Huggabeau is on a mission to provide children with a ‘hug’ that they can treasure forever.
After working a career in finance for many years, Bo Karantjas felt that something was missing and that she had yet to discover that ultimate passion she was meant to pursue.
By 2020, that feeling of inauthenticity grew stronger and spurred Bo to explore new interests in order to discover her future career path.
“I was working in Finance but always felt I was meant for something else,” said Bo. “While happy and tired caring for my three toddlers during the pandemic, I drew closer to exploring my professional and creative purpose. I experimented with blog writing, creating graphic printable activities for kids, and even took a design course at OCAD.”
After a few months of experimenting with different creative pursuits and engaging in a lot of self-reflection, the idea of Huggabeau was sparked – quite literally – overnight.
“After sharing the handmade dolls I sewed for my daughter on social media, a floodgate opened of moms interested in custom orders. Shortly after, I was contacted by a local children’s clothing company who wanted to collaborate. That gave me courage to quit my career in March of this year and in that same heartbeat, I began the journey of Huggabeau.”
What inspired the idea and design of the first Huggabeau doll (prior to turning it into a business)?
The Huggabeau doll was created as a maternal response to my own daughter’s needs for a security lovey. Her high levels of separation anxiety and stranger danger were age appropriate, but also immensely triggered by being isolated during the pandemic last year. After piecing together existing doll patterns, I designed something I knew could grow with her through other stages of development and added removable doll clothing to promote fine motor, practical life skills, and imagination. My goal was to keep it neutral, simple and in harmony with our minimal home decor (which can be masked in chaos with 3 kids under 5). I now know that Huggabeau means so much more, and meant for more than just our home!
What’s your mission and vision?
My mission is to offer parents a go-to lovey option that checks off all the boxes. Huggabeau dolls and their capsule wardrobe are open-ended toys that are timeless in style and also safe, plastic-free, eco-friendly, ethically and locally hand-made. While all of this is important, doll play nurtures empathy and the ability to negotiate and resolve. There is nothing more moving than to see a little person spontaneously help or hug someone in need. I envision that one day the maternal response that started this will be far reaching. I hope to spread awareness about the benefits of genderless doll play in a meaningful way and that parents see that as a valuable takeaway from a Huggabeau doll.
What inspired the name ‘Huggabeau’?
Huggabeau is the happy marriage between ‘huggable’ and the French word ‘beau’ which means beautiful or handsome. It felt natural to incorporate ‘beau’ because my second language growing up was French and it was when I was on my babymoon in France one year that I crossed-paths with a Waldorf doll which inspired the initial design for Huggabeau. Coincidently, my first name is also Bo (Cantonese for ‘precious’) and I’ll probably get teased for that!
What’s the process behind designing and creating the Huggabeau dolls and their outfits?
The original doll was created by modifying several patterns I bought from some talented pattern designers, and after many prototypes, Huggabeau was born. Each fabric piece is hand-cut, embroidered and sewn with time and care. Designing the outfits is the most exciting part and it all begins with colour theory and selecting quality fabric, which is actually the most time consuming. Figuring out how to put a design concept into form was hard at first too, but now when I come up with an idea for a new outfit I lose track of time and am pumped with adrenaline until the outfit is finished and fitted to the doll.
What is your favourite thing about being a small business owner/entrepreneur?
The warmest part about this business has been the discovery of a whole new community of supportive and talented young women who are also small business owners. Most of my new connections have been like-minded mompreneurs, who are juggling the near impossible act of motherhood and running a business, but still find time to lift each other up. I also love the positive feedback and am still overwhelmed with joy to see photos of Huggabeau dolls providing comfort in their homes. That alone is why I love what I do! Of course, getting to be creative in design and fashion is a major bonus.
What’s some feedback you’ve received from happy customers?
When clients make reviews they are excited about Huggabeau’s cute factor and quality. I think people are surprised to see that a Huggabeau’s outfit is a miniature version of what a child would wear in terms of colour and style and without velcro connections or snap buttons typical of doll clothing. I will never forget when one customer said that their Huggabeau package was like Christmas in July.
Future plans for Huggabeau?
I am so pleased with the success of Huggabeau so far and the speed at which it reached my preliminary goals. I’m hoping to scale the business by using a local production team who will craft the dolls in the coming year so that I can focus on designing and marketing. It will also allow more time for me to offer a wider range of products starting next with linen dolls, doll sling carriers and more outfits! I have also chosen to collaborate with some amazing partners and shops and can’t wait to see how that will unfold. There have been challenges and discouraging moments in my journey, but with the incredible support from my husband and family, friends and peers, I am optimistic that this is just the beginning for Huggabeau.