Tagg Bowman-The Modern Day Josh Baskin
A behind-the-scenes look at a real toy executive
By Stephanie Bonilla
If you ever watched the movie Big — or even if you haven’t — you’ll remember the infamous scene where Tom Hanks dances on a giant novelty piano in one of New York’s most popular landmarks, F.A.O. Schwarz. This movie, which catapulted Tom Hanks from being a funny actor to an Oscar-worthy movie star, quickly became a classic because it lived out a common childhood fantasy: getting paid to play with toys.
That nostalgic dream is still very alive in many of us, getting tucked away under our pillow every morning, as we get ready to sit behind our desks at our traditional 9-5s. But for some, like Anker Play Products’ Vice-President of Sales Tagg Bowman, their occupation consists of job functions that will turn your inner child green with envy.
Dream Vocation: Toy Tester
For Bowman, whose dream job as a child consisted of playing with animals, a conventional career path was never an option. Though his daydream didn’t necessarily pan out exactly as he envisioned, he compromised by taking a job that still allowed him to play with animals—just plastic ones. “I accidentally fell into the toy industry after taking a job at a local animal figure manufacturer,” said Bowman. “I was fresh out of college and needed something to put on my resume.” Never expecting to make a career out of it, Bowman quickly climbed up the sales ladder, becoming one of the top sales executives in the company. His rapid success opened his mind — and many doors — to pursue a career in the toy industry.
After moving on from his initial job as sales associate, Bowman pursued other opportunities with bigger job titles and more sizable responsibilities — all while staying local to Miami and true to his love of play. Several years later, he is still embracing his inner child full on. But his favorite part of his job isn’t the fact that he occasionally gets to turn his office into a playground. Rather, he enjoys the product development aspect most. “It’s exciting to meet with large retailers and brainstorm concepts, then go back with a prototype months later that I know I’ll eventually see sitting on their shelves. Working on something and seeing it through from inception, knowing all the meetings, phone calls and prototypes it took to make that one toy, then seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they play with it makes everything worth it. It’s the full circle aspect that I love the most.”
Not All Child’s Play
But the job of this VP of Sales isn’t all fun and games. Many of his days consist of extensive travel and crucial presentations to large, influential retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Toys “R” Us. On days when he isn’t traveling, he is busy managing accounts, preparing quotes for clients and organizing and shipping out samples. He also works with the product development team on making sure his clients’ visions become reality. During his time off, Bowman often visits toy stores, floating through the aisles to ensure he stays current with what’s out on the market. Sometimes, he even stops to play with toys.
“Playing and trying out the toys that are out on the market has always been an integral part of my success. It allows me to feel the tangible benefits of a toy, triggers ideas on how an existing product can be enhanced and it takes me back to being 13 years old which helps me remember what I wanted out of a toy then,” said Bowman. “The funny part is that when I was a kid, my favorite toys were the most basic ones: a soccer ball and football. My inner child still drifts toward them as I walk down toy aisles. But now my job is to help create and sell toys that compete with iPads and video games.”
Some of Anker Play Products’ most popular items include their construction blocks, science kits and their DIY craft kits, such as their “make your own wall clock.” Their mission — which is engraved into their products and culture — is to reinvigorate the imagination and creativity of children worldwide.
Always A Child At Heart
All in all, the reality of getting paid to play with toys is accompanied by hard work and commitment. It isn’t always playtime for Bowman. And though his story highlights that not everything that glitters is a fun nail art set, it stands as proof that we never have to truly grow up.