Fabien Courteille – founder of Plush and Play, a social enterprise born inside Gawad Kalinga – the Enchanted Farm. It highlights the undervalued sewing skills of the women living in Gawad Kalinga communities to make hand-stitched soft and lovely stuffed toys and felt items.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
We can be proud to be the first Filipino toys to be sold in toy stores in the Philippines. It’s quite a message, we are home-made toys prepared by women in their houses in the Philippines and yet we can compete with mass production from China. It’s a big milestone and a big source of proud for the mothers here.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Being entrepreneur is just about facing challenges. I feel my life is about solving challenges, whenever one is solved, another come up. Basically you never can say: oh, I made it. It’s people around you saying you are successful, you are running a sustainable business. For you as entrepreneur, every single day is about solving problems: production related, supply chain related, financial, sells related, distribution… You are there to find the strength to solve all problems, make right decisions, that’s what people expect from you.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
We want to become the biggest toy makers in the Philippines. Filipino Hello Kitty. Top toys for kids in the Philippines. Kids will have T-shirt and bags with our watermelon… all of our products have names after local icons, boxers, singers etc. It’s popular among kids and it builds Filipino proud, culture. As next step we think about animations, what if we have animation series using our characters but sharing the beautiful stories of Gawad Kalinga, social entrepreneurship, different values we believe in, put in something which kids enjoy. To do that we need the right people, the right team. There are a lot of things to do which I don’t have competences for. I was designing toys although I have no idea about design, so I just had to learn it on the spot. But for example animation I cannot learn so I have to find the right people.
Would you like to add something more?
It’s actually a long journey, I didn’t come here to set up a company, I wanted to volunteer, to help Gawad Kalinga. Being here I realized there is something in common between mothers working in the Philippines, all of them are victims of outsourcing garment industry. Before the Philippines were really proud of their garment companies, but 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, 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! Our toys have shapes of vegetables and fruits which has additional educational value for kids. We made the first toy in late 2012. We started a regular program 2013 and register the company in 2014. It’s not because you know nothing about making toys that you cannot open a toy company. Till today I don’t know how to work with a sewing machine, and I don’t want, I don’t need to.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Bulacan, Philippines, 25th February 2016