A Childhood Memory Helped This Founder Find Her Passion

Marissa Louie, CEO of stuffed animal company Animoodles, found her path thanks to a cherished toy that belonged to her late sister.
A Childhood Memory Helped This Founder Find Her Passion
Image credit: Courtesy of Marissa Louie
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

My younger sister, Lauren, and her boyfriend, Leonard, were college students with bright futures ahead of them when they both died in a car accident in 2007. As I grieved, I tried to make sense of the loss. And that led me to this thought: I’m going to do what I want now. This might be my only chance. Life can be so short.

Trouble was, I wasn’t sure what I really wanted. I was a 24-year-old tech consultant, which I didn’t love. So I quit to learn design, which I was more passionate about, and eventually became a senior-level designer for Apple and then Yahoo. But even then, there was something missing. I wanted to feel like I was doing meaningful work.

One morning, I woke up holding a teddy bear in bed. That’s when things snapped together.

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My sister and I had a deep bond over stuffed animals. We had hundreds of them growing up, and my family still has my sister’s favorite, a brown little teddy bear named Puffy. As I sat thinking about Puffy, I remembered how my sister and I always wished we could improve stuffed animals. The form factor of classic stuffed animals was so limited: They couldn’t be posed, and their appearances couldn’t be changed. We wanted to pose them and trade their body parts -- a frog’s legs on a unicorn, say. I’d forgotten all about this; they were ideas from when life was simple, and I wasn’t worried about what was practical. But who was to say I couldn’t return to it?

In 2016, I connected with Dan Holland, an artist and a designer at Pixar. We decided to redesign classic stuffed animals, with poseable arms, legs, and even heads that can mix and match. In the fall of 2017, we raised $100,159 for our brand, Animoodles, on Kickstarter -- the highest for a classic toy on the platform that year. Numerous awards followed, and we’ve already sold many times over our original sales goals.

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Now when I look at Puffy, and I think of the new toys I create, I finally understand what I was looking for at the beginning: I wanted to find my passion, and that’s not always something that comes easy. It’s OK to go searching for it -- to try new things, and explore old parts of your life, in order to find it. The way I see it now, I’ve reconnected with a passion -- and found a way to move forward, dedicated to my sister’s memory.

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