Puzzles for Autism Speaks with TCG President & CEO Michael Albert

I recently learned of the Toronto-based international toys and games company TCG who create an extensive line of puzzles for children and adults.

The company recently partnered with Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada to donate 1% of net sales on more than 80 of their puzzle products towards raising awareness and funds for autism research. The boxes even have the Autism Speaks logo on them!

TCG Autism Speaks Puzzle Box
TCG Autism Speaks Puzzle Box

On their website, the company has also created a page where visitors can get information about the TCG’s partnership with the charity as well as details and stats about Autism Spectrum Disorder, a condition that affects one in every 68 children in the U.S. and one in 66 children in Canada.

TCG also has future plans to introduce a unique line of puzzles that will be tailored to the autistic community, featuring images with distinct colours and contrast.

We chatted with Michael Albert who is the President & CEO of TCG about the company, its history and its commitment to doing good.

Who started the company? Family, person?

The company began with three partners in 1997. Namely, Michael Albert, Jerry Smith and George Fegan.

What made them get into making and distributing puzzles?

We started manufacturing and distributing puzzles in 1984. We understood how to make a great puzzle product and knew that we could deliver on the promise of a great experience for both children’s and adult puzzles. Today, our Sure-Lox™ brand puzzles are considered best-in- class by people who love to make puzzles. We have a proprietary manufacturing method that has been honed over several decades to ensure that our puzzles are sturdy and that the pieces interlock and hold together, hence the name Sure-lox™.

How did that lead to other toys/games?

After the puzzle category started to make significant inroads in the marketplace, the company decided it was time to diversify our product line and as such we started producing kids and family games. This was not completely new territory, as the current CEO, Michael Albert, and his family had been producing games since 1967 with their family-owned company, Canada Games.

Michael Albert

What do you look for in a good game/puzzle/toy? (each or in general) 

Quality is key. We stay away from products that are high on initial excitement and low on good old-fashioned play value. We believe that the mark of a great product is that it delivers fun and excitement every time the product is used.

Do you get pitched ideas for games/toys a lot? What is the best pitch you
received? 

Yes, we constantly receive ideas for games/toys. Every year, we review over 300 inventor concepts as well as internally developed concepts. We also review dozens of children’s entertainment licenses and literally hundreds and hundreds of art-based images for our puzzles. Our brand team spends the first quarter of every year assessing new ideas. We are highly selective and only bring to market a handful each season. Our aim is to provide simple, compelling, quality play value that stands the test of time. If a product idea cannot deliver on these criteria, they are not for us.

The top three most successful pitches which came to fruition were:

 Balderdash
 Pogs
 Creepy Crawlers

What are your top selling toys? What is popular right now? 

Our Megamat TM   line has been the most successful to date. These are play mats which offer a unique play experience that facilitates multiple play scenes, promotes imaginative play and includes a collectible character vehicle.

Where do you sell most? Online in stores, etc. 

Predominantly through brick and mortar retailers. However, in keeping with the market, our online business continues to grow year over year.

Where can we find your items in stores? 

All mass retailers and on Amazon.

Tell us about the company’s commitment to giving back. 

TCG is committed to making a contribution to our community and as such have partnered with Autism Speaks. We felt that giving back in a meaningful way to a broad community was the right fit for our charitable outreach. The work that Autism Speaks does benefits children and adults alike through important research, support and community programming. In the future, TCG plans to develop a unique line of puzzle products geared specifically to this community.

TCG also supports a number of local organisations through toy donations. Over the past several years we have developed a relationship with the community arm of St. Michael’s Hospital, which allows us to provide wonderful product to children and families who might not otherwise have access.

Our motto in life and work is: “It is not worth having if you can’t share”.

What is the best part about doing business in Toronto?

Toronto is one of the most exciting and diverse cities in the world. As such, we are able to tap into a broad base of talent right here in our own backyard. We have wonderful relationships with our local retail partners because we are able to connect with them face-to- face on a regular basis. At the same, operating a business in Toronto means that we are able to be anywhere in North America quickly and easily, as Toronto is the Canadian hub for air transportation. Being able to live in Toronto is a wonderful thing too!

 

Learn more about TCG on their website.

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1144 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography