Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I am starting interviews with some of our Plush You participants this year. First up is the hilariously cute, I Heart Guts. I spent a good amount of time in my childhood in hospitals and doctor's offices. So much so that I really HATE going to the doctor now. I avoid it at all costs. I always thought I should give something back in my adult year's and well the site of a hospital just isn't something I can muster. BUT I can totally roll with this!
S- Heart Guts has become really popular. Did you have a marketing strategy when you released your toys?
IHG- The guts project has been a pretty seat-of-the-pants operation from the very
beginning -- my husband and I started small and we grew and learned as we went along and didn't really have any set plans for marketing or growth. We started with five stickers and one heart tee shirt and grew from requests we got from customers: if someone wanted a liver shirt, we'd make one. Then a lung shirt, then a kidney shirt and so on. We developed the characters and the brand through the shirts, then people started asking about plush. By the time the toys came around, we had secured a distributor, so his emails to stores helped us grow our little operation a bit more. We sold out of our first run of 1500 hearts in the four months between Christmas and
S- How did the idea of I Heart Guts come about? Whose brainchild was it?
IHG- I am a compulsive doodler, and I love filling sketchbooks with absurd stuff like happy donuts and happy tennis rackets and stuff. I first drew the guts characters as a series of sad hearts around 1999 when I was heartbroken over various hookups and lousy non-boyfriends. Lots of drinking and smoking accompanied my heartbreak, so sad lungs and livers seemed like a good idea,too. I actually pitched it to a t-shirt company I freelanced for; they loved it, but thought it was too weird to produce. I kept drawing the guts,though, and one day my fantastic husband pointed to them in my sketchbook
and said, "You should do something with those guts." So I started making stuff on my own.
S- I think your non profit program is awesome. Can you tell us more about how that started and how it's going?
IHG- We're inspired daily by the customers of ours who manage to laugh in the face of risky operations, chronic disease, and other serious personal health issues -- we're talking 21-year-olds who've had four liver transplants, that kind of thing. We wanted to connect with medical non-profits to help increase the kind of positive attitude we see every day from our awesome gutsy customers. If we were a bigger company, and could afford to just give stuff away for fundraisers, we would do more of that. But since we're small, all we can really do is design fun stuff to help raise money, or create
educational materials to help people -- especially kids -- understand what's going on with their bodies. Since we can't operate on anyone or make chronic disease go away, the least we can do is help people smile. We've worked with the American Liver Foundation, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, and Northwest Kidney Centers among others in the past and hope to attend the National Kidney Foundation's U.S. Transplant Games in 2010.
S- What are you most excited for for Plush You?
IHG- Of course Plush You is the original gangsta in terms of handmade plush art shows, so we are honored to be included -- thank you for having us! I always love making handmade stuff, it's a great way to try out new ideas and play and have fun. I am already so humbled and inspired by the other incredible plush artists and what they have made so far -- it's hard to compete with a plush roller skate!