Organisational Communication

Q.   What traits of leadership did she cultivate?  

Read Yla Eason case part A and B attached below & answer the question above

Answer in about 200 – 250 words

The Business Enterprise Trust 9-996-055

Yla Eason (B)

This case was researched by Laura M. Wattenberg and written by Suzanne Allen, under the supervision of Kathleen A. Meyer, executive director of The Business Enterprise Trust.

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la Eason had been struggling to convince retail toy buyers that her new line of ethnically correct dolls would meet a genuine need in a previously untapped market — and that both Eason and the buy- ers would profit as a result. As president and founder of Olmec Toys, a minority-owned ethnically correct toy company, Eason had done ex- tensive demographic research showing that a market for her products existed and was growing. But the buyers were still hesitant.

Convinced that they would eventually come around, Eason contin- ued her barrage of phone calls to potential buyers and sent updates on her research. Finally her tenacity paid off when a buyer from Kmart realized the long-term market possibilities of Olmec’s products.

Olmec’s First Big Break Eason arrived at Kmart headquarters carrying a box of carefully

crafted toys and a briefcase full of charts and census figures. She had contacted the regional buyer for the New York/New Jersey area many times over the course of five months and he had finally agreed to meet. During the meeting, Eason clearly defined the expanding ethnic mar- ket, the long-term customer loyalty that could result from addressing minority needs and the opportunity it would create to sell additional products to that segment.

Convinced by Eason’s perseverance and preparation, the Kmart buyer signed Olmec’s first big contract. A $50,000 deal with a big-name retail chain gave Eason the credibility she needed in the industry. Soon after, she secured contracts with Army and Air Force exchange stores


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Yla Eason (B) 9-996-055

and Toys “R” Us. Eason immediately incorporated “micro-marketing” into her Toys “R” Us strategy, identifying those locations with the most ethnic traffic.

The surge in revenues from these deals enabled Olmec to advertise its line of black action figures in Ebony and Jet magazines. Increased sales, addi- tional market research and customer feedback prompted Olmec to further expand its product line to include new African-American Princess Imani fashion dolls and accessories (Exhibit 1: Imani doll promotion from Olmec catalog).

Overcoming Continued Resistance Despite success with some big-name accounts,

Eason still encountered resistance from many other buyers. Undaunted, she resolved to work around them. If a short-sighted buyer seemed too focused on the next quarter’s earnings, Eason occasionally went over his or her head to senior executives or CEOs who might better appreciate the long-term implications of the demographics she presented. To get on the CEO’s calendar, Eason launched a PR campaign of phone calls, letters, press packets and endorsements from other industry contacts. These efforts eventually led to meetings with a number of top executives.

Sometimes Eason even sold her products di- rectly to store managers, bypassing the corporate buyers altogether. Once ten stores from a chain had signed on, she would approach the area buyer and point out that several of his or her stores were already selling Olmec’s toys and the company should consider rolling them out nationally.

At the 1989 Toy Fair in New York, Toys “R” Us CEO Mike Goldstein met a number of his company’s vendors, including Eason. Their con- versation led to an enthusiastic request from Goldstein to see Eason’s research and products first-hand. Goldstein was impressed with her pre- sentation and her simple request for an equal chance to compete in the industry:

He invited her to address a national meeting of all Toys “R” Us buyers. The audience found her demographic research compelling, leading to even more business with the retail giant.

As revenues increased, Eason saw a chance to expand Olmec’s customer base. Letters and phone calls from Asian-American and Hispanic parents showed they too wanted dolls and toys that resembled their children. Olmec introduced its first multi-ethnic line, Hip Hop Kids, which included African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Caucasian dolls dressed in the lat- est fashions.

In 1991, Mattel introduced Shani, a black fash- ion doll. Despite the new competition, Eason saw Mattel’s move as an important validation of the existing market she had been articulating for nearly seven years. She was confident that as a minority-owned business with market research experience, big toy companies would be more in- terested in partnering with Olmec than in rein- venting the wheel. As other industries followed suit, creating products for minority markets, Eason felt rewarded for her years of effort.

Cementing a Spot in the Industry In order to broaden her product line, Eason

designed a doll specifically for infants. However, when her research showed that parents preferred infant toys with recognized brand names, Eason partnered with Hasbro, introducing a line of eth- nic infant toys under their Playskool division.

Eason worked hard to earn contracts from more big retailers, and her determination paid off. She labored for six years before Wal-Mart signed. It took ten years before Sears saw the trend. Said Eason, “My basic belief is that ‘No’ means ‘Not Now.’ It doesn’t mean ‘No.’ I’m willing to come back year after year because I know there is a market for this.” In 1996, Olmec’s products were selling on the shelves of Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Target, Kay-Bee Toys, J.C. Penney and Woolworth (Exhibit 2: re- tailer ad promoting Olmec).

As the first minority-owned toy company to successfully offer a variety of “ethnically correct” products, Olmec established a unique position

“She thought that working together with Toys “R” Us, we could not only sell more Olmec products, but enhance our image with African-American customers.”

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Yla Eason (B) 9-996-055

in the market. But that would carry the company only so far. The defining factor in the toy business is the customer. Eason explained,

To keep customers interested, Eason ensured that Olmec dolls wore the latest styles and that the com- pany continually introduced entire new lines of toys. One of the top-sellers in 1996 was the memory matching game, Black By Design, which taught chil- dren about the contributions made by African- American inventors, including the traffic light, the air conditioner and the golf tee. Imani fashion dolls also sold well both domestically and abroad.

In 1995, Eason moved the company’s headquar- ters to an Enterprise Zone in Richmond, Virginia. This allowed Olmec to qualify for low-interest loans and certain tax abatements, and provided the local community with some new job opportunities. An additional benefit, according to Eason, was the community’s pride in having a successful minor- ity-owned business nearby.

Eason chose to locate Olmec’s showroom at the Toy Center in Manhattan. The display window overflowed with an array of toys and dolls in brightly-colored outfits. Sun-Man orbited just above Imani Crimp & Bead’s dreadlocks, while smiling Hispanic and Asian-American baby dolls looked out of the showroom windows. Olmec re- ported $5 million in sales in 1995. Increased inter- national outreach placed Olmec products on store shelves in six countries.

Plans for Olmec’s future included additional partnerships with big toy companies, television advertising, further expansion overseas and prod- ucts for Asian-American and Hispanic customers. Through her business, Eason highlighted a market that had long been ignored, an achievement she shared with her long-time supporters and Olmec employees.

“You’ve got to have a product that sells, and who are we selling to? The most fickle market around: children who decide one minute they want something, and the next minute they don’t.”

“I think Olmec has caused the industry to view the ethnic child as an individual and not just a version of another child. I think it has caused the industry to stop for a moment and say ‘Are there any special needs, aspirations or desires that this child may have when we have focused on the majority culture all these years?’”

Companies like Olmec who have paid attention to the expanding minority market were well re- warded. According to Marlene Rossman, author of Multicultural Marketing (Amacom, 1994), the estimated spending power of African Americans in the mid-1990s totaled $300 billion. The purchas- ing power of Hispanics totaled $200 billion, and that figure was growing rapidly.

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Yla Eason (B) 9-996-055 Exhibit 1


Example of Imani Doll Promotion from Olmec Catalog

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Yla Eason (B) 9-996-055 Exhibit 2


Ad Used in Toys “R” Us Ethnic Publicity Campaign

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