- james buck
- James Becker
You wouldn't guess James Becker's profession by looking at him. He's got an approachable yet rugged aesthetic — a full, lightly groomed beard, outdoor-friendly apparel and an easy smile. The 35-year-old's business is distributing mainstream and adult novelties, and it is booming.
Becker owns an operating company called Gizmocup, which in turn has stakes in a few other companies co-owned by his New Jersey-based partners. He manages his various daily tasks — relationships with factories, buyers and sellers — from the comfort of his home in Williston.
One of the companies Becker co-owns is FancyPants FunTime, all of whose products were conceived by Becker and his cohorts. They sell their novelties to wholesalers and retailers across the country. Silliness is a theme in their inventory: One item is a plastic pizza pocket designed to be worn around the neck. Because you never know when you'll crave a slice of pizza.
Another company Becker co-owns is called Wells Trading. If the name is nondescript, the merchandise isn't. Wells specializes in bachelor, bachelorette and "sex party" novelties, such as a Skinny Me Strap-On — a wearable dildo marketed as especially useful for first-time anal sex — and penis- and breast-shaped gummy candies.
Four years ago, Becker and his wife moved to Vermont from Miami to provide "the best possible life for our kids," says the father of three. They live in a refurbished cabin, volunteer year-round at New Village Farm in Shelburne, raise meat birds and spend almost every day together.
Before living the dream in Vermont, Becker made a living as a product liability defense lawyer in Florida. "I was defending the designers, distributors and manufacturers of products that were involved in deadly or catastrophic injury," he says. "It was stressful; there were a lot of pressures in that job. It was intellectually rewarding ... [but] it just wasn't fun."
So when he was assigned a contract that was, as he puts it, "portable," Becker took the opportunity to relocate his family. The contract ended after a year, and he applied to local law firms to no avail. "It was a wake-up call for me that I needed to focus on other things," Becker says. "I wouldn't change [that]."
For supplemental income, he took a remote job with some former classmates from Rutgers University who were sourcing and reselling electronics — specifically, GPS units and cameras. Becker helped build their business, but eventually the group realized that selling tech just wasn't viable.
"Electronics — that's an industry that's very susceptible to trends, and also to competition," Becker explains. Manufacturers and other resellers were always outperforming, driving prices down and coming out with newer products. So he and his partners pivoted to selling mainstream and adult novelties. "There was some overlap in our buying base, and my partners had been previously involved in that industry as well, so they knew people," Becker says of the leap.
Gizmocup's best sellers in the mainstream market are traditional prank items, he notes: stink bombs, fart bombs, fake dog doo-doo. Why focus there? "For us, it's low-risk, moderate investment, but very few upset customers," Becker says. "My buyers never complain to me about a case of spoiled fake dog doo-doo." For the most part, people know what they're getting when they purchase novelty items, he adds.
With the adult products, things get a little more ... interesting. And penis oriented. Because, apparently, that's what bachelorettes enjoy at their parties. Penis-themed gummies, penis shot glasses, penis necklaces, penis straws — you name it, there's probably a priapic version of it, and Becker is probably selling it.
Some of the phallic items, such as the straws, glow in the dark. Because "you don't want to lose that at the club," Becker says with a grin. "I can't speak to the motivation," he adds, "but I can speak to the demand. People love it."
Becker's brain operates this way: He sees a demand, and he meets it. Consider his beer koozies, aka insulated can holders. Becker designs them, has them manufactured in China and markets them through the FancyPants FunTime brand. He has a spinach can koozie (à la Popeye), a paper-bag-themed koozie and a Huy Fong Sriracha koozie, which will soon hit the market.
In light of recent events, Becker is working on a new product: the most patriotic koozie ever created. The item is, as he puts it, "in response to loving America." This koozie will bear the images of 365 flags — one for each day of the year — and two bald eagles holding M16 rifles, with George Washington in the middle. The final touch is the slogan: "America: Great Since 1776."
Some might consider that a tasteless appropriation of right-wing imagery for financial gain, but to Becker it's just another opportunity to support the life he loves. "It's a function of our society that [the M16] exists," he comments, "and the people that are buying my 'most patriotic koozie ever' appreciate that aspect of our society."
As for Becker, he's got plenty of appreciation for the community he's found in Vermont, and for the setup that allows him to do business remotely — selling primarily to large companies out of state. "The things that I'm focusing on with my dealings here," Becker says, "are treating people nicely, trying to be involved with the community and being present."