Alita Friedman

How long have you been a WIT Member?
I have been a WIT member for 11 years, with the New York Chapter.

What route did you take to get into the licensing industry?
I started my career as a CPA with a Big 8 Accounting Firm working on entertainment and manufacturing accounts. Fast forward and 15 years later, I took on an incredible opportunity to build out the UGLYDOLL toy brand with the creators and financial founders. Once we had manufactured an incredible line of toys and solidified terrific retailers, a super fan and collector following, and an entertainment strategy, we entered into the world of brand licensing. Today I’m extremely passionate about driving revenue through creative extension strategies for both new and existing brands.

Tell us a great story about one of the brands you’ve worked with.
One of my best stories started when Gene Simmons walked into our licensing show booth, requesting to collaborate and create a line of KISS /UGLYDOLL merchandise. Two+ years later,I saw him with his band backstage at their concert and personally handed them the dolls. I wanted to ‘rock and roll all night’ and I sure did!

What are the challenges that face the licensing industry today?
Today’s retail competitive landscape is tougher and more challenging than ever. Less physical retail stores mean less shelf space for all of the new products being pitched. The drop-in store traffic is weakening sales, and consumers aren’t buying as much as they used to while profit margins keep shrinking. Tough times for most.

Every aspect of the brand cycle must operate effectively in order to WIN at licensing. You need to have a strong trusted brand with a substantial following, staying power, accompanied by a well-unded comprehensive marketing plan, and partners who are willing to take a risk. It’s very difficult and expensive to maintain all of these aspects, especially for emerging brands.

Manufacturers and retailers are playing it safe with their advances and guarantees which makes it important to manage the expectations of brand owners. Some licensees are even forgoing advances.

Despite these challenges, the research still shows that people like to buy branded merchandise and pay more for it. Creativity, collaborations, brand experiences and consumer engagement can address some of these challenges.

Tell us about a hurdle you faced and how you got over it.
Trying to balance a career, family, household is always going to be a hurdle. Every new school year, the challenge was maintaining a leadership position while figuring out what help was needed to run the household and family schedules. Support from family, friends and co-workers was always appreciated.

What are your top tips for someone wishing to get into the licensing industry?
I’d suggest working in an industry that you’re passionate about, read the trades, attend Licensing Expo and other trade shows to really get an opportunity to network. Then investigate either working within an organization that owns or licenses brands in or out. Licensing is really just one aspect of the brand’s revenue and product lifecycle. So the most important tip is working with brands you’re passionate about

What’s your favorite productivity tip?
I find a morning routine maintains productivity– a workout, quick review of the news, then I’m ready to work. Apps and cloud storage are important to keep productive digitally. I’ve been able to eliminate about 90% of all paper whereas I used to print, file and save everything.