When Stone Newman '97 was in the eighth grade, his mother took him to see the movie Big. In the film, a boy's wish to be a grownup comes true, and overnight he inherits an adult body. Soon he has a girlfriend, an apartment and a job in the corporate playground of New York City's toy industry.
The 13-year-old Newman didn't realize that watching the famous “Chopsticks” scene with Tom Hanks jumping on giant piano keys in F.A.O. Schwarz was akin to looking into a crystal ball.
Newman, who owns the Manhattan-based Sababa Toys, got his start at F.A.O. Schwarz the summer after his sophomore year at Union. An economics major, he began considering a career on the corporate side of the toy industry. He got an internship at Tyco the following summer.
At Tyco, he took the opportunity to pitch toys to such distributors as Wal-Mart, Kmart and KayBee Toys. One of his supervisors was so impressed with his work that he wanted to keep him on permanently, but Newman insisted on returning to Union for his senior year.
At Union, Newman kept active as a member of Psi Upsilon and the rugby team. Immersed in his studies, he found Professor Douglass Klein's economics classes riveting. Klein's lectures on market segmentation, it turned out, were also instrumental to his career.
“I regularly use them while evaluating new ways to expand my business,” Newman says. In addition, “the broad parameters and flexibility in Union's entire curriculum allowed me to gain knowledge in a lot of different areas, which has helped me in many important aspects of my life.”
After graduation from Union, Newman took jobs at both Tyco and Hasbro in New York City. At Hasbro, he marketed the famous Tonka line, which included Chuck My Talking Truck, named after his grandfather.
Newman soon decided to play with a new idea: a toy company of his own.
In 2000, he founded Sababa Toys. The company's continually expanding product portfolio contains such classic brands as Rubik's Cube, Fisher Price, Tomy, Etch-A-Sketch and the card game, UNO.
In addition, Newman has partnered with industry leaders Matel, Nickelodeon and Major League Baseball to offer co-branded games and toys like Muppets plush toys ($14.99-$16.99), New York Yankees Rubik's Cubes ($13.99), and SpongeBob SquarePants UNO ($9.99). Newman cites the latter as the company's biggest seller and a personal favorite.
Sababa produces more than 70 versions of UNO, ranging from Superman to Dora the Explorer. Its line of officially licensed sports team items and games continues to grow each year.
“After the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, within five weeks we introduced a World Championship Edition UNO game commemorating the victory. It included all images from the series,” says Newman. “Since then, we have followed with a version for both the Chicago White Sox and the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Sababa products are offered in more than 50,000 retail outlets. Besides retail giants such as Target and Borders, the company's broad appeal also means Sababa items can be found in a range of smaller and less obvious venues: sporting goods stores, Claire's Accessories, Hot Topic and the Open Door Bookstore on Schenectady's Jay Street.
New to hit the shelves this holiday season will be games and toys based on the book series, Dragonology, Fischer Price Wood Board Puzzles and movie tie-in games for the Warner Brothers' animated Happy Feet.
Despite the fast-paced lifestyle of a successful CEO, in many ways Newman says he is still a boy at heart, much like Hanks' character in Big.
“I have some great memories playing Monopoly with my older brother, and I also was a huge G.I. Joe fan growing up. I'm also very proud of Sababa's own line of UNO games and look forward to the release of our Hello Kitty edition this fall.”Read More