A Sit Down With Stephen Chrisanthus: My Buddy

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By: Stephen Chrisanthus Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

This month I sat down with a gentlemen that gives smiles to children all over the world year round; my buddy and Founder of Budsies, the stuffed animal company sensation, Alex Furmansky. We got to chat about what he has in store for the new year, his love for Delray Beach and our beloved Delray Beach Mascot, Swinton the Turtle.

I know all about Budsies but can you give a brief description of what they are for readers that don’t?

Of course, Budsies turns drawings and characters into real, 3D huggable stuffed animals. We started off working mostly on cute and wacky kids drawings but nowadays we’ve seen more and more teen and adult illustrators make use of our service.

It’s a truly magical experience when someone meets their very own character for the first time. We’ve seen hundreds of videos and thousands of photos posted to YouTube and IG with gleeful faces. Makes the difficult creative work totally worth it!

How, and why did you come up with this idea?

I am lucky to have a younger sister, Michelle, who is 16 years younger than I am. She’s more creative than I ever will be and she’s a great doodler. She had this fun, quirky red pig with an antenna on his head that I found absolutely hilarious. She also loved playing make believe with her stuffed animals so I put two and two together and decided she should be able to play with her own creation. This red pig, who she named “Dongler,” is now our mascot. He’s all over our website and has his very own coloring book.

You played an integral part in helping me bring Swinton the Turtle, our official Delray Beach Mascot to life…. I heard he is headed to Las Vegas with you for a new product launch?

Haha yea working on a plush Swinton for the city of Delray was a blast. I remember seeing him sold in the holiday pop up shop and brought my family in so they could see him!

Swinton was actually one of our very first bulk customers. Since then, we’ve had dozens of brands, book authors, cities, small businesses, Kickstarter campaigns, and sports teams reach out to us to make anywhere from 50 to 5,000 stuffed animals of their characters. They give them out as promo gifts or resell them for a profit.

We decided it’s time to spin off this business and give it a dedicated new home. The new brand will be called Stuffed Animal Pros and launches in January 2019. We’ve made over 70,000 unique plush designs to date so we have better expertise than anyone in the world.

After turning down the Shark Tank offer a few years ago Budsies has really taken off, what new product lines have emerged?

We’ve launched 8 different brands since then, but the one I’m most proud of is our Petsies line (MyPetsies.com). People send us photos of their current or past pets and our artists create a handmade plush lookalike. They are truly remarkable and I challenge people to look at our insta and see if they can tell the plush from the real pets!

I’m also excited about our Selfies line, which is where people send us photos of their loved ones and we create lookalike dolls of them. We see this a lot between significant others, in couples that are long distance, or when the parent spends time away from their child. We’ve also seen some fun gag gifts done for bosses… which inspired me to do our fun Voodoo Doll product launch video for April Fools. The video team over at Brave Man did an amazing job with the video and we still get traffic (plus the occasional rant about how we’re doing Satan’s work from the knuckleheads that don’t get the joke).

You offer your products all over the world but you choose to be based here, how did we become the headquarters for your furry friends?

Much of it has to do with quality of life. Delray is where our team wants to be. It’s the perfect balance of trendy and quaint.

When you aren’t pumping out cute creatures what do you like to do for fun?

I’ve recently gotten into surfing and escape whenever I can to the sandbar to catch a good break. Even on a bad day, I still get a great workout while being in the ocean. What could be better?!

I’ve also co-run a project called Free Advice with my friend Tom Dehnel for the last 2 years. We set up a table on the sidewalk and help anyone who asks to solve problems large and small in their lives. It’s a unique way to make instant yet meaningful connections with strangers and positively impact our Delray community.