This post was originally produced for Forbes.
In 2009, Two American brothers with exceptional abilities and the brightest futures risked it all to create a social venture specifically designed to help the people of one of the Western Hemisphere’s most challenged countries, Honduras. Their toy block company Tegu is having an impact there and beyond.
Will Haughey, Chief Blockhead of Tegu, the company they founded, says they are working to address “poverty and unemployment in Honduras and Central America,” adding that “unemployment [is] well north of 30% and poverty rates [are] above 65%.”
Haughey notes that they found there really was no entrepreneurial or creative segment in the economy, so they created one.
“[We] started a manufacturing business in Honduras connected to a design business based in the USA. Tegu, short for Tegucigalpa, uses Central American hardwoods in the production of a premium quality magnetic wooden building system. The more blocks we sell, the more people we put to work,” he explains.
“Tegu Blocks are inherently educational and make a wonderful gift. The best thing we can do for Honduras is sell blocks as many places as possible all over the world. Schools are a great fit as well,” he concludes.
On Thursday, September 10 at 2:00 PM, Haughey and his brother Chris, the Head Elf, will join me here for a live discussion about the business and its impact in Honduras. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Tegu:
Founded by two brothers, Chris and Will Haughey, Tegu is a vertically-integrated premium toy company with a manufacturing facility in Honduras and sales and marketing office in Connecticut. Tegu debuted in the fall of 2009 and has sold over 500,000 units of its patented magnetic wooden blocks (“Tegu Blocks”) and has employed and trained more than 200 craftsmen and craftswomen in Honduras. Beyond their online distribution on Tegu.com and Amazon.com, Tegu Blocks are now sold throughout the world in mainstream and specialty retail and educational channels. Tegu has formal distributor relationships outside the USA in Asia and Europe. Founders and co-owners Chris and Will Haughey, the company’s most senior executives, developed and implemented Tegu’s strategy to reduce poverty, develop human capital, and support sustainable forestry in Honduras. Chris conceived the idea of Tegu based on his first-hand experience of Honduras and its social and environmental challenges. He left his career as a management consultant to devote himself full time to the development of the company in early 2007 and relocated with his family to Honduras in 2009 to establish the factory. Today, he is responsible for Tegu’s hiring of low-income Hondurans, the career development and training programs to grow their human capital, and Tegu’s sourcing program that contributes to reforestation and the reduction of illegal logging in Central America. He personally visits each of Tegu’s wood suppliers as part of on-site verification of their forestry practices. Will left behind his career in investment banking and finance in 2008 to lead the effort to raise Tegu’s capital and develop its consumer-facing brand. He has been Tegu’s fundraising champion in the United States, convincing socially-minded strategic investors to bet on a manufacturing firm that would have a major social and environmental impact in Honduras. Now he is the face of Tegu and its social return to the major international brands that support Tegu as its customers. Chris invested the entirety of his life savings – including his modest retirement savings – to provide Tegu with necessary seed capital, and Will invested over half of his life savings to take the company through to a viable product concept when he joined his brother full-time in the business.
Will Haughey’s bio:
Will Haughey is Co-Founder and Chief Blockhead of Tegu. Will oversees Tegu’s commercial activities including global marketing, sales, distribution and product development. Earning a BS in Business Administration from Indiana University, Will concentrated in Finance and International studies. Upon graduation, he joined the Healthcare Investment Banking practice of Goldman, Sachs & Co., in New York. Following two years of mergers and financing work, Will joined Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, managing investments in the public and private markets. Will joined forces in May 2008 with brother, Chris Haughey, to form Tegu. Will is based at Tegu’s US headquarters in Darien, Connecticut.
Chris Haughey’s bio:
Chris Haughey is Co-Founder & Head Elf of Tegu. In preparation for Tegu’s launch in 2009, Chris moved to Honduras in order to establish and grow the Company’s privately owned factory. Chris oversees Tegu’s engineering, sourcing, production and supply chain activities and is deeply involved in Tegu’s innovation initiatives globally. He spent three years with The Boston Consulting Group in their Los Angeles practice and prior to that worked for a year in Mexico City with university students. Chris holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Chris operates at Tegu’s Honduras factory.