Licensing Career Stories: Cheryl Stoebenau, CAS Marketing

How did you come to licensing as a career?
How many times have you heard about the importance of being in the right place at the right time? Well, this is certainly the case with me. After college, I went to work for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. In my job I was known by the “alias” Carol King and was responsible for screening all outside submissions. My position was transferred into the Inbound Licensing Department. Six months later, the Corporate decision was made to begin an Outbound licensing program and to start off by licensing out the beloved Betsey Clark greeting card characters. I was asked to manage the outbound program – and the rest is history. From day one, I was passionate about licensing. It opened up a broad new world and I learned so much from working with all of the different industries with exciting new products. At that time there were no courses available in licensing, and you just learned by “doing” and familiarizing yourself with other licensing programs that were successful. By the time I left Hallmark, we had established several successful licensing programs including Betsey Clark, Shirt Tales, Rainbow Brite, Rose Petal Place as well as a strong general design program. Based on my success at Hallmark, I was recruited by Al Kahn, who then worked at Coleco Industries. They were just launching The Cabbage Patch Kids licensed dolls and he brought me on board to handle the Promotion and Product PR for CPK as well as Coleco’s Inbound and Outbound licensing. This gave me an opportunity to gain experience as a Licensee as well as a Licensor and this experience has given me a point of view that has been invaluable to me in my career path.

Licensing is a very broad field. How would you describe the area of licensing that you work in?
When I formed CAS Marketing, I decided to FOCUS on representing manufacturers and help them build strong licensing portfolios. I emphasize, “focus” as I feel much of my success has been because I did not fragment my efforts but put all of my energy into working with manufacturers and making their licensing programs a success. When you try and do too many things, and wear too many hats, it is much more difficult to excel at any one thing. The tools and knowledge I had gained while working as a Licensor and a Licensee were invaluable and helped me to appreciate and understand both sides of the equation. This experience has been very beneficial to me in my role as consultant to manufacturers. I have a much better understanding of what both the Licensor and Licensee need in order to succeed and work to achieve that balance.

What is your favorite part of your job?
To me, the favorite part of my job is seeing my clients grow and succeed through the acquisition of strong licenses. Acquiring great licenses is also an excellent way for a company to get into new product categories, and this has been the case with almost all of my clients. I find this very exciting and rewarding.

What’s the most challenging aspect?
Before the economic downturn we were able to place more licenses at retail. For the past few years, it has been much more difficult for licenses to get the retail space. Retailers select fewer licenses, are doing fewer licensed categories, and want only the “tried and true” classic “A” properties. Right now it is much more difficult to launch a new entity and therefore it becomes much more competitive when pursuing a license for your client. We need to find innovative ways to market the new and emerging properties and watch them grow – some will grow into the classics of tomorrow.

What are some trends or changes that you have noticed in the licensing industry in recent years?
Licensing is no longer “Let’s make a deal,” but rather it is about building coordinated programs that will have longevity in the market place. Licensees and retailers are seeking properties that will have strong backing and support from the Licensor. Just offering a property that has a television show no longer suffices. The property must have multi-media platforms to compete and create strong consumer demand. People are beginning to look at licensing as an arm of marketing and realizing the important role it can play in building a brand.

What excites you about the future of this field?
The young, bright and innovative people I see entering the field. They are the licensing gurus of tomorrow and will be taking the industry to the next level. I also think that the exposure the industry is getting through the educational programs offered will do a lot to propel the industry forward and make more and more people aware of just how important licensing is as a marketing component.

Can you share some advice or give some perspective that would be beneficial to students or young professionals wanting to pursue a career in licensing?

  • Take advantage of the Licensing University courses offered through LIMA as they will give you a solid foundation in licensing.
  • Seek out mentors within the industry
  • Participate in FLIP and LIMA
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this not only shows an interest, but also is the fastest way to learn.
  • Seek out positions with licensing companies that can help you gain on-job experience.
  • Roll up your sleeves; don’t be afraid of hard work
  • Have a passion for the work that you do – always wanting to do the “best” you can regardless of the job.

Any advice for mid-career professionals looking to expand their competencies?
My advice to mid-career professionals and to everyone:

  • Be passionate about what you do
  • Be a team player
  • Set career goals and objectives and know that “YOU” are responsible for keeping on course.
  • Always treat everyone with respect