GoldieBlox, a startup looking to get girls hooked on engineering and other STEM fields, has hired Shawn Dennis as its first president.
Dennis was most recently the head of brand and franchise development at DreamWorks Animation and also worked as the chief marketing officer at Mattel’s American Girl. She’s also been on the GoldieBlox board of directors since 2016 — founder and CEO Debbie Sterling told me she’s been “not-so-secretly hoping all along that one day Shawn would come and help me run this thing.”
Sterling said that while GoldieBlox is usually described as a toy company, she’s always had a vision for the Goldie character to become someone who would “inspire girls around the world.”
“I started it really as a social mission: I wanted to close the gender gap in STEM,” she said.
And yes, selling toys where girls can build their own machines is part of that mission, but so is the GoldieBlox YouTube channel and a partnership to produce chapter books with Random House.
Part of Dennis’ role at GoldieBlox will be to lead licensing and partnerships (apparently there’s an animated show in the works, as well) and to create what she described as “an ecosystem with girls at the center.” She added that things like YouTube are key for helping the company open “two lanes of communication,” so that it’s not just talking to parents but girls as well.
“It’s time again to reinvent what girlhood means,” Dennis said.
In addition to handling licensing, she said she’ll be managing much of the company’s day-to-day operations, freeing Sterling to focus on the long-term vision and on advocating for that vision. Dennis’ tenure at both DreamWorks (where she was involved in launching franchises like Trolls) and American Girl has given her plenty of experience with building brands for girls, but she added, “I will be running the business and building the business. I will not be the face of the company — that needs to be Debbie.”