Toy Maker and Distributor
During the past decade, Megatoys has become a textbook example of effective international trade.
The firm posts $20 million in annual revenues, in large part because of founder Charlie Woo's success at finding Asian manufacturers for the items he distributes to chains like Kmart, Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us.
"The growth of Megatoys is the result of the Asian trade business," said Woo. "We understand the U.S. consumer market and can produce the product in Asia."
In addition, Woo has become a political force in Toy Town, the downtown L.A. district where Megatoys and other toy firms are located.
"If you want to know what's going on in the toy industry, just ask Charlie Woo," said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. "He's the voice of Toy Town."
Born in Hong Kong, Woo came to Los Angeles in 1968 and graduated from UCLA in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in physics. Just a year shy of completing his doctorate, he felt obligated to help his parents, who owned ABC Toys, one of the city's first wholesale toy distributors.
In 1989, Woo and his brother Peter formed Megatoys to pursue a more diversified product line featuring gift items, party favors and Halloween costumes. They leased 10,000 square feet of space in Toy Town and with five employees began producing basic toys like dolls and small cars that they sold to local wholesalers.
By 1995, they had grown significantly and bought two buildings totaling 120,000 square feet. While the firm does some manufacturing in Los Angeles, Woo mainly relies on factories in Asia and Central America to build the items that Megatoys designs for the changing marketplace.
Since coming to this country, Woo has been influential in helping Asian Americans establish businesses in the downtown area. Now a landlord for many other toy wholesalers, he has also served as chairman for the past three years of Chinese Americans United for Self-Empowerment.
In the future, Woo wants Megatoys to start doing business in the e-commerce world.
"People like myself have more experience in distribution," he said. "The challenge is learning how to function in the wave of the future."
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