Academy Schedule

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Saturday, June 6

8:00 AM - 12:00 PM — Pre-Conference Workshop

SCORE Presents: Simple Steps for Exiting Your Business

Speaker | Gene Murtha

Join SCORE in this Marketplace & Academy pre-conference half-day workshop on succession planning! Did you know that the average succession plan takes five years to achieve? Gain the necessary skills to develop and implement an effective succession plan based on your business’s current and future needs. You will learn how to create a proactive strategic solution versus a reactive replacement plan for exiting your business in this 2-part workshop on Succession Planning and Retirement Planning.

Register today to join SCORE thought leaders as well as your peers for this transformational look at succession planning.

Cost | $99/person (Includes networking breakfast)

Who Should Attend? | Owners at all stages of business

Program Details |

Anna_Yudina.jpegSCORE’s mission is to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education. SCORE aims to give every person the support they need to thrive as a small business owner.

The statistics on businesses surviving through multiple generations are staggering. Just making it through the second generation can be a milestone event for a business. Making it through the third generation is rare and making it to the fourth generation is almost unheard of. The good news is business owners can buck these trends with proper planning. This 2-part workshop, developed by MassMutual and SCORE, will help you plan for the next stage for your business, for yourself, and for generations to come.

  • Part 1: Succession Planning
    This workshop begins by helping entrepreneurs understand the steps to planning for the eventual transfer of the business. Part one includes developing a succession plan by knowing the value of the business, choosing and preparing the appropriate successor, and having it all in writing. At the end of this section, participants will be prepared for a variety of business exit strategies.
  • Part 1: Retirement Planning
    Once clients have determined the next steps for their business and their business’ worth, they can start focusing on the next steps in their own lives. Part two discusses the issues that arise with having one’s business act as one’s retirement plan and explains the three main retirement plans for small business owners that will protect their money and their future.

Need help registering? Contact Experient:
(800) 424-5249

Need more information? Contact Ahren Hoffman:
(312) 222-0984

Sunday, June 7

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM — Opening General Session

Date and Time | Sunday, June 7th - 8:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Location | The Tangerine Ballroom

Speaker | Jeff Civillico 

ASTRA’s opening session provides an introduction and jumpstart to the week for full-conference attendees. Thom Singer of The Conference Catalyst returns to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy as emcee and to introduce our opening session speaker, Jeff Civillico. Jeff Civillico is an upbeat, motivational entertainer and his energy will prepare everyone for a day full of learning and inspiration. The opening session wraps up with brief previews into the workshop sessions from the following five thought leaders: 
  • From Travel Hell to Travel Well: Inside Secrets to Stay Energized, Healthy and Balanced | John Ayo
  • Destroy the Box from the Inside Out | Jed Dearybury
  • Understand Your Financial Statements and Put More Cash in Your Pocket | Jennifer Rust
  • The Psychology of Persuasion | Kevin Carroll
  • Pressure Cooker Confidence: The Me You Want to Be | Roger Haskett

10:15 AM - 11:30 AM — Breakout Sessions

Title | From Travel Hell to Travel Well: Inside Secrets to Stay Energized, Healthy and Balanced

Speaker | John Ayo

Track | Business Operations

What if you could maintain your poise, your good mood, your energy and your health no matter what crazy stuff happens during work travel? The profitability of your business is at stake when you aren’t traveling at your best. Learn to sleep better on the road, reduce stress on your trips, understand the best foods to eat and more in this session with naturopathic doctor John Ayo. Whether you travel domestically or internationally or only a few times a year or all the time, you will leave this session knowing the insider naturopathic tips to improve your traveling experiences and, ultimately, your business!

Title | The Psychology of Persuasion

Speaker | Kevin Carroll

Track | Industry Trends & Relations

No matter what line of work you’re in, the ability to positively persuade others is paramount to success. In this interactive workshop, you’ll dive into understanding the six psychological principles that motivate people to act. Improve your ability to influence others both personally and professionally with practical takeaways based on the work and writings of Dr. Robert Cialdini, the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion. This session is limited to the first 50 attendees.

Title | Destroy the Box from the Inside Out

Speaker | Jed Dearybury

Track | Children & Play

Research shows that everyone of all ages and abilities can benefit from the arts and creativity. Put away your textbooks and exchange them for hands-on, engaging, creative and arts-infused learning experiences! Through playful education based on four different learning experiences and utilizing materials including aluminum foil, tape, sticky notes and doughs, you’ll brainstorm ways to grow your creativity and invite the arts into any space. Get ready to destroy the confines of “the box” from the inside out!

Title | Pressure Cooker Confidence: The Me You Want to Be

Speaker | Roger Haskett

Track | Sales & Marketing

Using techniques honed from decades of acting combined with the science behind how your brain works while under extreme stress, this session will equip you with tips and tricks to overcome fear, anxiety and nervousness when under pressure. Learn how to create internal power in moments when humans typically feel powerless. You’ll walk away with “Roger’s Rules”: Own the Room, Fight to Be Positive, Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. Get ready to be a bigger, better, more powerful version of yourself while under stress.

Title | Understand Your Financial Statements and Put More Cash in Your Pocket

Speaker | Jennifer Rust

Track | Financial Management

“My accountant told me I made a profit last year, but I have no money in the bank. How can that be?” Getting a grasp of what the true “cash profit” is in a retail business takes looking at the numbers in a different way. In this session, learn the difference between fixed and variable expenses and their impact on the overall bottom line profit, understand the impact hidden balance sheet expenses have on your bank statement and discover why using cost of goods sold does not lead to a true cash profit calculation. You’ll come away knowing the numbers on your financial statements mean so that you can drive profit – and put more cash in your pocket.

1:15 PM - 12:15 PM — Breakout Sessions

Title | Purposefully Prepared: How to Recession-Proof Your Career

Speaker | Thom Singer

Track | Financial Management

Money experts are predicting a recession and while nobody can say for sure when it will happen, experts are confident in one thing: it is coming. If the next economic downturn is as bad as the last, are you prepared? Recession proof businesses do not happen by accident and being purposefully prepared means having to learn about relationships. The answers lie in three buckets: plan, purpose, and people. Despite the daunting topic of this session, it is fun, upbeat, forward thinking and incredibly important! Join Thom Singer as he prepares you for the possibilities of economic turbulence.

Title | Time Management & Organization: Less Talk, more Action

Speaker | Dave Fellman

Track | Business Development

Time management and organization are subjects that represent a lot of talk but not a lot of action. In this session, you’ll learn real-world time management and organizational strategies, and identify tactics to improve sales performance by prioritizing and putting everything in its proper place. Time is money, and it is all too often wasted! Come away from this session with tools to help you maximize selling time and minimize distractions, deal effectively with interruptions and prioritize your time among customers, prospects and administrative tasks.

Title | It's Not Just Fun & Games: The Power of Playful Learning

Speaker | “Queen of Play” Joyce Hemphill

Track | Children & Play

Recognizing and understanding the various educational and developmental benefits of toys and play products improves their design, production, and marketing. You aren’t just designing or selling a toy, you are selling motor skills, speech and language development, self-esteem and more. This session will explore four main areas: identification of the different types of play; an understanding of the relationship between play and development; recognition of the variety of ways that toys and play products complement skills learned in school; and how combinations such as ‘Crafts + Play’ or ‘Play + Outside’ yield greater benefits. Walk away from this session understanding the power of playful learning.

Title | The How Behind the WOW! of Retail

Speaker | Anne Marie Luthro

Track | Sales & Marketing

Experience is imperative; it’s what keeps your shoppers in-store versus online. The physical layout of your store should be strategic to enhance overall performance and revenue. In this session, gain insight into some of retail’s best design and merchandising trends, learn why they’re successful, and discover how these insights can be customized to maximize your in-store customer experience. You’ll come away with new ideas on where your office/store starts, how to play on existing trends, how to put your visitors in a shopping frame of mind and more!


Title | Smooth Operator: Create a Policies & Procedures Manual for Consistency and Success

Speaker | Courtney Ramsey

Track | Business Operations

You've heard it all before—successful business owners have documented policies and procedures in place. It's true, but who has time for that in the real world? In this interactive session, you’ll learn the basics of creating a policies and procedures manual and walk away with two templates you can use to create and customize your own. Prepare to walk away from this session understanding the benefits of documenting policies and procedures and the must-have items to include in your manual.


Title | Free Ways to Use Facebook & LinkedIn to Generate More Sales

Speaker | Tami Wloch

Track | Sales & Marketing

Take advantage of the numerous free ways to generate more sales using Facebook and LinkedIn. In this session, you’ll receive step-by-step instructions and learn four key components: what you must include in every social media post; how to reach potential customers for free; what you must change today on your LinkedIn profile; how to get free advertising space on both platforms, and much more. No matter how much you know (or don’t know) about using social media, you’ll leave this session ready to implement these tips right away.

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM — Breakout Sessions

Title | Refresh & Repeat:10 secrets to Keep Your Store New and Exciting

Speaker | Linda Cahan

Track | Sales & Marketing

Blow the dust out of your store and give it fresh appeal – affordably. Learn 10 secret (and easy!) ways to create a new feeling in your existing space and keep customers coming back to see what’s new. Discover how to keep refreshing your store on an ongoing basis to keep it feeling new all the time. You’ll walk away with a chronological to-do list, an understanding of trends of in-store design and tools to set a budget to get started. It’s a “refresher course” you can’t miss.

Title | CPSC Business Resources & Intro to Online Regulatory Robot

Speaker | Shelby Mathis

Track | Industry Trends & Relations

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched a new and improved Regulatory Robot tool to help small businesses become familiar with and comply with applicable federal product safety requirements. Learn about the various business resources that are available for consumer product manufacturers and importers. The enhanced Regulatory Robot tool makes it much easier for small businesses to learn about and comply with applicable product safety rules that are in place to keep consumers safe. You’ll come away with an understanding of the available online resources; information on the newly updated, multilingual Regulatory Robot; and how to find information on consumer product labeling, testing, and certification requirements based on consumer product category.

Title | 10 Strategies to Maximize the Value of Your Brand

Speaker | Kimberly Maynard

Track | Business Operations

Among a company's most valuable assets are its brands, and the goodwill or reputation associated with those brands. Successful companies know how to select new brands that will be strong source identifiers, how to convert unique aspects of their marketing and branding strategies into protectable trademarks, and how to leverage the value of those marks in partnership and licensing agreements. You’ll learn 10 strategies to maximize your brand including: basic trademark principles and best practices to protect brand identity and usage like selecting brand names for new products that both are marketable to consumers and protectable under trademark law; when and how to register brand names and logos with the United States Trademark Office; marketing and advertising non-traditional trademarks, such as packaging, colors, 3D shapes, scents and more.

Title | Turn Passion into Profit

Speaker | Jennifer Rust

Track | Financial Management

Many retail store owners enter the industry because of a passion and motivation to bring the magic of play to children and families in their communities, but often feel stuck when it comes to knowing the numbers behind the business. In this session, you’ll come away with an understanding of the retail math to drive maximum profit so that you can deliver the magic of play for many years to come. Learn the exact formulas that will help you calculate how to markup goods, improve markdowns and increase inventory turn rate.

Title | Stem,Steam, What Does it Mean?

Moderator | Anna Yudina

Panelists: Jim Seymour | eblox, Netta Rabin | Klutz and Ted McGuire | Thames & Kosmos

Track | Children & Play

While the terms STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), and more recently STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics), have been growing in popularity, there is massive confusion when it comes to defining what exactly they mean. While more and more toys are being labeled as STEM/STEAM, there is no universally accepted system or uniform understanding of what these acronyms represent. Gain a better understanding of the STEM/STEAM trend and the unifying characteristics of STEM/STEAM toys in this panel discussion, based on The Toy Association’s recent reports, “Decoding STEM/STEAM” and “STEM/STEAM Formula for Success.”

Title | Ideas Worth Borrowing: Insights from Orlando Indie Retailers

Moderator | TBA

Panelists: TBA

Track | Industry Trends & Relations

Being an independent specialty toy store in today’s retail environment means working tirelessly to stay connected and relevant to your customers in the store and online, while simultaneously participating in your greater community by advocating for independent retail as a key to economic stability. It’s a big job! And all independent retailers, not just specialty toy store owners, are meeting this challenge in various ways. Join your peers at this panel to borrow ideas, gain insights and challenge the way you understand the current climate of indie retail from the independent retail stars of other industries, as well as your own!

Title Fireside Chat: “Older Adults Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History”

Moderator | TBD

Panelists: TBD

Track | Children & Play

Forbes recently wrote an article titled “Older Adults Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History”, but Forbes is not the only one discussing this turning point. According to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the U.S. Census Bureau, the year 2030 is projected to be a transformative decade and turning point for the U.S. population. By this time, baby boomers will be older than age 65, meaning that every 1 in 5 people will be at retirement age. Fast forward five years to 2035, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history. Gain insights on this and other macro-industry trends ahead, and get a head start in thinking about how your business strategies can prepare for this inevitable population shift.

Title Finding Time to Work On Our Business Instead of In It

Moderator Phil Wrzesinski

Panelists: Betty Stoke-Burns | Angellina’s Toy Boutique and David Castillo | The Red Balloon Toy Store

Track | Business Operations

Every independent retail store is different, and each store operates with a unique style of management. You may have figured out your own method of operating because you know that your method works, but when was the last time you explored other operating styles? What if there’s another way to work on your business instead of in your business that might suit your lifestyle even better? This panel, moderated by Phil Wrzesinski of HABA USA, spotlights a group of retailers that have distinctive and effective styles of operating their business that match their lifestyles. Come away with new ideas on operating that will help you work on your business – instead of in it.

Title | Modern Parents Panel

Moderator | TBD

Panelists: TBD

Track | Industry Trends & Relations

Understand the shopping habits, motivations, and preferences of modern consumers from consumers themselves! With industry trends constantly changing, we know this impacts the way people shop. In this panel session, we will get to the source of what local shopping currently looks and feels like, and how our independent toy industry can make it better. Hear from local Orlando modern parents firsthand, who will share why and how they shop, and use the insights you learn to create an experience that leave your local shoppers talking and coming back for more!

Schedule is tentative and subject to change.