The ASTRA community is made up of a vibrant group of retailers, sales representatives, manufacturers and affiliate members who all have unique stories of how they got into the toy industry. We believe these stories are worth sharing! To recognize our community, the ASTRA Blog features a regular ASTRA Member Spotlight series. 

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Today we feature Certified Play Expert graduate Hilary Key, CPE of The Toy Chest in Nashville, Indiana

How did you get into the toy industry?
When I decided to leave science, I figured out that I wanted to get in to the toy industry. I went in to the only specialty toy store that I knew of, hoping to get a job and learn the industry. I now own that store and have opened another!

Thanks to the owners before me, my store has been an ASTRA member since the organization began. I have personally been involved with ASTRA for four years.

What do you enjoy about being in the toy business?
I think I have an advantage here because I’ve only been in the toy industry for four years, so I can still safely say everything! I love that I fully believe in what I do and get to pass that on to my employees and customers. I love how supportive the entire toy industry community tends to be. I love that the majority of my customers are happy and if they’re not we have easy tools to change that.

What has been your biggest challenge in this business?
Adapting to change quickly enough. I have a neighborhood and a tourist store, and I have to be quick to change something in one store that is working in the other because they are so different. I think we’ve all seen a change in the face of retail over the past year, and I think adaptability is the key to getting through it successfully. I try to keep in my mind that just because something worked in the past or works now, that doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow. Constantly adapting to change is a challenge because it’s a lot more tempting to sit back and say, “This has worked before. It should still be working.”

play_expertWhat inspired you to become a Certified Play Expert?
I love studying play and wanted to be able to speak on the topic more confidently. I also feel that the certification will lend me more credibility when I’m trying discuss play in my stores or raise money for my nonprofit.

I would recommend the Certified Play Expert program to anyone in the industry but especially to anyone who feels that they’re “just in retail” or that is being worn down by the daily grind. What we do in the toy industry is so much bigger than buying and selling, and keeping that at the forefront of our minds will help us all do our jobs better.

What is one “a-ha” moment you had while earning your Certified Play Expert designation?
The whole class had an a-ha moment when we heard the words, “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.” I think that spoke to us all on so many levels because we see the truth of this every day. It’s a statement that is so simple and true, deep and moving, yet none of us had heard it so clearly articulated.

How have you used your Certified Play Expert designation to influence the power of play in your community?
I’ve only been certified for a few days, so I’m still in the planning stages. The biggest push I plan to make is spreading the message of how important it is to carry play in to adulthood. I also plan to start giving half hour presentations about the importance of play and how parents can play with their kids.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Hilary!

Interested in being featured in a future Member Spotlight post? Submit your story here.