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Famous local toymaker supports schools reading program

Amelia Island is home to Mike Bowling, the creator of Pound Puppies and a motivational speaker who encourages people to pursue their dreams and follow their passions. 

It’s something he is an expert at himself.  He was working in a Ford plant in Ohio when he kept feeling he had a bigger purpose inside him.  He just knew he wasn’t made to be on an assembly line forever.  Periodically while assembling parts on cars, he would get an idea about a new invention but he never pursued them.  Instead, he kept his secure job to support his family until one day – he had a vision of a plush dog that could be rescued from the pound (now known as the Humane Society). 

He said, “I absolutely knew I had to create this idea.  It was such a powerful feeling that I knew – this was it.” 

He threw all he had into designing the plush toy and the box it came in.  Although he was making $10 an hour at the time, he paid an attorney and a consultant more than $100 an hour to help him promising them he would pay them some day, some how.  That’s how ALL IN he was and when he became successful, the first thing he did was paid what he owed them.

He made the decision to leave Ford and he knew he had to take a chance to get Pound Puppies to market.  It was a good decision and during the late 80s, Pound Puppies were the #1 Toy Sold in the WORLD in 52 Countries and that floppy, long eared puppy had more than a BILLION DOLLARS in retail sales.

Mike Bowling also created a successful cartoon series with Hanna Barbera and a movie with Corelco.  Pound Puppies was named one of the Toy Industry Association’s top 100 toy lines of the last 100 years in Time magazine.

He’s still creating new toys and he’s also writing a book and has several other new adventures he’s pursuing. He’s not done yet and he feels his best years are still ahead.

Mike didn’t have an education to be a toymaker, a speaker, or an author but he studied everything he could get his hands on regarding those industries.  He realized once you start on any dream and pursue it with all your heart, you will find a way to make it happen.  Overcoming the challenges is the most satisfying part of the pursuit. 

Mike has been giving back to Amelia Island’s local schools for the last 25 years by encouraging children to read and read more!  He believes reading opens their minds and helps stimulate ideas buried within them. 

This past week he showed up at Southside Elementary and Emma Love Elementary to hand out autographed Pound Puppies to 83 children who read the most books this school year.  The children were thrilled and Mr. Bowling couldn’t stop smiling.

As Mr. Bowling knelt down to shake a little girl’s hand she told him her Mom had received a Pound Puppy just like her the first year Mr. Bowling started the reading program 25 years ago.

That made his day and Mr. Bowling’s story of success made ours!

Eye on Nassau gives a big Wink to Mike Bowling for encouraging the children of our community to read more and explore new and wonderful places and ideas locked inside the pages of a book.

Billie Tucker Volpe

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives.


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