t predict exactly where you or the industry will be in 10 years. Instead, focus on the small things that you can control—they add up and definitely help lead you on a rewarding path.

What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
A favorite recent licensing collab has been the Shashibo puzzle cubes with the Grateful Dead. They’re a ton of fun to play with, I really like the use of the Dead, and I must shout out my colleague Joe Leiding for getting me addicted as he led the way in partnering with them across some of our Nickelodeon franchises.

If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
As much as I enjoy licensing, a friend recently thought of the idea to start an oyster shucking boat business in NY Harbor during the Summer. I’m not a professional shucker by any means and I don’t have a boating license, but that seems like a nice life.

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