KidKraft Interview

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Lawrence WriterLawrence Writer is the President and Chief Financial Officer of KidKraft, an award-winning company based in Dallas that specializes in the design of award-winning children’s products that inspire imaginative and active play. Since joining the company in January 2016, Lawrence has been focused on transforming KidKraft’s global growth strategy while maintaining the mission of empowering children globally to live, learn and play to their fullest potential. 

Prior to joining KidKraft, Lawrence led Louisville Slugger through the most transformative change in its 132 year history, eventuating in the successful sale to Wilson Sporting Goods in 2015. He has also previously held positions at Goldman Sachs, The Carlyle Group, AlixPartners, and Wells Fargo. 

Lawrence attended The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his MBA from The Wharton School, as well as his Master of Arts in International Studies from The Lauder Institute. In addition, he holds dual Bachelors’ Degrees in Economics and International Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Richard:

You were COO and CFO at Hillerich & Bradsby, the owners of the famed Louisville Slugger brand. What was it like being responsible for a brand that is so much a part of Americana? Did you meet some people and have some memorable moments?

Lawrence:

The thing that’s great about Louisville Slugger is that everyone knows the brand – you don’t have to be a baseball junkie to have heard the name. The brand is part of Americana, the very vernacular of baseball. It’s in the dictionary, on Wikipedia, even in songs!

The offices and museum in Louisville are quick to remind you of the awesome burden you’ve just taken on. Every morning I would walk by one of Babe Ruth’s game-used bats. In the center of the bat was that iconic Louisville Slugger oval, and next to it 31 notches, one for every home run he hit with that bat. The bat eventually broke and Babe had sent it back as a souvenir. As a fan of the game, it gives you chills. The museum was filled with snapshots in history that are memorialized in people’s memories. Just like we will now remember watching game 7 of the Cubs World Series win, my father and grandfather remember when Joe DiMaggio had his 54 game hitting streak (and that bat is in the museum too!).

In my first year, the first clubhouse I ever went to was the Yankee Clubhouse. Our pro rep instantly put me to work, no time to be a fan. It was busy with reporters and players everywhere, and we walked back and forth between the Yankees and Twins locker rooms taking orders. Then all of the sudden, we were in the Yankees clubhouse and in walks the Captain, Derek Jeter. The mood changed and it was time to get serious. That said, Jeter is one of the most approachable, nicest guys you’ll ever meet. One way I judged players was by how they acted when you first meet them. Literally when you meet Derek, he sticks out his hand and says “Hi my name is Derek.” Class act.

Richard:

What are KidKrafts plans for the future?

Lawrence:

You can currently find our product in 90+ countries. We’re world renown for our dollhouses, kitchens, train sets and furniture. That’s what has been the core of our business – what we’ve built our company on and what we plan to expand upon going forward. As far as product selection, we thrive in the world of imaginative play. Now with the acquisition of Solowave, we’ve taken that play pattern from indoor to the outdoors. Where will we take it from here? I want to take it anywhere you could possibly think about. We are actively leveraging everything that’s made us great to take us to the next level.

Richard:

Can you tell us about Solowave and how it fits in with KidKraft?

Lawrence:

Where KidKraft stops, Solowave starts. We wanted to take that same imaginative play pattern and take it to the outdoors. Outdoor as a segment is growing – we know that and we love that. KidKraft and Solowave are two companies that couldn’t be more similar culturally. We both have great creative engines that have been turned up to 12 with this acquisition. It is amazing to see what one company has leveraged off the other – we can learn from their product, design and process, and vise-versa. The acquisition allows us to reach more people in more markets worldwide.

 Richard:

What has impressed you since you’ve been at KidKraft?

Lawrence:

Hands down, it is the passion of the employees. People who live and breathe this day in, day out and who love coming to work. That’s also something I had at Slugger and it makes life a whole lot easier. People here love it, it’s a fun place. We make toys – how could you not love it?

 Richard:

Do you have any toys on your desk or in your office?

Lawrence:

We’re remodeling the office, so currently I do not. Once we are done, I have a mixture of new and old toys – from the classics that have been year over year best sellers, to new and innovative stuff that’s not even out in the market yet that I look to for inspiration.

2 thoughts

  1. Kid Kraft is a wonderful brand and has a classic yet modern look. I am a small specialty Toy Retailer in the deep south that has carried, and promoted Kid Kraft. They are now focused on their “world-wide” vision and not a local vision any longer which is unfortunate because although, Costco and Amazon certainly have their place, Specialty stores where the customer wants to feel, touch and see how their child interacts with the product has its place too. I really hate that they won’t allow “us small stores” to carry their products any longer. I wish them all the luck.
    Jennifer Kincaid
    Owner Treehouse Toys
    Oxford, Mississippi

  2. I’m sure it helps employee motivation to be working on fun stuff like toys, but I’m guessing that their clear and guiding mission works wonders as well. There’s something very motivating about a clear mission and strategy.

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