Filipino Hello Kitty
PLUSH AND PLAY
Plush and Play is one of the social enterprises working in Gawad Kalinga, an organization which aims at finishing the poverty for 5 millions Filipino families. The main way they do it is by opening social businesses and using the skills those poor people have, often with an untypical approach. That’s what happened in Plush and Play, founded by Fabien Courteille.
Being here, I realized there is something in common among the employed mothers in the Philippines, all of them are victims of the outsourcing garment industry. Before the Philippines were really proud of their garment companies, but in the last 10 years they have been closed down, people lost jobs. I thought maybe we could do something with mothers here. I was not really into clothes and those kinds of things and I thought maybe we could do something for kids, there are so many kids in this country. And quite randomly we said: let’s make stuffed toys and that’s it. We started to do toys. We didn’t have any idea how to do it, but we just did it! Our toys have shapes of vegetables and fruits which have additional educational value for kids. We made the first toy in late 2012. We started a regular program in 2013 and registered the company in 2014.
Today they are the first Filipino toy brand sold in big shops, where they compete with products coming from China. They dream about being the Filipino Hello Kitty. It doesn’t mean, though, that from the very beginning everything went easy.
Being entrepreneur is just about facing challenges. I feel my life is about solving challenges, whenever one is solved, another comes up. Basically, you can never say: oh, I made it. It’s people around you saying you are successful, you are running a sustainable business. For you as an entrepreneur, every single day is about solving problems: production related, supply chain related, financial, sales related, distribution… You are there to find the strength to solve all problems, make right decisions, that’s what people expect from you.
And expectations are many. Catching Fabien was almost impossible, he was running between workshop and car, answering thousands of questions and problems. Few sawing women sit in the workshop, other work at home. We even met a woman who was selling hot-dogs and under the counter was sawing an eggplant. Each toy means a new challenge to solve. Fortunately, Fabien is not alone.
It’s all about people, you need the right people, the right team. There are a lot of things to do which I don’t have competences for. I design toys although I have no idea about design, so I just have to learn it on the spot. We want to do cartoons for children where our toys will be characters. I have to find the right people for that, with skills, but also understanding of what we do and why.
Motivation seems to be the most important. It’s not only about money. Money is a tool to give sense of dignity to the poor, create opportunities for them, and change their lives. One person is not enough to do it.
We need a lot of changemakers, we cannot change the world alone. We really need an army of people and I think among our generation a lot of people want to do something and if we just do it together, it can really be done. One of the first things to tell people is just do it. Don’t think too much about the business model, just do something and learn along the way. Don’t run after money, because it didn’t make our parents happy, so it will also not make us happy. We’ve seen people in Europe becoming wealthy, becoming pretty rich, but eventually what happens with the family? I don’t think running after money is the right purpose, do something good.
More about Plush and Play: plushandplay.com