A question I get a lot is — how did I Heart Guts get started? Well, like all origin stories, it involves heartbreak, a cocktail napkin and a garage. My name is Wendy — and if we’ve never met, hello, it’s nice to meet you! 👋— and I am the brains behind the original plush organs. I love what I do and bust my little balls every single day to bring you organ plushies with love, style and brains.
I came up with the idea of organ characters when, unlucky in love, I was drunk drawing sad anatomically-inspired hearts in a bar. That night, my love for anatomy met my love for drawing and I Heart Guts was born. I tried to sell the idea to a T-shirt company I worked for. Don’t laugh…
Anyway, they said it was "too weird" and didn't want the characters. Oh well. Time to DIY! I handmade plushie organs out of felt and took silly photos. I built a small website and sold organ stickers, organ buttons and organ shirts. I added new guts to our family of organs as a side hustle to my main gig as a graphic designer.
One day a customer wanted to “give” a kidney back to his kidney-donor brother— why didn’t we have plush kidneys? So, through much trial and error, I made my first toys, and we made plush kidneys! And hearts! And lungs and livers! I found a distributor willing to carry these weird products. We sold out of our first run of hearts (stashed in my parent's garage -- see? There's the garage!) between Christmas 2007 and Valentine’s Day 2008.
In my defense, the plush organs were stashed in my parents garage (sorry, mom and dad) because my husband, newborn son and I were crammed into a tiny L.A. apartment, where the baby actually slept in the hallway. Anyhoooo, I digress.
I started selling guts wherever it was legally allowed, meeting customers and hearing incredible tales of survival during some tough times. I have always been inspired and amazed by our customers, who manage to laugh in the face of illness.
You all keep me going, so thanks for being here with us! Anyway, it's 2022 and my baby business I started as a joke in 2005 is 17 years old and ready to buy her first pack of cigarettes while she speeds down the freeway. We have 40+ plush organs and 60+ human body characters that have found themselves in loving homes all over the world.
I love what I do, I love running my own small business, mostly so I can spend time with these little freaks, breaking up their fights, listening to them whine, cleaning their messes and making them snacks.
Our little family operation has had its health struggles (when life gives your husband thyroid cancer, you gotta make a plush thyroid, and when you have a seizure during childbirth, you gotta make a uterus, duh.), a uterus recall and one Christmas where I had to extract 4 cases of rectums from a warehouse while 9 months pregnant.
P.S. That's me shipping holiday orders a week before pushing a baby out of my vagina. I gave birth, then came back and shipped orders the next day. That's what small business looks like, folks - it's not for the faint-hearted. No rest for the vadge during the busy holiday season! Lucky me, I have a team helping me ship orders now. And my uterus is very retired so no more pregnant shipping.
Our plush organs operation is still a family-run small business operated by me (and my vagina). I Heart Guts has grown in so many ways, and I'm proud of the amazing bare-bones team that keeps this little organ boat afloat.
We support several medical and health non-profits through our work, including Partners in Health, Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, Morehouse School of Medicine, California Black Women's Health Project, MedShare and Black Nurses Rock Scholarship Fund. Anyway, thanks for listening! We love you, our loyal customers, who inspire us and keep us going down this gutsy road every day!