Big ideas can happen if you’re open to them, and Malte Niebelschuetz has the story to prove it.
In 2010 he quit his corporate job in Germany and moved to sunny San Diego, California. While scrolling the news, he found an article about Patagonia creating an outdoor jacket from recycled bottles. He closed his laptop, looked up, and saw a stuffed animal across the room. Malte wondered: “Could you also create a stuffed animal entirely out of recycled material?”
The big idea took hold, and his company, Shore Buddies, was born.
Shore Buddies are stuffed animals, each made from six recycled plastic bottles. Those bottles are collected, sorted, cleaned, shredded into flakes to make stuffing, and melted into polyester yarn for the stuffed animal’s soft outside.
By 2014, Malte and his team had figured out this process and were ready to hit the market. He went door-to-door pitching to countless retailers, and within a year, Shore Buddies were sold in over 100 stores.
“But things were changing,” Malte says in his company story on Youtube. Major retailers were closing, so Shore Buddies decided to focus on its online presence, e-commerce, and social media.
From the very beginning, Malte wanted his company to include a mission to educate children about the dangers of plastic pollution. Every Shore Buddies stuffed animal has a background story tackling one specific pollution topic.
The company also supports ocean minded non-profits that facilitate beach cleanups and educational outreach with local schools. For every stuffed animal sold, they donate $1 to protect the ocean.
Nominated for Toy of the Year in 2021, Shore Buddies is making a positive, sustainable impact on the environment. They estimate by 2023 they will have converted over 2,000,000 bottles into toys and educated over 750,000 kids.
Hear more of Malte’s big idea story and how he’s running a mission-driven company at the Weekly Campfire.
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