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Why licensing can’t be a closed shop

BLE’s Anna Knight on how we need to provide helping hands for newcomers to the industry.

If the future of the licensing industry is to be as exciting and creative as it deserves to be, then we must not only open the doors to new entrants but drag them over the threshold and provide the helping hands they need to climb onto the next rung of the ladder.

This revelation isn’t unique to licensing. No industry can survive without a constant injection of new blood – customers change and so do their wants and needs, and it’s important we have a continued circulation of new people, new ideas and new properties to target them with.

But what is different about licensing to many other industries is our complexity. This isn’t an easy business to understand or navigate for a rookie. Meeting the right people, understanding how royalties work, finding an agent, getting your head around licensee partnerships, new territories and what happens at retail can be daunting for the best of people.

This is exactly why we launched the License This! competition ten years ago. And, as we enter our milestone tenth year, we have shaken things up a little by introducing two License This! awards – one for brand and design licenses and one for character and animation – so that we can help even more new licensors to get a foothold in the market.

In addition to the free stand, legal advice from sponsor Wynne-Jones and LIMA membership which is presented to the winners, one of the most important and valued aspects of License This! is the exposure to experts who can help develop entrants’ brands and take them forward. Past contestants have said that the mentorship and advice they receive – even if they don’t win – is, on its own, worth the time it takes to enter.

This year, we have two sets of judges, one for each of the categories, both overseen by our chair Kelvyn Gardner. Between them they have well over one hundred years’ experience in the industry and we are indebted to them for providing such valuable advice, guidance and mentorship to our entrepreneurs.


As previous finalist Stuart Cox from I Like Birds (pictured above) said: “Winning gets you the prize, but just pitching to a judging panel made up of brand owners, licensing agents and manufacturers can bring rewards, too. In fact, just entering ensures that you’ll be seen, as the judges go through every entry.”

On the Brand & Design judging panel we have Will Stewart (The Point 1888), Vicki Thomas (Vicki Thomas Associates), Sarah Lawrence (This is Iris), Jehane Boden Spiers (Jehane Ltd.) and Stuart Cox (I Like Birds).

And for Character & Animation, the finalists will be introduced to Dan Grant (Danilo Promotions), Nikki Samuels (Sambro), Clare Piggott (Larkshead Media), Julia Redman (M&Co) and Steve Manners (CPLG). Christina Schiavone, European patent attorney at Wynne-Jones, will also join both panels.

A big thank you to all of them. So, that’s what we’re doing to make it easier for people with exciting new brands to pierce the bubble and step into our industry. Now it’s your turn to help. What we ask is that, if you’re a licensee, agent, retailer or manufacturer, that you also help by talking about License This! and making sure that anyone you know who wants to make it in licensing enters this year’s competition. And if you’re a new licensor, then we encourage you to put yourself out there and enter.

If you’re still unsure whether to take the plunge, read what Stuart Cox said; we bet this changes your mind.

“License This! is an exciting competition and an amazing opportunity – a game changer. It places largely untested brands right into the heart of BLE, alongside the biggest names in one of the biggest industries on the planet.

“Most competitions are preaching to the converted, silo’d off to special interests in greeting cards/calendars/giftware, etc, but at License This! there’s every possibility that you’ll be seen by and pitching to truly global brands and businesses that can change your life for good – and the truth is that they WILL be looking, as License This! is the place to find the freshest talent about to enter the industry.

“It’s a life changing opportunity, so if you’re a designer and want ‘your stuff’ on products there really is nothing quite like it. Just do it… it might change your life.”

License This! applications are open until September 14. It’s free to enter – simply complete the online form here

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