In 1991 I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University when I made the decision I did not want to grow up. The concern was, maybe if I did, I would not be a Toys R Us kid. Now, how in the world could I let that happen?
My passion for the toy industry began in earnest in 1988, at the end of 104 minutes which would change my life forever. The experience that so rocked my world was my 1st viewing of Tom Hanks’ movie “Big”; and I readily admit I may be the only person to be able to trace my life path back to this movie. However, at the end of this simple story I knew that all I wanted to do with my life was to work in the toy business and design toys for a living. This desire was so overwhelming that in my senior year of high school I started putting a plan in place to achieve this dream. I researched everything I could about the toy business, the supply chain, the major players, and how toys made it from concept to under the Christmas tree. This being 1989-1991, it meant I could not just jump online and get my answers in minutes. Instead I spent hours find and reading books from the library and perusing any magazine that I felt might remotely mention the toy industry.
By February 1991, with my goal of getting of job with toys firmly set, the business school at Texas A&M had a career fair. Besides just visiting booths, there was an opportunity for students to attend a dinner with one of the companies recruiting on campus. Given the opening I leaped at the opportunity to dine with the team from Toys R Us, the dominant force in toy retail. I had no idea what to expect, but I was determined to find out everything I could about the company, how to get a job in the industry, and where was the best place to start my future career as a toy designer.
At dinner there were 10 students and 2 recruiters. We each introduced ourselves and I rapidly knew something was odd. I was the last student to introduce myself and realized that everyone else was graduating within the next 6 months. When they got to me I said, “Hi, my name is Warren. I am an Accounting Major and I will be graduating in 2.5 years.” Rather surprised, one of the recruiters immediately asked why I was here if I was not graduating soon. I quickly responded “I have spent the last 2 years researching the toy industry and I am here to learn more about it and get to know you all.”
After dinner one of the recruiters gave me his card and told me to call him when I got closer to graduation. In addition he recommended a book, which turned out to be the best thing I had read to date on the industry. By the end of the evening I was convinced that the best place to start my toy career was on the retail end where I could learn how toys are marketed and sold. And where better than the largest toy retailer in the world?
So, a week after dinner I called the recruiter to thank him for the time and the book recommendation. We spoke for almost an hour about the company, the structure, and life at Toys R Us. It was at this moment that I first learned the importance of persistence. Every single month for the next 2+ years, I called the team at Toys R Us to say hello and just touch base. Sometimes these were quick 5 minute discussions, other times they exceeded an hour with different people in the organization. I really knew I wanted to work there and never found anything odd about placing all these calls. My thought was always that this is how you get a job, so each month I picked up the phone and rang the team in Houston.
By May 1993, 3 months before graduation, Toys R Us invited me to the office in Houston for an interview. Once I reached the office it was less an interview and more like greeting old friends. For over 2 years I had gotten to know these people and learn about their families. I went from office to office shaking hands and hugging people that up until then I knew only by voice. By the end of the “interview” drove back to school with a job offer in hand and the first step in my goal achieved.
Looking back almost 20 years I realize that this experience profoundly shaped who I am today. To this day, whenever anyone asks me about how I ended up on the path to quit my job to travel the world I quickly trace it back to the movie “Big” and the first major life goal I set out to achieve. The road has not led where I expected, and there have been many down times, but I could not be happier with the life I have today thanks to the first steps I took in 1988.
What where the early steps on your life path? I would love to hear your story as well.