Janus Ong, Ami Lu and Cindy Wu have been friends since their college days.
You can be trained in a variety of fields – especially games, accounting, and social affairs – but one thing is certain: they share a common love for food.
After graduation, Ami and Janus embarked on their journey into entrepreneurship. Janus founded companies in the technology, F&B and gaming industries in particular.
Though each had their own preferences, the three decided to team up to create a larger than life version of the food, which led them to start Nom Nom Plush.
“A passionate project turned into a business opportunity,” said Janus.
1,000 food plush toys sold in two weeks
It all started when the team had a casual conversation and noticed that pillows were made from common international foods. It was then that they decided to make pillows that symbolize their culture.
Founded in 2016, Nom Nom Plush started as a passionate project when the team wanted to turn nostalgic local food into fun food pillows. The main goal of Nom Nom Plush is to touch hearts with the memory that each meal evokes.
Image source: Natsuki Photography
During the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations, the team launched their first product called Pineapple Tart Plush. That year the nation celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence, where the nostalgic spirit was high and most people raved about local issues.
“All we wanted back then was to have fun and we were surprised when we sold all 1,000 units within the first two weeks of being launched,” recalls Cindy.
Over the years, the trio experimented with a variety of products, including stationery and lifestyle items. However, the trio found that they had deviated from their original vision of making food pillows and decided to return to basics.
“On the way we learned how important it is to have focus and a clear view,” explains Cindy.
Expansion of the plush toy business to include pets
Spurred on by the success of Nom Nom Plush, the trio launched a sister brand called Furball Collective.
It was founded in 2020 when the team realized that their customers were using their pillows and key chains as toys for their pets.
Photo credit: Luna Moon the Loon
Over time, the team received requests to make pillows that could be made into chew toys for their pets.
"We decided to experiment with this new product and have received so much attraction and love from the pet community since our inception," said Cindy.
The brand's vision was to create nose work toys for pets as there are so many unexplored areas in the pet toy space.
They began creating chews from their existing Nom Nom Plush designs but have since ventured beyond that as part of their creative endeavors.
"While our vision for this brand hasn't changed, our increased trust has continued to develop," said Cindy.
She also expressed that the brand's story promises nostalgia with a touch of playfulness. Hence their slogan "Zero Calorie, 100% Goodness".
In January 2021, the team launched their six-piece Curry Fish Head pet bed set. The set consists of a bed with attached nose work toy and became one of their bestsellers during the 2021 holiday season.
That same year in December, the team launched its Round-the-World collection, which includes international food pillows. There are currently three designs – Bolo Bun, Egg Tart and Dumpling.
After another product was launched in December 2021, the hotpot nose work toy will be this year's blockbuster of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
"The reception so far has been great and since then we have received international inquiries from pet owners in Canada, the USA and Indonesia."
Both brands – Nom Nom Plush and Furball Collective – will exceed 100,000 units sold in 2022.
How they created the local food-themed cuddly toys
Nom Nom Plush and Furball Collective plush toys are all designed by the team and usually conceived after a few iterations.
As part of product quality control, the team would search the market for interesting food concepts with a broad social recognition value.
You need to strike a good balance between realism, cuteness, and recognizability in your plush toys.
Janus is responsible for the design planning – he would create a design concept when the market observation for food concepts is complete.
The process of design planning involves purchasing different versions of a particular food to be prototyped, making videos of those foods, providing 3D graphics to manufacturers, creating samples, and contacting potential users for feedback as well Comments.
Image source: Natsuki Photography
To put things in perspective: pineapple tartlets are made differently by different bakers, love letters come in different shapes and ice cream has several flavors.
With these different elements, the team attaches great importance to deciding which designs are supple and yet aesthetically pleasing for its customers.
“The entire process from conception to market launch can take between six and eight months because we have high standards to ensure fun without compromising on quality and ease of use,” says Janus.
Before the products are sent for mass production, a final prototype is created in order to carry out a final evaluation with the team and potential users.
“It is important to us that the design is aesthetically pleasing and yet of good quality,” says Cindy.
However, it is not easy to constantly innovate and keep up with market demands. It becomes more difficult when they come across brands that have plagiarized their product designs.
"It's daunting, but it doesn't falter and what can't be reproduced is the brand story we've shaped over the years," said Janus.
Additionally, Nom Nom Plush rises to the challenge of retail partners with business practices that have turned rouge, leading to several issues such as lost inventory without compensation and brand failure to pay for goods sold.
You have sold more than 10,000 plush toys
As mentioned earlier, Nom Nom Plush got off to a great roar – 1,000 plush toys sold out within the first two weeks of its launch, which served as a great morale booster.
To date, the brand has sold more than 10,000 plush toys, excluding their key chains and pet products.
Most importantly, it sees its greatest achievement in pioneering the local food-inspired plush toy market. "We're the first brand to do this in Singapore and it's been pretty amazing so far," said Janus.
In the meantime, Furball Collective has partnered with well-known companies such as Hotel Intercontinental for their paw-cation package in 2020 and 2021, in which they made toys available in the hotel's welcome basket for guests.
Additionally, the brand has nurtured a community of pet owners and is grateful to its fans and customers.
"While they say we inspired them to appreciate the heritage, we'd like to compliment them and say that they inspired us to make more creative toys for their beloved pets," said Cindy.
In the future, the team intends to focus on Furball Collective to bring a range of fun plush toys to the market. The company also hopes to expand its two brands internationally to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and the United States in 2022.
Shop Nom Nom Plush and Furball Collective at VP Label now:
Image source featured: Nom Nom Plush