From the conference room in a Minneapolis hotel 1 1/2 years ago where I presented my concept for B. to Battat and Target, I never could have imagined this toy brand would allow me to do what I love and do good. That it would bring me to Enelerai Primary School in the Rift Valley of Kenya in front of a hundred little kids’ wide eyes and bright smiles — and touch my heart in ways indescribable with words.
I tracked down my old sketchbook notes from that January 2009 meeting this morning...back then (which seems so long ago given over a year of 80-hour work weeks) I knew the name was B. but was calling it “Brand X” with a vision for it to DELIGHT, INSPIRE, GIVE BACK, BE GOOD ... to ... D-I-G-G.
As in, “character is like the foundation of a house – it is below the surface”
“when solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves”
“gotta dig a little deeper to make your pile a little higher”
Be different, push the envelope, be beautiful, stand for something, elicit a smile, an “aha!”, joy, pleasure, surprise
Not just loyalty, but trust and passion from buyers, customers – even employees. Moms should feel great about giving it.
Loyalty and goodwill is bred slowly. Stand for something, and you’ll stand out.
If it’s not right, don’t do it. Not ready, don’t ship it. Do what you love. And do good.
The notion of setting out to do something and then looking back at it is a bit like climbing a mountain and looking down from its summit. I’m twirling in 360º happiness, looking all around me with a huge smile on my face and a fire in my heart, and –– truth be told –– tears in my eyes.
It’s one thing to get feedback from moms on our Facebook page proving to us we are meeting our ‘delight’ and ‘inspire’ goals. It’s quite another to LIVE the ‘give back’ and ‘be good’ edicts.
I did not expect the toys Battat sent to Free The Children offices in Toronto would travel in student-volunteer suitcases all the way to Enelerai while I was there. Michelle, an extraordinary FTC mobile clinic nurse, and Robin, the brave and remarkable young woman from Chicago who chronicled her Maasai Life in a novel, arranged for the kids (and their teachers and principal) to walk long distances to their school for a surprise awards ceremony for the best primary students, with B. toys as their gift.
The surprise and the gift were all mine.
To crowd cheers of “Jambo!” hellos and whispered little voices of “Asante Sana” thanks I gave out B. toys to children than had never seen a toy. And with every hug and handshake and high-five my heart swelled and my eyes welled.
I learned with profound realization that the joy of giving is immeasurable. And I left a piece of myself behind.
I design and develop toys for a living. Toys for children who are lucky beyond measure or their wildest imaginations. Toys that for the first time in my professional history now actually mean something beyond the box they come in. Toys that–– in a small way that adds up to be big — give the gift of childhood to children far away.
Toys I love. For children I love.
At home. And now in Kenya.
PS: I have a hundred stories to tell and thousands of photos. I had to start at the heart of the matter: the children.
do what you love and do good™ a trademark of my design firm, DoodleDo