by Nancy Zwiers | 14 Mar 2022
The Bloom Report
A Tribute to an Unsung Hero—Toy Association’s Marian Bossard
By Nancy Zwiers
Marian Bossard, over 22 years with the Toy Association, epitomizes gracious servant leadership.
As Marian searches for a suitable replacement for the word “retired” following her many years with the Toy Association, I was inspired to spotlight the leadership skills I witnessed over the past 20 years working with Marian in a variety of capacities…her respectful listening, collaborative spirit, innovation, resilience and strong team development to execute well. I am confident she will bring these leadership skills to whatever she chooses to do next.
Toy Fair and Dallas Toy Preview
Successfully pulling off such huge complex shows twice a year is by itself impressive—but Marian made it look easy. How? She always had time to seek out and listen to industry members ideas and continually added new innovations that she believed would add value for her various constituents. Over the years, she welcomed me to support new educational efforts at the show, participate in in-depth media interviews, and conduct mentoring sessions for first-time exhibitors. As she prepared for her eventual retirement from Toy Association, she trained and groomed her team and her replacement, Kimberly Carcone, because she knew “the show must go on.”
Play Con/Toy Con
I worked closely with Marian on the Play Con committee over the course of years and what strikes me most about how she led the charge was her respectful listening to committee members. At the time, I was running my company Funosophy and was not representing a company with clout in the industry—and yet, she listened to me as much as my peers in larger companies. She was receptive to everyone’s ideas and reaching consensus was surprisingly easy—and she and her team did all the heavy lifting on logistics. I loved working with her and my committee peers.
DC Fly In (industry participation in lobbying efforts)
While Marian did not organize the DC Fly In (thank you Ed Desmond and External Affairs team!), she supported her peer and was part of a small but powerful contingent lobbying for the toy industry in the halls of the Capitol building. Her enthusiastic participation in her TA peers’ initiatives was an example of her generous spirit. I also seem to recollect that she attended one year with a broken leg, demonstrating her resilience.
Mission to India (attending Kids India show and learning about the market)
Ever the innovator, Marian led the team that travelled to Mumbai India to attend the Kids India toy show, conduct store checks, meet with Commerce Department government officials to learn more about doing business in India. Since Marian was in charge, every moment was a combination of fun and productivity. But the big point is that Marian was anticipating what would be important 10+ years down the road and was determined to help pave the way.
Play Fair (consumer show)
Marian did a lot of heavy lifting to experiment with a consumer-facing show and I was a proud to include my company, Spin Master, in the effort. I credit Play Fair in 2016 with helping us crystallize our belief in the tremendous growth potential of the Kinetic Sand brand, where I was able to witness consumers from age 2 to 62 playing with this irresistible compound. While the show turned out to be unsustainable from a cost perspective, her willingness to swing big in search of meaningful innovation impressed me.
WiT Empowerment Day (WiT’s premiere pitch event on the eve of Dallas Toy Show)
Marian partnered with Women in Toys, Licensing, and Entertainment to enable WiT (a non-profit) to deliver a powerful full-day event for female entrepreneurs who pitched their product lines to Walmart and those industry leaders with inventor submission departments. Working behind the scenes, Marian carved out a large and lovely space at the Dallas Toy Mart and provided it free of charge. From 2014-2019, she worked with my Empowerment Day co-chair, Deb DeSherbinin, and I to create an atmosphere of support for these fledgling entrepreneurs. We couldn’t have done it with without Marian’s support.
Please let Marian know you appreciate her too!
I know I’m not the only one in the toy industry who appreciated Marian’s work ethic, understated servant leadership, respectful collaboration, and spirit of generosity…I encourage all of us to let Marian know how much we appreciate her leadership and support over 22+ years.