about astra

Meet ASTRA's Board of Directors

Jeanie Crone/Manufacturer
Chair
Ojo

Jeanie Crone

Jeanie Crone  is the director of sales at OjO Games and brings decades of experience in the apparel industry, as a consultant, and in the toy industry with EDC Publishing, Schleich, and OjO Toys and Games. She has served as a past board member of the Tulsa Regional ASPCA, past chair of the Association of Women in Communications, and works as a volunteer for local non-profits.

As an active ASTRA member, Jeanie served on the ASTRA Finance Committee, the ASTRA Winter Camp Committee, and the Executive Committee.


Amy Saldahna/Retailer
Past Chair
kiddywampus

Amy Saldhana

Amy is founder and CEO of kiddywampus, a specialty toy retailer and destination for families in the Twin Cities. Prior to founding and running kiddywampus in 2006, Amy practiced law as a civil litigator in Chicago, followed by stints in operations and talent management at several digital start-ups.

Amy graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor's degree in political science and speech communications. She also holds a social sciences degree in political philosophy from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. She earned her JD from Valparaiso School of Law. Amy also serves on the Board of Trustees at The Blake School, and the Boards of ResourceWest and Hopkins Business & Civic Association.

She and her husband, Kenneth, have three children, all of whom are active at kiddywampus.


Corey Funkey/Manufacturer
Treasurer
Smart Toys and Games, Inc.

Corey Funkey

Corey has had a very successful career as a sales executive for the past 30 years. His experience is in both large multi-national corporations and smaller entrepreneurial organizations.

Prior to joining Smart Toys and Games, Inc., he was Vice President of Sales for Fibre Craft Materials in the arts /crafts and toy categories. He led the development of a strategic planning process that allowed the business to double in size.

His experience in working with both large mass market retailers and independent specialty toy stores allows him to have a unique perspective on the retail market. He finds the most positive difference between the channels is the passion that specialty store owners bring to the business.

He has been an active member of ASTRA serving on multiple committees. Corey served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Kids in Need Foundation; a national charity devoted to helping deliver school supplies to underprivileged children across the US.

Corey and his wife Mary Ann live in the south suburbs of Chicago. They have two grown children Amanda and Christopher. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, reading and trying to solve SmartGames challenges.


Betty Burns/Retailer
Angellina's Toy Boutique

Betty Burns

Betty Burns is the founder and creative director of Angellina's Toy & Children’s Boutique which is located in majestic Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Angellina's is an award winning children's boutique that had been delighting children of all ages, in the land of the midnight sun, for 11 years.

Betty holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Bachelor of Education, and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She is passionate about creativity, imagination, making and learning in experiential and purposeful play environments. Betty is especially interested in differentiated learning experiences with a focus on engagement or flow; the feeling of spontaneous joy while wholeheartedly performing a task or activity.

Over the last 17 years, Betty has been working as an elementary school teacher, teaching everything from Kindergarten to Grade Seven. She has instructed various College & University courses in Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education Programs, and has mentored pre-service teachers. Betty is currently employed by the Yukon Government as the Primary Curriculum Consultant for Yukon Department of Education.

Angellina's Toy Boutique was founded on a dream and built on a philosophy of education. Betty attributes her business successes to the example of her hardworking grandparents Alex and Betty Skoke, with whom she spent much of her childhood working and playing in their family run business in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. It was here that her work-ethic, problem-solving skills, and the importance of the customer relationship was nurtured.

Together with her husband Damien, she has three beautiful daughters; Angellina, Ave Maria, and Stella Maris- who are her everything. Betty loves to dream, create, problem-solve, dance, run, and travel. Everyday she marvels at the wonder and awe of childhood. .


Lisa Orman/Affiliate
KidStuff Public Relations

Lisa Orman

Lisa Orman has been passionately building awareness for specialty toys, games, juvenile services and more for 25 years. She started KidStuff PR when she was pregnant with her first child because she realized all new parents go through this massive educational process trying to learn about what they want and need for their little humans. Most of the really cool stuff she ferreted out for her own family was NOT from massive companies with multi-million dollar advertising budgets so she realized those smaller entrepreneurial companies needed her PR expertise the most.

It's been her joy to live a playful life with her clients and media who cover them making every day different and packed with interesting challenges. She knows how lucky she is to love her work and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Her kids grew up as KidStuff PR’s play testers and she thinks they are brilliant and intellectually curious young adults now because they got the best of play when they were children.

Her hobbies include cooking, travel, playing with her dog, meeting new friends, shopping at specialty stores and reading. And she’s the self-declared Queen of Yahtzee, her favorite game. If you spot her on a plane she’ll probably be playing her electronic version of it.


Tom Rushton/Sales Representative
Revenew Sales

Tom Rushton

As a kid or even while in college, Tom was not sure he knew was going to work in the toy industry. After meeting the Front Porch Classics team while selling German Galileo Thermometers at a trade show in Chicago, it hit him like the proverbial ton of bricks - he had to be a part of selling fun.

Since his time at Front Porch Classics, Tom served as VP-Sales of Sababa Toys before joining Revenew Sales, which he now runs from his farm outside of Wilmington, NC.

When he's not flying to his next meeting, he can be found on a mountain bike trail somewhere in the Southeast, pedaling away and doing his best to avoid the trees.


Brad Ruoho / Retailer
Legacy Toys

Brad Ruoho

Brad has been in the toy industry for seven years and an ASTRA member for five years. His passion for toys started long before that. Brad is a born entrepreneur with a child-like heart - from the age of 18, he has started and successfully grown numerous businesses. He sold all of them to focus on the toy industry, recognizing the deeper meaning and quality of life it provides.

In 2012, Brad started his first toy store, Legacy Toys, in Ely, MN. He wanted to fill the void the local toy store left upon closing in their small town. Since then, he has grown Legacy Toys to multiple stores in the upper midwest.   In addition, he has launched Legacy Bound, a children's book publishing company, and Great Playthings, a game development and publishing company.

Brad also is a partner of Sun in My Heart, a non-profit company that builds homes, schools and orphanages around the world. All of these companies have the same mission: "Making the world a better place for our children; the greatest Legacy we can leave."

 

Ron Solomon/Affiliate
MAPP Trap

Ron Solomon

Ronald Solomon has written novels and television shows, created award-winning children’s products and run commercially successful companies spanning children's toys and games, and created cutting edge, B2B Enterprise Level Software as a Service (SaaS) products.

In 2006 Solomon started The Creditors Network, a unique, online system that helps vendors to exchange credit information on their shared customers. In 2012 the company added MAPP Trap to its portfolio in order to help companies keep track of how their products are being represented by online merchants and to assist in brand-value threats caused by over-distribution, hyper-discounting, grey-market sellers and policy compliance. The system is currently in use by manufacturers in a variety of industries spanning, toys, games, juvenile products, pet products, gift, housewares, auto parts, sporting goods, health, beauty and more.

From 1998-2010, Solomon successfully created and distributed his own line of award-winning products for the “tween” market. Through his company, Swingset Press, Solomon forged a successful niche in the specialty toy, gift, book and girls’ accessories markets. His products received publicity in such venues as The Rosie O’Donnell Show, Radio Disney, AOL’s “Kid’s On Line”, InStyle Magazine, The Today Show, New York Magazine, Working Mother, Parenting and YM and more.

Before forming Swingset Press, Solomon spent over a decade in television. Starting in 1987, he worked with NBC to create the highly successful "TNBC" block of programming. He worked as a writer/producer and writer/co-executive producer on such iconic series as "Saved By The Bell," "California Dreams" (created by Solomon for NBC), and "Hang Time." After completing over 200 episodes, Solomon left NBC and wrote dozens of freelance scripts (produced) and original television pilots for Fred Silverman, UPN, Disney, and FOX Television.

Brice Elvington/Retailer
Toy Shop of Florence

Brice Elvington

Brice Elvington is the owner of Toy Shop Florence located in Florence, South Carolina. Coming from a background in chemical engineering and business, he brings more than a decade of experience in the toy industry.

As an active ASTRA member, Brice has volunteered on the ASTRA Innovation Council, contributed regularly to ASTRA Connnect discussion topics, and earned his Certified Master Retailer designation. He is committed to bringing manufacturers, reps, and retailers together and helping fellow retailers learn what works and what doesn't work. He currently serves on the board for the Montessori School and Children's Museum and uses his toy store to serve his community through partnerships to serve children and small businesses any way he can. 


Azhelle Wade/ Affiliate
The Toy Coach

Azhelle Wade

Bringing a decade of toy industry experience working for companies like Toys R Us, Party City, and Madam Alexander, Azhelle Wade has been a designer, gained three toy patents, and held a VP role at a toy company. She launched The Toy Coach, where consults for popular IP's and toy companies of all sizes. Her podcast Making It in the Toy Industry and Toy Creators Academy program empowers new members of the toy industry with step-by-step guidance, industry insights, and resources.

Azhelle has helped facilitate webinars on diversity and inclusion for ASTRA and serves as a connector for her students and podcast listeners to the ASTRA community. She currently serves on the Women in Toys Marketing Committee and Recruitment Committee.

 

Patrick Holland/Retailer
Learning Express of Chattanooga and Mountain Top Toys

Patrick Holland

Patrick Holland is the owner of Learning Express Toys of Chattanooga and Mountain Top Toys in Tennessee. After an extensive career in marketing, he jumped into the toy industry by purchasing Mountain Top Toys in 2013 and, four years later, acquired the Chattanooga Learning Express business. He and his wife Joanna were honored as the Learning Express Founder's Choice Award winners, the franchise's highest award, in 2020. 

A frequent contributor to ASTRA Connect, Patrick also served on the ASTRA Exclusives Committee, helping to inform staff on decisions for the program moving forward. He spent four years as Vice President and President on the board of the Signal Mountain Business Association and currently serves on the board of the Chattanooga Northshore Merchants Collective. He is also a member of the Learning Express Franchise Advisory Council and Marketing Advisory Council.


TJ Simmons/Manufacturer
Thin Air Brands

TJ Simmons

TJ Simmons is the National Sales Manager at Thin Air Brands. With 15 years of experience in the toy industry, he has worked as a sales rep with Diverse Marketing; a retailer for Harbor Toy Co., *play, and four locations for Marbles: The Brain Store; and a manufacturer with Kahootz Toys and currently Thin Air Brands.

He has served on ASTRA committees including the Membership Committee and worked with ASTRA to develop the Customer Service module of the Certified Master Sales Rep program. His volunteer experience extends beyond ASTRA; he has worked with the Big Brother, Big Sister Foundation and helped with a number of toy drives.


Theresa Duncan/Retailer
Villa Villekulla Toy Store

Theresa Duncan

Theresa Duncan is the owner of Villa Villekulla Toy Store, a neighborhood toy store serving the community of Fernandina Beach, FL. A graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10000 Small Businesses program, Theresa was recently named the 2020 Young Business Leader of the Year by the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce and brings a decade of experience developing and implementing out of school-time programming for at-risk youth ages 4-18, where she discovered the true power of play.

An active ASTRA member, Theresa has served on the Editorial Advisory Committee for the past three years. She also serves on the Advisory Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, is an appointee on the City of Fernandina Beach's quasi-judicial Historic District Committee, and is on the Board of Directors for Fernandina Beach Mainstreet. 


Gene Murtha/Affiliate
SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives)

Gene Murtha

Gene Murtha works at SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) Association and brings 40 years of toy management experience including 16 years at Mattel and three years as the president of Gund. He also started his own company, Main Street Toys, where he developed and marketed products through independent retail including Slap Wraps, one of the hottest fads of the 90's.

Gene has helped run a webinar for ASTRA together with SBA/SCORE Association with respect to COVID-related programs. His volunteer board experience includes serving on corporate, non-profit, and industry boards throughout his career.


Sari Wiaz/Manufacturer
Wize Choice Creations/Baby Paper

Sari Wiaz

Sari Wiaz is the president at Wize Choice Creations and creator of Baby Paper. She brings 15 years of toy industry experience after a career in electronics retail, event planning and management, real estate, and ad specialty sales. Since becoming a member of ASTRA, Sari has served on the Marketplace & Academy Committee, Education Committee and ASTRA Summer Camp Committee, and has volunteered onsite at Marketplace & Academy.

Sari has volunteered with the Goldman Sachs 10K Voices Small Business Advocacy program and the Toy Association's Toy Foundation program, and has served on the board of the CURED Foundation, Kids 4 Kids and Temple Chai & Sisterhood.