Chris and Will Haughey
Creativity and imagination led brothers Chris and Will Haughey to build a socially-minded enterprise in Honduras inspired by the crafts of Germany with a North American market in their sights. Tegu is a toy company encouraging parents and children to contribute to something greater than themselves.
“A small group grew into a large group determined to create solutions for the problem.”
Tegu is an ever-evolving set of wooden blocks made from lustrous Honduran hardwood and embedded with powerful magnets, which take them from a nursery toy into a creative exploration that has proved addictive to people of all ages. But here's the real twist—with each purchase of a set of Tegu blocks, buyers invest not only in their own families, but also in the families of Honduras. Tegu partners with a local school that rescues kids from the infamous Tegucigalpa dump, bringing them into classrooms. Furthermore, every tree that becomes a set of Tegu blocks is replaced by up to 6000 replanted saplings. Online buyers get to choose which cause they want their purchase to support; a Tegu set buys up to 30 days in school or 36 replanted trees.
The model stems from two very different trips taken by brothers Chris and Will Haughey: one to Honduras where they learned of the twin tragedies of pillaged hardwood forests and extreme poverty; the other to Germany during the 2006 World Cup where they were introduced to the venerable tradition of Old World wooden toys. The brothers put their business-trained heads together to use one the magic of one to tackle the issues of the other.
Their instincts proved to be spot-on, as recent news reports reveal the benefits of playing with blocks to children's developing brains. Tegu's strategic marketing to the “mommy blogosphere” has lead to features on Daily Candy Kids, Scholastic, and Parenting magazine. Some customers ask if the blocks are made in Europe; others assume they must come from Brooklyn. The mystique is part of the appeal, Will says—“it reminds them of things they like.” And Tegu's growing roster of design awards confirms that their design “is striking the right chords.”
Playing with Tegu also means joining a community of creative, fun-loving do-gooders. The website hosts regular, themed, building contests; features profiles of their most loyal fans; and constantly updates their "Virtual Refrigerator" gallery with photos of Tegu builders' proudest creations. The online community is an example of the power that drives Tegu's growing business model. "Tegu doesn't exist because of the brilliance of any one person,” Will says. “A small group grew into a large group determined to create solutions for the problem." Their belief in the power of community is strengthened by helping kids experience the joy of putting things together, and learning how it really can change the world.