Preface: Mattel is a leading global children’s entertainment company that specializes in design and production of quality toys and consumer products. The company creates innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain and develop children through play…..
………..Ruth loved work over playing from day one; and while in high school she worked two jobs. First as a part-time secretary for her brother Joe a lawyer in Denver, and then double shift at the Greenwald Soda Fountain in the big indoor market in downtown.
The “Michael Process” with Fisher-Price (Segment VIII)
Credit: Donald J. Sauder, CPA, CVA
The American toy company Mattel, officially began in 1945. Headquartered today in El Segundo, California, Mattel has been a leader in American toys for decades. Mattel brands and products include Fisher-Price, Monster High, Barbie, Ever After High, Winx Club, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Masters of the Universe, and American Girl. Today the company is international with a presence in 40 countries and selling products in 150 countries. Here’s what co-founder Ruth Handler says about the company’s beginning. “We didn’t know how to run a business, but we had dreams and talent.”
Ruth loved work over playing from day one, and while in high school she worked two jobs. First as part-time secretary for her brother Joe a lawyer in Denver; and then double shift at the Greenwald Soda Fountain in the big indoor market in downtown. Cruising through downtown in her 1932 Ford coupe, 16 year old Ruth Mosko had to have a second look at her future husband, Elliot Handler. It took her two weeks to locate “Izzy”.
Ruth was from the prosperous east side of town, and attended a top tier high school in the nation. Izzy was a member of the friendly gang called the Gigolos. They were Jewish and Italian kids from the more dangerous west side. Soon the two began to date. Three years later during college break, Ruth went on vacation to Los Angeles. While dining with a friend from Paramount, she applied for a job at the company and was hired. Quickly enamored with the big city, “Izzy” Elliot had almost disappeared from her mind. One month late Elliot transferred his college studies to of all places the prestigious Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles too.
Then it the big moment, Ruth envisioned a sales calls to the exclusive Wilshire Boulevard shop called Zacho Imports.
Where’s the “Michael Process?” Let’s continue. As an artist by trade, Elliot became fascinated with designing Lucite lamps, picture frames, hand mirrors, and candelabra to decorate the couple’s apartment. Ruth was impressed, and certain that with the quality and passion in the design features she could sell the products as a business. With a credit card and $200 purchase of supplies at Sears, the couple became entrepreneurs in 1938.
Elliot was so surprised he had a most challenging time finding scrap paper and a pencil to write the order on. Elliot’s hands were shaking, and then Zacho was out the door.
Matt Matson and Elliot met in 1938 too, when Elliot designed and built an oven for Matt’s rental apartment. At that time, Elliot and Ruth called their business Elliot Handler Plastics. Then it the big moment, Ruth envisioned a sales calls to the exclusive Wilshire Boulevard shop called Zacho Imports.
When Ruth arrived for the sales call, Axel Zacho really liked what Elliot had designed, but he wanted to see the couples shop before ordering. Preparing for the worst, Ruth and Elliot met Mr. Zacho in their pitiful little workshop. When Axel agreed to a $500 order, Elliot was so surprised he had a most challenging time finding scrap paper and a pencil to write the order on. Elliot’s hands were shaking, and then Zacho was out the door.
Soon Ruth had the courage to made a sales call to Douglas Aircraft. The Douglas executive loved the Plexiglass clock Elliot had designed. His order was so large, Elliot’s brother Al had to fly out to help produce the gifts for Christmas, and Ruth had to borrow $1,500 for working capital to fill the order.
Then constant bickering in the business lead Matt to leave in 1944. Within one month, a new company developed Matt + El, or Mattel.
With a taste of success, Elliot continued enthusiastically with his designs and Ruth excelled with a love and thrill on the challenge of selling what Elliot crafted. Six years after the Sear purchase, annual sales of the Elliot’s products designs exceed $2m. Matt Matson’s business expertise had made a big contribution. Then constant bickering in the business lead Matt to leave in 1944. Within one month, a new company developed Matt + El, or Mattel.
Starting with picture frame sales, Mattel soon expanded to dollhouse furniture. In 1947 the company launched its first toy sensation, a ukulele called Uke-A-Doodle. Fifteen years after launching, the company went public on the NYSE.
With continued success, Mattel purchased Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1971 for $40m from the Feld family. Two years later, despite the success of the circus division, Mattel sold the circus to support company vibrancy. After an investigation, Elliot and Ruth Handler were round guilty of issuing false financial reports on the company, and the company banned them from the board. It was Arthur S. Spear who turned the business around, and back to profitability in three years.
Is this “Michael Process” really the Chicken Dance Elmo heritage of the famous Fisher- Price? The answer is “yea”.