Local Teen Creates Freeky Friendz Toys
By: Latricia Thomas
With just a few days to go until Christmas, we have a
different twist on our Made in Chattanooga series for you. Usually, we take you
inside huge factories with lots of employees, but now we are featuring a
cottage-business, started by a pre-teen in his Signal Mountain home all because
he couldn't find a toy he liked that was Made in America.
Inside a Signal Mountain home is a far cry from a frantic
factory. It's the home of a cottage business that began with an idea from
then-4th grader Dan Harper, who was looking for a birthday present for a
friend. Dan’s mom Jeannie says, "We went to a couple of toy stores
and he said you know everything is made in China. Can I make his own toy?”
It was five years ago, the Freeky Friend was born. Dan says,
“to step back sometimes and look at it and see what it's become, it's
Dan, Jeannie, and their family friends the Grays start
with both stock and custom designs that turn into patterns, each with a
one-of-a-kind face. The group usually makes about 100 of the unique stuffed
toys a week, with everyone pitching in to either design, stuff or sew. Once
they are stitched up, it's time for one of the most important parts, the “Made
in America” label.
“A lot of kids my age are thinking when can I play video
games,” says Alex Gray. “For me, it's like I can if I want to or I can come
here and make Freeky Friends.” Creating what's called the perfectly, imperfect
toy, that has it's own place Signal Mountain's own toy store, with a very
different twist. Alex says, “It's not your usual, mass-produced they all look
identical, selling them everywhere. When we do sell them in stores, we give
them shipments of 10 or so, two are never the same."
To visit the Freeky Friendz website, click here.
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