Toying with green
Ex-model Angie Ting says future is organic
After getting married and leaving the runway, former model Angie Ting was not ready to be a stay-at-home mum. Instead, she found a new career in her husband’s toy manufacturing business.
When Ting joined the family business – the Kader Holdings Company, a major Hong Kong-based producer – she was assigned to work in the baby-toy department. “That is how I began to develop my interest in toys. My interest grew even stronger after I gave birth to my daughter,” she says.
From walking runways to working in an industrial building, Ting had to make huge adjustments in her new job. “I had zero experience of manufacturing; the learning curve for me was really steep during my first couple of years. Manufacturing is a highly professional trade, requiring specialised knowledge. Luckily, my mother-in-law and my husband provided a lot of support. I find manufacturing fascinating because seeing a product being made step-by-step, from nothing to having something, brings me satisfaction,” she says.
The majority of Kader’s children toys have always been original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products for other brands. Ting thought it would be a good idea for the company to develop its own brand.
“I think going green is the trend of the future, so I wanted to build my brand around the concept of environmental friendliness. As parents are more educated, and more aware of the health, environmental and social benefits of organic products, more will choose environmentally friendly toys for their children. My husband is very supportive of this. My plan was finally able to materialise when I met a mother and her daughter who were designers from the US,” she says.
Ting formed a partnership with Susan Pate and her daughter, Chloe, to create the organic toy brand Apple Park in 2009. “Apple Park was founded in San Francisco with a vision to create environmentally responsible and luxurious products for babies and children,” Ting says. “The Pates and I are a perfect match. We share the vision of providing toys and products that are free of harmful addictives and chemicals for children,” she says.
Many people know about organic food, but most are unfamiliar with the concept of organic toys. “Basically, organic toys are made from natural materials, planted using organic methods. This not only benefits children by protecting them from harmful substances, it also helps solve social and environmental problems,” she says.
Conventional cotton is a commonly used material in stuffed toys. Cotton planting involves the use of pesticides, which is harmful to the environment. Many workers feel ill after planting the cotton, which causes social problems. Meanwhile, an increasing number of children suffer all sorts of allergies due to interaction with harmful substances in daily life.
These factors inspired Ting and the Pates to develop a brand that benefits both users and producers. “Apple Park emphasises the use of organic cotton to make toys. Going green does not stop there, however. We never use polyester in our products. Instead we use sustainable materials such as recycled paper for packaging and low-impact dyes. People may think that organic products are mostly white or brown, but actually they can be gorgeous,” Ting says.
She thinks it is time for parents to reconsider what they should provide for their children. “Our environment, the food we eat and the products we use are filled with all kinds of chemicals. I think people nowadays are more aware of the hazards of this, which makes naturally hypoallergenic and eco-friendly products so popular,” she says.
In 2013, Apple Park expanded outside the US to Canada, Britain, Spain, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. “I am surprised by the keen reception for the products. People know a lot about organic products and they accept my products with open arms. No doubt organic products cost more, but as parents learn more about the importance of having a green lifestyle, they are willing to pay for it because they know they are getting their money’s worth,” Ting says.
Looking back at her entrepreneurial career, Ting sees passion as her number-one key to success. “My husband is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation [EO], a global non-profit organisation that supports young entrepreneurs. Sometimes I attend EO events with him and I was inspired by how passion drove the success of an entrepreneur. You have to believe and love what you do to succeed and I wholeheartedly believe organic products provide a better environment for our children,” she says.
Ting and her husband’s green efforts are not limited to producing green products. On a personal level, they are also very aware of how to live a green life. “My lifestyle speaks for itself. My husband and I drive electric cars and we built a rooftop garden at our Hong Kong office. We also consume organic food. We want to introduce green elements into our lives whenever possible,” she says.
FIVEFOLD BENEFITS OF ORGANIC TOYS
Top reasons why Angie Ting thinks organic toys are good for you
No pesticides Many are made from organic cotton, grown without pesticides.
Health benefits Organic toys made from natural materials are better for children, especially those prone to allergies, like asthma and eczema.
No harmful plastics Organic toys contain no plastics, so users don’t have to worry about the health hazards of BPA or phthalates.
Environmental gains Organic textiles are derived from plants grown using sustainable farming practices, reducing air and water pollution and ensuring more earth-friendliness.
Healthy farming practices Conventional fabrics, such as cotton, are mostly grown using pesticides. Women in developing countries are hired to pick the cotton, exposing them to deadly chemicals, leading to illness and social woes.