Toy Stories!

by Tami Murphy | 17 Mar 2022

Biographies and Interviews



Hi, Tami! Why did you want to do a podcast and who are some of your upcoming guests? 

The idea for Toy Stories, our podcast, actually came out of a brainstorming session we did with our business consultant.  David and I were both intrigued with the idea, so we kicked it around for a while and then made the pitch to Mike Fisher, our boss, and got his approval. 


We met Scott Whitney, our host, through our business consultant.  Scott owns a marketing firm, Taxi Colectivo, and his passion is storytelling and since he has no connection to the toy industry, we thought he’d be the perfect person to help us tell the stories we wanted through a new lens.   


David has self published his own music, so in my opinion, being on a podcast was partly in his wheelhouse. I’m comfortable getting up in front of a group of people to give a presentation but putting me behind the microphone for a podcast with the directions to “talk” was completely stepping out of my comfort zone.  I am glad I did it and hope someday to get the opportunity to do it again. 


Toy Stories, is a mini series podcast about the people who have captured our attention over the years and their stories.  We have a lot of great guests including Steve Mark and Kevin Carroll, the Tenzi guys, along with Ahren Hoffman of Crazy Aaron’s on our first episode which drops March 22nd.  We have Ryan Hogan and Derrick Smith, the founders of Hunt A Killer talking about failure and trying again.  Rena Nathanson of Bananagrams is on an episode and talks about her Dad, Abe.  Eric Poses of All Things Equal joins us to talk about being his own person, following his own rules and making sure he has work/life balance.  We talk to Dae Fenwick, Kulture Karaoke, and Amanda Wilson, A+X Puzzles, about being black owned businesses and how they got into Target as start up companies.  We wrap up the mini series, with you, Mary, and we asked you a question no one has ever asked you!  How is that for a teaser so people tune in!  Here’s where you can find Toy Stories: 


What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?

Currently I split my time for GPI, Inc. as the Marketing Manager and an Account Manager.  The marketing piece is a bit self explanatory and for the Account Manager role, I work with our customers making sure GPI is meeting their needs with whatever combination of services we provide them – design & development, playtesting, custom manufacturing, sourcing or consulting.


What is your claim to fame in the industry?

I don’t really think I have a claim to fame but I have been very active with ASTRA.  I’ve served on multiple committees over the years and on their Board of Directors and am currently on their Innovation Council. 


What has been your biggest achievement?

Family wise – I raised three kids and two of them are now adulting and paying their own way in life, the third will enter that phase of adulthood in the spring of 2023.  For work, I guess it is helping grow The Haywire Group from a start up to a full fledged successful business that was then purchased by University Games. 


What was your biggest failure?

Ironically, I’m going to say my biggest failure was also my biggest success.  When University Games purchased Haywire Group, I put myself out of a job.  In effect, I helped make a company so successful that someone else wanted to buy the company and “poof” there went my job of 12 years!  That sounds terrible and dramatic but in reality, when that door closed another opened immediately as Mike Fisher, the owner of Haywire Group, turned around and offered me a job at GPI which he also owns.


Do you have a mantra that you live by?

What is for you shall not pass you by.


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I knew my boss’ wife through our sons’ playgroup and she recommended me to go work the first Toy Fair that Haywire Group exhibited. I went to New York to get a break from “being Mom” and several months later I had a permanent job.  That was in 2006.


What are you working on now? 

For my marketing role, I am working on continuing to let the industry know GPI exists, we like to say we’ve been the industry’s best kept secret for the last 40 years.  I’m also working on a campaign to elevate the awareness of our Design & Development team and their unique position in our industry. 


What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?

Good question, right now, as we are facing factory closings due to Covid, I feel like 2020 is haunting me and feeling a bit unsettled!   But what does keep me motivated is the people around me, the friends I’ve made in this industry and my co-workers.  There is a lot of creative energy and positivity in this industry.  At the end of the day, we deliver fun to families and people of all ages, we deliver a method of connecting and that is motivational in and of itself. 


What advice do you have for people starting in the industry?

Network.  Join any groups you can, ask a lot of questions.  Listen. 


Do you have a typical workday and how does it play out for you?  

I work from home half the week and then go to the office the other half.  Both days start the same COFFEE, yoga, and then more COFFEE.  While I’m enjoying my coffee, I peruse emails and mark ones I need to get back to right away, I then read my morning news, start Wordle (which I work on all day long, usually finish by lunch).  After my second cup of coffee I get dressed for work, if I’m working from home, I wander into my home office after visiting and petting my cat, Val. And if I’m driving to work, I hop in the car and 8 minutes and 3 traffic lights later, I’m at the office.   Once I’m at the office, I eat my oatmeal and have more COFFEE and answer my first group of emails for the morning.  The rest of the day is meetings, emails, meetings, emails, chatting with co-workers, tea and then home.  Sidenote: in order to get anything done, I schedule meetings with myself, block off the time on my calendar just like I would any meeting and get to the task at hand.


What’s your workspace setup like?

I have a standing desk at both locations and at home I have music on in the background, usually jazz and I overlook the backyard.  At work I have a cubicle decorated with an Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly picture, two calendars, lots of samples laying around and my random collection of tchotchkes I’ve acquired through the years. 


What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it? 

Oh man, I used to be the assistant to the publisher of a medical journal and she was one of the meanest people I ever met.  She was this tiny little thing, maybe 5’ tall and 90 pounds with hair almost as long as she was tall and she loved to yell at people and degrade them.  She also had a terrible memory and would yell at her employees for doing things she told them to do.  I quickly learned to take detailed notes with dates, quotes, references to whatever was happening at the time so if I got yelled at, I would be able to say “you said, this, on this date, at this meeting, after so and so said this”   Those notes saved my butt a lot, needless to say I didn’t last long there but I learned how to handle a difficult boss and how to survive a toxic work environment.


What blocks your creativity?



How do you recharge or take a break?

Take a walk outside, preferably in nature or schedule a game night with my girlfriends which is code for wine, talking and laughing.


What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

Legos and Lincoln Logs but also my Chrissy and Velvet dolls. 


Where were you born?

Columbus, Ohio but grew up in Minster, Ohio


What was your life like growing up? 

Protected.   I grew up in a small, rural town in Ohio – you know the kind where we tell you we had two stop lights and 2 “winky blinky” lights.  There were about 80 kids in my class, the same ones I went to kindergarten with were the same ones I graduated high school with.  There was a lot of freedom growing up like that, you were independent very early as your parents trusted the community.  The downside to that was it was not very diverse, so as much as I loved growing up in my community, I craved to go out and explore.  I ended up at Ohio State with 50,000 other students and then moved to Chicago. 


When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud on a regular basis and it’s usually caused by my husband.


Do you have any kiddos?

Three - Connor, 26, Cassidy, 24 and Carson, 21

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