A lady executive who returned to the country after working in Japan for more than 28 years has recently launched eco-friendly novelty products, including toys made from cardboards.
“We would like to be a positive influencer to society with our choice of products. Of course, business is business, but we can be responsible in our choice of what to give the public. Our vision is to be a cornerstone of more responsible retailing,” says Veraldyn Simbulan, president of local retailer 4DPocket Inc.
“Our mission is to introduce products and designs that will have positive effects to society. We introduce eco-friendly products designed to educate and inspire people to become creative,” Simbulan says in an interview at the company’s warehouse in Makati City.
Simbulan teamed up with Japanese designer Eiichiro ‘EJ’ Nonomiya, president of Howay Philippines Inc., to initially offer toys such as kitchen and house replicas made from cardboards which toddlers and young kids can assemble and decorate with the help of their parents or grandparents.
“I was amazed that things like these can be made out of flat surfaces. The fun is in putting together the parts. It is a good tool for bonding among family members. Because it is made of paper, it is safe for children. When it is put together, they can decorate it as they want,” she says.
Simbulan says these toys are educational because they involve engineering and design. “Because it is made of paper, it is also eco-friendly,” she says.
“As much as possible, I want to put these in the hands of students. I am targeting PTAs and nurseries, kindergartens, associations for child protection, social workers and centers that develop children’s motor skills,” she says.
“As a businesswoman, I think there is a great potential for this kind of products. This is the first time we are introducing them because it took us years of research,” she says.
Simbulan says the toys under the Japanese brand Howay are perfect gifts for kids as these encourage them to bond with their parents and grandparents especially during the holiday season. Such safe and creative toys, she says, will divert the attention of children from electronic gadgets that do not hone family relationships.
“These toys are designed in Japan but made in the Philippines,” she clarifies. “They are safe because they have no sharp edges. These are cut by wave blades. It is very easy to dispose of and return to nature.”
Simbulan says when she returned to the Philippines five years ago, she established 4DPocket as a new retailing company and distributor of special products in the market. “We aim to give back to society by choosing the right products to sell. Howay toys is the first in our line of products,” she says.
She says she is bringing to the Philippines some of the wonderful things she discovered in Japan.
“Having lived in Japan, there were a lot of things I have learned. It was a big university for me, culturally and intellectually. I speak fluent Japanese, so I wanted to give back some of what I have learned also,” she says.
“I lived longer in Japan that I have lived here in the Philippines. I was there for more than 28 years. When I came back, I noticed that there were a lot of changes in Philippine society, particularly with families,” she says.
“I was lucky to be born in the 1960s and played local games such as ‘taguan’ and ‘luksong baka’.
These games involved a lot of interaction. In the province, when there was no electricity or radio transmission, we used our imagination. We made houses made of hay,” she says.
Simbulan says she was surprised by the many changes that took place within Filipino families with the rise of modern technologies. “There was nothing wrong with technology, but I notice that when I go to malls or restaurants, there are families having dinner without talking to one another. Kids are focused on their games and parents are on their cellphones. Sometimes, the grandparents have no one to talk to,” she says.
She says it is one of the reasons she thought about introducing Howay toys in the country. “Five years ago, when I relocated here with my daughter, I was thinking of starting my own business. By chance, I met a Japanese designer and toymaker [Eiichiro] who has been going around Asia to expand his business. Somehow, he found the Philippines appealing. He is a third-generation president of a 63-year-old packaging company. When he took the reins of the company, he managed to grow the company to the next generation using the production of cardboard displays,” she says.
“In his heart, he wanted to put out something more creative. It was his enthusiasm for his products that touched me and I wanted to market his products here. Out of the flat paper or cardboard, with a bit of engineering, design, cutting, folding and creasing, he designed wonderful products like these,” says Simbulan.
Eiichiro says he took inspiration from origami, or the Japanese art of paper folding. “Since the start of my 63-year-old company, even with packaging of boxes, it also has connections with paper folding.
We have never thought of packaging as creative, but actually, when it is on the drawing board and you are starting to make it, it is highly creative,” he says.
“I started to create products which can contribute to society by helping children become creative. These are the products that I came up with. Since it proved successful in Japan, and I came here five years ago doing business with our printing and packaging, I thought that this would also contribute in a positive way to Philippine society. I decided to bring the products here with the same intention,” says Eiichiro.
Simbulan is particularly hoping that Howay products will help foster a closer bond among children, their parents and grandparents.
“I feel somehow relieved that hopefully once I have a grandchild, there is finally a toy that I can play with my grandchild. With Howay toys, children will be more enticed to learn,” she says.
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