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Family Fortunes: ten years of Lisle Licensing

Source catches up on the last decade with the father-daughter team of Colin and Francesca Lisle.

There are many successful family-run companies across the toy and licensing industries. One such father-daughter team is currently marking ten years in business in 2020 and, as far as they’re concerned, this is just the beginning.

Ten years ago, Francesca Lisle had just left her role as sales executive at Santoro Graphics, while her father Colin was managing international sales and marketing agency, Intertoy. “We were both very cautious to start with,” Frankie tells Source. “I purposely had gone to do my own thing after I graduated so to not just follow in my father’s footsteps. We were both also very conscious that what happens at work had to stay at work and home life stayed personal, so if there were any disagreements it never turned into anything major and luckily it hasn’t. I feel super honoured to work with my dad.”

Colin – who has enjoyed an illustrious career within the toy business, having started working with Denys Fisher back in 1969 – continues: “Frankie has always been very hands on with licensees, and in the early years I spent more time with the brand owners. Earlier this year, we announced that Frankie was to become the md and now has the full responsibility across all aspects of the business. My role is to support Frankie and the business on individual projects and I also naturally take a particular interest in the children’s brands and the toy/games partners we work with.”

The agency has a reach in the gaming and lifestyle space thanks to the Tetris brand.
The agency has a reach in the gaming and lifestyle space thanks to the Tetris brand.

With a family background in toys, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lisle Licensing has always boasted a strong line-up of children’s brands. Its first licence was for toy brand ZhuZhu Pets, while its current portfolio includes the likes of Animaccord’s Masha and the Bear, Rainbow’s 44 Cats, Superthings from Magic Box, lifestyle brand Tetris and extreme sports brand Nitro Circus.

Frankie says that she and Colin always envisage that children’s brands will be an “important element” within the business, but they will continue to seek out new opportunities in other brand categories such as lifestyle, gaming and sport.

Frankie believes that having a diverse portfolio has certainly helped it through the years – especially in 2020 as the licensing industry has been navigating the pandemic – and there are some announcements coming up on new properties which means she is “optimistic for the future”.

“The UK has a number of very successful licensing agencies many of which have their own USPs, so it is a very competitive market place,” Frankie continues. “We always try to be alert and watch how our competitors’ position different brands. It is a very fast-moving industry and Lisle as a business has always been very agile, which we believe has been an important factor in our evolution.”

Nitro Circus has helped the agency expand into extreme sports.
Nitro Circus has helped the agency expand into extreme sports.

The past ten years has certainly seen a fair bit of change – not least the number of TV channels available and the rising importance of digital media. Offers Frankie: “In a way it’s much harder to predict what the next trend will be, but that’s also part of the exciting changing landscape.”

She continues: “We have certainly come a long way in ten years, and I would like to think we use the next ten to grow on that. Part of our DNA is the hands-on approach I still have with our licensors and I wouldn’t want that to change, as I believe this gives trust and comfort to the respective brand owners who know their licence is in safe hands.

“I would like to think that in the next ten years, Lisle truly earns its stripes as one of the UK’s best recognised independent licensing agencies,” Frankie concludes.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2020 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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