Stuffed toys have been a popular children’s gift throughout the past century. Numerous brands have put their spin on the seemingly ageless idea, from Beanie Babies to the Build-A-Bear Workshop.
A local small business owner looks to subvert the idea that stuffed toys are only fun for kids with Stuffed Toys Against Mankind. STAM is a Kirkland-based business that manufactures and sells raunchy-humored stuffed toys meant to be gag gifts for adults.
“The toy market is a massive industry that primarily caters toward kids, obviously,” STAM creator and owner Prithvi Roy Chowdhury said. “(These toys are) a humor gift essentially. You say something very nasty (to your friends), but with good intent. I really wanted to come up with that mixture of creativity and raunchy punchlines.”
Chowdhury built his business from nothing after he had a simple idea on March 1, 2017.
“It was one of those sleepless nights where my mind decided to not shut up,” he wrote in his business blog.
Chowdhury thought back to his days in college when he and his friends would tease each other, often in bad taste, but always in good humor between friends.
“My buddies and I would land up at our friend’s place and make fun of her stuffed animals and make (them) do silly things,” he said. “After all these years, I am still close friends with them…I think it’s because we were all being ourselves that evening.”
STAM officially launched on Jan. 18 and sold two units within the first week. Despite the rocky start in sales, Chowdhury said he’s seen a very positive response on social media and expects business to pick up soon.
“Right now, I don’t have the option but to make this a success,” Chowdhury said. “For me going down sinking is not an option.”
Chowdhury said he thinks his product should be kept away from children and will appeal the most to young adults who enjoy raunchy humor.
“I have a toddler at home and I take all care to ensure my daughter is not around my STAM products,” he said.
The small business started as an idea and Chowdhury sought out manufacturers and voice actors to help make his dream a reality.
“I could go back into a regular job if I wanted to, but I would not be satisfied doing it,” he said. “I put my heart and soul into this thing and I’m not going to stop until I’m satisfied that this is in a good place.”
According to Chowdhury, everybody could laugh a little more and he hopes these stuffed toys help people find humor through seemingly mean-spirited jokes.
The toys are marketed for adults and unapologetically offensive. Chowdhury said he thinks the toys work best as gag gifts for a bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday parties or baby showers.
Chowdhury has worked with several voice actors across the world to record lines for the toys’ voice boxes. The toys work like many children’s stuffed toys with a built-in button that activates the voice box.
Currently, there are four different STAM toys that have various voice lines that can be chosen to fit the occasion.
“Congratulations on the marriage! She will make a great first wife,” is one of the least offensive quotes STAM’s teddy bear character can say.
Each toy has its own personality behind the phrases they say. Chowdhury has written a back-story for each toy and plans to release more toys that all have related stories in a world he created for his products.
STAM went from an abstract idea to a tangible product in less than a year and Chowdhury said the creative process allowed him to express himself through his products and has improved his life.
“It’s this constant evolution of making yourself and the product better,” he said. “The amount that I’ve learned in the past one year alone, I promise you I have not learned so much in three or four years of my corporate life before.”
Small businesses have numerous tools that continue to make it easier for anyone to start a small business at home but according to Chowdhury, it’s still hard work.
“As long as you have the drive and some money to do it,” he said, “I believe that a lot of other people could do it too.”