We were introduced to Cheengo's adorable products and knew we had to add them to our Bundles! We are delighted to interview Cheengo Founder Liz about the company and her story!
When did you start Cheengoo? What was the inspiration behind it?
Cheengoo began as a hobby back in 2008. Before I became a mom, I was a graphic designer by trade and the two passions in my life at the time were (don’t tell my husband) my dog and good design. There weren’t in my opinion too many well-designed commerce websites of note geared to discerning pet owners - most were overly frilly or packed to the seams with glitter and glam. I set out to create Cheengoo.com to provide a hand-picked selection of high quality, upscale, stylish pet accessories. Two years later, driven by demand our hobby became a serious business and the decision was made to open a brick and mortar store. Around the same time, Cheengoo launched its own line of crocheted toys and collars that were an instant hit amongst other high-end boutiques in the US.
When I became a mom, my son, Oliver exploded into my life quickly became both my inspiration and muse. Spending time and playing with Oliver naturally made me think about his needs and resulted in the expansion of Cheengoo's offerings to include high quality, natural baby products.
Tell us about growing your business?
Had I not been a mother or loving pet owner, I in likelihood would not have been drawn to the toy business at all. Being both, it has made me care very much about the types of product that Cheengoo goes to market with. Cheengoo’s entire collection is not only aesthetically pleasing, but safe, earth-friendly and natural.
It gives me great satisfaction to know that we are making a difference to the lives of women in China who work with Cheengoo. These women, mostly mothers have little or no work opportunities in China as factory workers usually are required to work full time - often at a great distance from their homes. One of the key perks for working with us is that anybody can come in and receive free training. If they decide that they want to take work home to be with their family, they have the flexibility to do so. They can literally earn a living at home while watching their kids doing their homework, which is rare anywhere in the world but perhaps especially in China.
What does day to day look like for you?
Hmmm….my days are probably like that of anyone running a small business, mostly fun and always hectic! With limited resources and budget, you have to get creative and be used to wearing multiple hats. I handle marketing, customer care, IT issues as well as converse daily with our suppliers; and oh, did I mention I design all the toys too? It’s definitely not glamorous but so fun! I wouldn’t trade what I do at Cheengoo for anything.
What do you hope for your company?
Knowing that 80% of the small businesses going belly up within 5 years, I couldn’t be certain that Cheengoo would be amongst the 20% – I believed and hoped that it would find an audience and we have. Our ability to pivot successfully with the market means that we are now a completely different company from the one we started 10 years ago. I am a firm believer in re-inventing yourself to stay in tune with the demands of your customers. Brick and mortar wasn’t working as well for us, especially during the economic downturn, so we took what we learnt from retail and committed ourselves creating our own products. I hope Cheengoo will be around for decades to come. I hope that we will continue to make these wonderful handmade, natural and safe toys for babies and kids, I hope we will continue to support these amazing artisans from all over the world. I am obviously hoping for a good many things. J
Anything else you want to add?
Cheengoo specializes in a line of modern, hand-crafted toys and accessories for infants and young children. Our products are handmade ethically using natural materials: either maple wood, bamboo, or cotton. Our toys are first imagined in San Francisco and then brought to life by our international team of skilled artisans from Nepal, Latvia and China. We hope that all of our tiny customers have as much fun playing with our Cheengoo products as we did creating them.