Like all business entrepreneurs, Michael Sieber dreams of leaving his business – the Simba Dickie Group – in the hands of a family member. He’s just taken a big stride towards that goal: daughter Christina and nephew Maximilian Stork are following in his footsteps.
For Fritz Sieber, the original founder of
what is now the Simba Dickie Group,
family was everything. He made sure
they all went on vacation together at least
once a year. His son carried on this
tradition – and eventually carried on the
firm as well. Michael Sieber and his
sister Monika each have three children;
his sister Marion has one daughter.
Evidently there’s no danger of the dynasty coming to an abrupt end. Nevertheless Sieber is delighted that the first of his descendants are already making their way into the family firm: his daughter Christina (21) has already designed doll collections, and, in December 2009, her eldest cousin, Maximilian Stork (26), took up a post as Executive Assistant to COO Uwe Weiler.
YO-YO: What’s it like growing up as the daughter or nephew of a toy magnate? Christina Sieber: When I was little, the firm wasn’t all that big. But my father was always bringing toys back home to try out.
Maximilian Stork: It was really something special. It was fantastic the way Gramps and Uncle Michael were always bringing us the latest toys from trade fairs all over the world. We were the first kids with Gameboys and Nintendos and we were always up to date.
Christina, didn’t you want to keep all those lovely dolls and cuddly toys?
Christina: I wasn’t really a typical girl. I had an elder brother and two elder cousins and we played together with cars and action figures. And I loved animals. We spent most of our time out of doors, I loved climbing about everywhere, and I was always filthy when I got home.
Maximilian: We were a pretty wild lot, always running about in the woods or up in our tree house. And of course we loved racing our Bobby Cars.
Weren’t your friends and schoolmates jealous?
Christina: No, not at all. We held our birthday parties in the showroom and that was fantastically popular.
Christina, you’re obviously artistic …
Christina: I loved painting and handicrafts even back in kindergarten. I did it with Gran too. I got to exhibit my little acrylic masterpieces at toy fairs. I did art and English for my school-leaving exam – it was much tougher than I’d anticipated because I had to do a lot of theory and learn manual techniques.
What are your plans for the future?
Christina: First I want to study design. My ambition is to be a fashion designer. Or a product designer in Dad’s firm.
You’ve done a bit of that already …
Christina: A few years ago, Paris Hilton – the hotel heiress – used to take her Chihuahua everywhere with her and I really liked that. I had the idea of designing a dog plush toy with a bag and accessories. That turned into Simba’s Chi Chi Love collection.
That was pretty neat work for a teenager.
Christina: Yeah, I was proud of it, you can imagine. Dad often used to bring home the latest Steffi Love dolls and ask what I thought of them. I always said, that’s really uncool, I can do better than that. So in the end he said ‘OK, show me.’ While I was still at school, I designed four outfits and make-up to match. After I left school, I spent a month in Hong Kong to plan my first designs for Steffi Love Supermodel..
What was that like?
Christina: I spent days running round the markets with the head designer looking for materials and applications. But it’s complicated, because everything has to pass the safety tests. Anything glittery tends to cause problems, for a start, because it’s got metal in it. And you can never forget the cost factor. When you’re manufacturing the sort of quantities Simba does, there can be a huge price differential between a miniskirt and a long evening dress. A lot of my ideas just didn’t get by, I hadn’t realized it was so complicated.
Maximilian, you’ve finished at college, haven’t you?
Maximilian: Yeah, I have a BA in business management and a diploma in international business administration.
Did you always want to work for Simba Dickie?
Maximilian: For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted. So, after leaving school, I did a year’s internship with the firm in Madrid, Fürth, and Hong Kong, trying out all the departments. I had to start by finding out whether this was really the industry I wanted to work in.
So how did it go when you came into the firm?
Maximilian: It wasn’t all handed to me on a platter; I had to earn it like
anyone else. It was a complete new start, not a bit like in the textbooks at college. Now, every new day is a fresh adventure. But I’ve got the best teachers anyone could have.
Happy family: (l. to r.) Florian Sieber, Felix Stork, Gisela, Michael and Christina Sieber, and Maximilian Stork.