Local Love Blog Series –
Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series!
This week’s feature is almost too cute to handle, all thanks to Stephanie Wong and her amazing creations at Wong Buddies. Along with being irresistibly adorable, each new Buddy is (hygienically) snuggle-tested before shipping to ensure top snuggability. Drawing inspiration from her love of cute things, Steph is methodically making the world a little bit better and a whole lot cuter with every new Buddy.
What goes into making a Buddy?
Each Buddy is completely unique and unlike any other Buddy out there! Wong Buddies currently come as bunnies, fawns, deer, lamb, whales, ravens, and reindeer, but there are plans for more fun Buddies soon, such as bears, dogs, mice, and foxes! Steph is also creating incredible baby mobiles with a wide range of animals and nature elements.
Each Buddy is made of chenille for the body, linen or cotton-blend for the clothing, cotton-blend or wool yarn for the toques/headwear, embroidery floss for facial features, and felt for any accessories.
But Wong Buddies aren’t just for babies…
Steph’s combined love of making and gifting cute things is the reason Wong Buddies exist although she’s not only creating for kids, but for herself and her friends who love the imagination and care that goes into making each Buddy. What’s best for Steph is seeing videos and photos of the Buddies being enjoyed in the wild, fulfilling their destiny of making someone (of any age) happy!
Wong Buddies turned from hobby to side-hustle, just like that!
Well, maybe not just like that… But, with a lot of support from her extremely caring husband Ryan, Steph was able to take her long-time passion for crafts and turn it into a real business!
Starting with an Instagram page in March 2020, Wong Buddies is quickly taking off! While Steph hopes to move her workspace from the living room into their spare room, for now she’s grateful for Ryan’s patience and encouragement!
Of course, diving into this during COVID was a bit daunting.
But, if there’s one thing Steph learned in the past year it’s if you want something, you should just try it. While Wong Buddies is still a new and fresh venture, the feedback she’s received already has been amazing! Her biggest obstacle so far has been the hurdle of actually launching. Once she had decided to start selling the Buddies, things started to fall into place.
So, where did the ideas for Wong Buddies come from?
To answer this question, we need to give a couple of shout outs to friends who helped Steph get going.
This starts with who Steph calls her HLM (heterosexual life mate), Megan, who introduced her to crocheting and knitting while they were working at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. With Megan’s help, Steph started creating toques for herself and to give as gifts – Steph had an entrepreneurial foray even then when she sold a few of her toques.
From there, Steph’s creativity really took off!
She was crocheting stuffed animals and making herself some incredible costumes since if there’s something Steph loves, it’s a good dress-up party! At this point, Steph was mostly hand-stitching felt with the help of a handy glue gun. In comes the second friend shout-out who helped Steph expand her sewing skills. Anna Back gave Steph her old sewing machine that had a broken LED, when the company sent her a new machine on warranty! From there, Steph started sewing Christmas Ornaments and just kept going from there!
Each Wong Buddy is made-to-order, and fully customizable!
When a customer contacts Steph to make a Wong Buddy to join their family, the journey starts with a simple conversation to get an idea of what they want. She’ll start with the colour and type of material for the body, then move to picking the material type and colours for clothing, headwear, and accessories. While most customers have an idea of what they’re looking for in their new Buddy, a lot of Steph’s creativity still shines through. Steph spends a lot of time making sure their Buddy is the right fit for her customer, and if it’s not, she starts over!
And while Steph is originally from Richmond Hill, Ontario, her heart now lives in Banff.
16 years after first arriving in the Bow Valley, Steph is now a happily-married homeowner. She loves supporting local, small businesses doing great things, such as Summit Lifestyle & Performance and Bow Valley Crossfit who are keeping people mentally and physically healthy, as well as Ange Helie who runs AfterGlow and is a wellness and life coach showing women how to heal from the inside out and overcome body image insecurities.
Luckily, the past year wasn’t so bad on Steph, but she’s still seeing room for improvement.
She’s hopeful that more discussion about issues in the Bow Valley such as mental health and addictions will push to the forefront. It’s not hidden that the Bow Valley is heavily reliant on tourism, making it transient and a very tough place to be during COVID. Steph also values any organization working towards ensuring the environment is top of mind.
All around, Steph is making sure to keep grounded by making sure she has a little bit of these three things in her life every single day:
- Some amount of exercise, even if it’s just a walk
- Social, face-to-face interactions – as much as is possible while still respecting COVID restrictions
- Laughter – be it because she finds herself hilarious, or she’s laughing at/with Ryan
It’s hard not to play favourites with all the Wong Buddies.
Steph finds that Dexter Deer is probably her #1 fella (aside from her husband, of course)… But overall the Hipster Bunnies and Flora Fawn are also very popular Buddies. Of course, the buffalo plaid clothing has taken the cake as the “mountain casual” outfit of choice.
Ultimately, the idea of Wong Buddies started early on, well before Steph launched in March!
The original Wong Buddy was actually crocheted, as Steph always loved to make handmade creations for friends and their kids.
When COVID hit last year, Steph found herself with far more time on her hands, and started to dabble in different techniques and designs. She now works with patterns from @bonpatterns designs, and fell in love with them. Incredibly, @bonpatterns is happy to have creators use their designs, as long as she receives credit and the designs aren’t used for mass-production.
But keep your eyes peeled for some exclusive Wong Buddies originals, coming soon!
As Steph gets more and more into doll-making, she is now working on original patterns that are truly unique to Wong Buddies. She has visions of creating an entire line of Woodland Critters with mountain casual clothing and accessories. As soon as she can get some inventory created, you’ll be able to find Wong Buddies on the shelves of local shops in the Bow Valley.
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