Sambro Turns 25 Years Young; my conversation with C.E.O., Paul Blackaby


It’s not every day that a toy company makes it to its 25th year, so congratulations to Sambro. Headquartered in Manchester, England, Sambro generates more than $88 million in annual revenues. Running Sambro is CEO Paul Blackaby, with whom I had the fortune to spend some time talking about Sambro and the toy industry.

Paul is relatively new to toys (2020), having cut his teeth in the chemical and manufacturing industries. He has, however, fallen in love with Sambro and toys.

My first question was: “How is the toy industry different than the chemical industry?” He answered that you have far less control over your destiny in the toy industry. In the chemical and manufacturing industries, you own your factory, your logistics, and your intellectual property.

In the toy industry, however, you are dependent upon an o.e.m. factories on the other side of the world, ocean and trucking lines that control their time and cost, and licensors who may or may not renew your agreement with them.

For that reason, Paul tells me that the key is that effectively managing people, whether they work for you or your supplier, is the key to success. In other words, rather than managing the factory, you are managing the people who own and run the factory.

The other key difference Paul sees is the fast fashion nature of the toy business. He tells me that only 10% of the product changed each year in his prior managerial life. In the toy business, it’s close to 100%. As a result, product development is a constant.

Paul described his personal development as he learned to create an autonomous environment where highly talented people can grow and succeed. And Paul says that Sambro has an outstanding crew who are, in his words, “top-notch.”

Paul describes Sambro as in the midst of major growth. He cites past successes like the Barbie Sewing Machine and Puzzle Pals and 2023 releases like Bops and Tops, Nickelodeon, and Disney Plush.

Sambro is owned by private equity group Elysian Capital.

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