Learn more about the ToyAward HERE
Learn more about the ToyAward HERE
Tegu is honored to be a winner of UK’s Slow Toy Awards 2014! Part of the Slow Toy Movement and created by Thierry Bourret in 2011, the Slow Toy Award celebrates toys that emphasize traditional materials, play value, quality and durability. The 24–Piece Set in Tints was selected out of over 100 entries and part of seven award honorees. Tegu extends a warm thank you to the organizers, sponsor John Lewis Department Store and especially award founder, Thierry Bourret! If you are in the UK area, please visit John Lewis or check out their site here
Learn more about the Slow Toy Awards here:
108 degrees. Air conditioner: blasting. Not a square foot to spare on the bustling streets of New Delhi. It was my third trip to India, and I was 15 years old.
I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t believe there were children younger than me working under the blazing sun to feed their family instead of reading storybooks to feed their mind. It tore me apart to learn that the parents of over 60 million children in India can’t afford to send their children to school. Why is the world like this?
At 15 years old, that question stung. Why is the world like this? I had no grasp of what poverty was before that day; everything I ever wanted was handed to me. I went to The Park School, a progressive school that gave me the opportunity to be free — to live a life of learning. This life journey led me to South Africa, Bali, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Jamaica to explore that same question — to learn about the way people live around the world.
It stung. Why? Why didn’t those kids have the opportunity to learn? Why didn’t these children have the opportunity to play? The answers began to flow in over time: their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school; they couldn’t afford to buy books. And toys? Well, toys were simply out of the question.
In Honduras, there is a company working to change that. A company that believes every single child should have the opportunity to play. Better. That believes that our environment matters, and that deforestation needs to end. And they believe that people should have the opportunity to earn a living wage, working in a place that feels like home.
Tegu has not only reinvented the wooden block (it’s magnetic); it has shown that we can reinvent business to do good. For too long, we’ve been trying to outsmart poverty with policy. Tegu’s team is showing day in and day out its commitment to make a lasting difference in Honduras, using business as a tool. The roots of change are in the way we run every last business, and in the way we treat every single employee. Tegu is showing that with a great product, not only can we build profitable businesses, but also we can build businesses that are geared towards making an impact above all else.
As I play with these wooden blocks, I can’t help but wonder what the lives of those children in India would have been like if their parents had the opportunity to work for a company like Tegu. I can’t help but wonder what that kind of opportunity could have done for their children. I can’t help but smile at the idea of those kids playing with these very Tegu blocks — building stories of promise and hope for their future.
From India to South Africa, Bali to Ghana, Nicaragua to Jamaica, and Honduras to the United States, every single child deserves the opportunity to grow up learning how to learn. Every child deserves the opportunity to live a life with purpose and dignity — to spend time playing and learning. We at reweave believe that better-world business can create that opportunity. Through livelihood development, businesses like Tegu can help to change the way we do business, for good. If we succeed in this mission, we will inevitably find ourselves in a world we are all proud to live in — a world in which everyone has the opportunity to live with purpose and dignity.
On a large rug in a kindergarten classroom, Chris Haughey watched a group of children play.
There were about a dozen of them, and they were busy building – houses, trains, airplanes, boats. Some were making up stories and narrating as they went along. Most of the time, Haughey quietly observed, but here and there, he would ask the youngsters about the toys they were playing with. What did the children like about them?
Not having kids of their own, Haughey and his brother, Will, then 27 and 26, had come to this classroom to get to know their potential audience better. Chris Haughey, a Stanford mechanical engineering graduate, tapped his connections with the university’s design school and was introduced to a kindergarten class at the Nueva School in Hillsborough. Though the 5- and 6-year-olds taking part most likely didn’t realize it at the time, they helped shape a new toy company, Tegu, a maker of magnetic wooden blocks.
Now, several years later, Tegu has become one of the latest companies to challenge Lego and the other giants of the $16.5 billion U.S. toy industry. In an age of plastic, character-branded toys, not to mention video and mobile games and other electronic toys, Tegu has carved out a niche with a set of simple, magnetic wooden blocks that can be stacked and stuck together to build any sort of imaginative plaything.
“We are going up against big budgets and big companies that have been around,” said Tegu co-founder Will Haughey. “Our view is that we’re building something to last. Wooden toys are not going away. There’s always going to be room for them. There’s always going to be a place for building something.”
Quitting their jobs
Chris and Will Haughey hadn’t intended to dive into the toy business. Chris Haughey was a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group and Will Haughey was an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs when they decided to quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs.
“We were accidental toy makers,” Will Haughey said.
Inspired by a missionary trip to Honduras, the brothers wanted to start a company that could help the local economy and take advantage of one of the country’s resources, its timber. They considered making furniture, but during a trip to Europe, where toys are less often mass-produced, they were inspired to develop a line of wooden toys.
With the help of friends from Stanford, they came up with several ideas, which they field tested with the Nueva School’s kindergarten class.
The wooden magnetic blocks were a clear hit. They saw that the children could tinker with the blocks however they liked, using what they built as part of their fantasy worlds and games.
With funding from family and friends, the brothers established a 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, from which the company gets its name. It employs about 90 people there, including Chris Haughey, and has been ramping up as the magnetic blocks draw more interest. It uses a portion of its revenues to replant trees, replacing the ones they’ve used.
The timing has been right. There’s been a shift toward retro and classic toys, according to the Toy Industry Association’s look at the latest trends in February. Citing NPD, a market research firm, it also said that sales of construction and building toys increased nearly 20 percent last year and predicted that they would be even hotter this year.
Sold online and at specialty toy stores, Tegu’s blocks are for parents and educators who are looking to steer children to classic toys that inspire them to be creative – and who are willing to pay a bit more to do so. A small set of six blocks retails for $30 and larger collections of about 50 blocks cost upward of $150.
Tegu has its share of competition. The Melissa & Doug brand is widely recognized for its classic toys, such as its wooden puzzles, blocks and trains. Haba, a German toy company, also has made inroads in the United States with its collection of classic European-inspired wooden and plush toys. There are also other magnetic building toys, such as Magna-Tiles, construction toys such as Lincoln Logs and, the biggest juggernaut of them all, Lego.
Still, Tegu’s small size can be an advantage, said Stevanne Auerbach, an industry expert known as “Dr. Toy.”
“You don’t have to be a monster company” to succeed in the toy market, she said. “You have the opportunity to be more innovative as a small company.”
That’s certainly Tegu’s aim, as it looks to expand to schools, other educational spaces, and additional toy stores in the United States and around the globe. And in their wildest dreams, the Haughey brothers imagine Tegu blocks finding a role in another edition of the “Toy Story” films.
At Creativity Museum
Tegu recently invested $4,000 in an installation at San Francisco’s Creativity Museum. There, children can use about 200 magnetic blocks at a time to build bridges and other structures.
“Children as young as 3 and 5 are exploring the world around them, touching and feeling different materials,” said Michael Nobleza, executive director at the Creativity Museum. “Tegu gives them the ability to explore the world through magnets and spatial design and building. It’s about learning about the materials and about what they can do with the materials.”
Founders: Chris Haughey and Will Haughey
Product: Magnetic wooden blocks
Headquarters: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Ellen Lee is a freelance writer. E-mail: email@example.com
Will Haughey, Tegu co-founder and Chief Blockhead, shared the Tegu Story while on vacation to reconnect with his Kiwi roots.
The interview started with questions that many who hear about Tegu for the first time often wonder. Why Honduras? “Why would you establish a company in one of the least developed and unstable countries in Central America? Why are you making life so hard for yourself Will?”
Will recalled that it all started while his brother Chris was travelling through the country and felt compelled to do something about the extreme poverty and dire economy. The brothers were soon “struck by the reality that the best way to serve the poor was through the creation of a business that could stand on its own two feet and be attached to the global economy.”
Honduras is a country of 7 million people with 65% of its population living below the poverty line. As Will pointed out during the interview, it is “a difficult environment to say the least but that’s exactly why it needs businesses like Tegu.”
Thus far Tegu has created 50+ stable jobs in Honduras, pays above market wages, supports reforestation and local education, and uses FSC-certified and sustainable hardwoods. In the words of the interviewer, it is an example of “capitalism with a social face.”
The concluding question in the interview was particularly interesting: “What’s next? How big can you get?” Will answered: “our vision is to create the world’s most innovative premium toy company” and to “create hundreds if not thousands of jobs.”
I look forward to the day when the name “Tegu” immediately conjures up images of fantastic magnetic wooden building blocks in the imagination of a complete stranger pulled off the street. In fact, I think I can safely say that the entire team here at Tegu looks forward to that day. Of course we know it won’t happen overnight, or possibly even in the next several years. These things take time, and we’re more than happy to do our part to get the word out there.
We did recently take a small step forward in this endeavor that was reaffirmed to me on Sunday. But first, a little background information.
As we are growing and maturing as a company, one of our largest priorities is finding ways to get the word out on the street. (Of course, I am talking about the mean sensible car-filled streets of suburban USA). Through various efforts, we have seen Tegu featured in multiple online publications and blogs. We have seen Tegu profiled in print in numerous periodicals. And we have even seen Tegu blocks manipulated in the beautifully manicured hands of several morning show personalities on the small screen. (Sadly, our attempt to pitch placement in James Cameron’s Avatar did not go through)
Through a fortunate turn of events, we were recently featured on a segment about awesome indoor winter activities on NBC’s Today Show in January. The Today Show is televised nationally, and reaches roughly six million viewers. Needless to say, we were excited for the opportunity, and as it turns out- rightly so. If you haven’t seen the segment yet, you can see it HERE.
Following our segment on the Today Show, we had an increase on our waiting list of over 200%, and our Facebook fan page saw the biggest influx of new fans since our initial push. These are all great things.
But sometimes it takes a specific instance to really drive things home, which leads me to my story from Sunday.
I was talking to a new friend and we were going through the basic Los Angeles introduction song and dance: Where are you from? (nobody is from Los Angeles) Valley or Westside? (Westside, thankyouverymuch) Favorite earthquake story? (Loma Prieta ’89, up North) Etc. etc. And the inevitable “So what do you do?” came up. When it was my turn, I proudly stated that I was a toy designer for a start-up toy company, and that we are making magnetic wooden blocks.
“Magnetic wooden blocks? Were you guys on the Today show?”
: o (That was me, after her question.)
Now that was great to hear, but it was even greater to see her eyes light up as she asked! It was the first time ever that I had met someone who had heard of our blocks before I met them, and positive proof that the Tegu story is reaching real people out there. She went on to share about how Tegu had caught her attention as a great product for her nephew, and that definitely put a smile on my face. In fact, thanks to my interaction and the Today Show, I expect one more fan on our Facebook page today. So, if you’re reading this (and you know who you are) thanks for reaffirming our efforts in one fell swoop, and bringing us one step closer to our goal.