Zooguu provides kids of all ages with high quality plush toys that are uniquely designed to be safe, colorful, appealing, and adorable. Each and every toy is handmade by the husband & wife team of Jen & Brian Gubicza.
Jen has 10+ years of graphic design experience for the audience of kids & families. She designs the patterns and does the sewing.
Brian does all of the fabric cutting. In addition to being a part of Zooguu, Brian is also an illustrator with his own Etsy store.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft, Jen.
Brian and I used to draw each other little cartoons and doodles. One of those was a little bird who was so fat that he couldn't fly. He used to swing into scenes on a little rope. For Brian's birthday that year, I thought it would be fun to try and make a plush version of that bird (it looks a lot like our chick design). Our friends saw the plush and requested birds for their birthdays. Then friends of friends wanted them, and so on. In 2006 I heard about Etsy.com and opened up an online shop. Everything grew from there.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Oh, that's tough. Other than making toys, I enjoy times when I can get out and explore and experience being outdoors. Brian enjoys composing music in his free time.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
I think it would be trying to do it all and managing to find the time to do it. Letting go and allowing someone to help has also been difficult, but it's really been great to have two of us working together.
What item in your shop would you most like to receive as a gift if someone were shopping for you?
Well, truthfully, we do keep some of our plush! We have an XL purple octopus that sleeps in our bed. He's very proud of his 28" tentacle span.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
When I was little, I wanted to be an animator for Disney. When I was in High School, I did an internship with Big Blue Dot (the design firm I still work for!) and I majored in Graphic Design when I went to school at Maryland Institute College of Art. I think that in my mind a good job has always been creative, fun and entertaining.
What other shops or artists out there do you love?
There are so many! We have collected and traded artwork with many talented artists over the years:
studiobueno.com - cartoonist
girlscantell.etsy.com - screenprinted diagrams on everyday objects
gregstones.com - wonderful artist
breadandbadger.etsy.com - etched glassware
beastlies.etsy.com - miniature creatures
campanaceramics.etsy.com - the best mugs we've ever owned.
staceyrebecca.etsy.com - awesome puppets
And many, many others...
[Editor's note: check out these interviews with girlscantell and staceyrebecca!]
We also share studio space with the following designers:
kcoline.etsy.com - clothing
ledthread.etsy.com - clothing
desirapesta.etsy.com - clothing
cubistliterature.etsy.com - screenprinted shirts
ruffeoheartslilsnoty.etsy.com - clothing
reiter8.etsy.com - recycled sail bags & pillows
What does your future hold?
We hope to eventually own a home/studio. We like the idea of remaining a small, handmade toy company that continues to offer high quality designer toys. We want to continue to make friends with our customers and live a happy life. Having a few magic elves to come help out during the night wouldn't hurt, though.
See more of Jen and Brian's work at zooguu.com and Goobeetsa.etsy.com!