When Charlotte Liebling, who used to volunteer in a charity shop, found that kids’ soft toys usually ended up in landfills she decided to do something about it. The treasured teddies that were tattered and torn, the manky monkeys, the kitty cats with chewed-off ears or missing eyes didn’t even make it to the sales floor.
“These items which often held great memories and sentimental value were being thrown onto a pile and often sold as dog toys (or even worse, into the bin!),” Charlotte explains. “I witnessed how the love, and the life and the stories were lost and forgotten, just like that.”
And so Loved Before was born in an attempt to change the way people think about, and use soft toys.
“By challenging our perceptions of pre-owned objects, we can show that instead of losing value, a toy once loved is made even more valuable by the love and life it has already experienced,” Charlotte says.
Saving the World One Teddy at a Time
Loved Before is a social enterprise adoption agency for unwanted soft toys of any kind. Donations are cleaned up, restored when needed, and photographed. Then, a profile is added to the website in the hope of finding them a new home.
While Charlotte and her team are clearly mad about teddies, they see Loved Before, and its mission, as part of a much wider change in mindset – in which teddies are only just the start! Through the medium of bears, they hope that Loved Before can challenge consumer behaviours and relationships and help the next generations re-write the rules, and the future.
Sustainability plays a huge part in their overall brand mission. And it’s not just about recyclable packaging and making greener choices — although they do all that too — it’s about the bigger picture and a greater need. Loved Before believes that there are enough soft toys already in the world to never have to produce another again and that through changing perceptions of the pre-loved objects that already exist, one can begin to revolutionise the toy industry, forever.
How Does it Work?
Whether it be by one day or 80 years, whether they’ve been sitting on a shelf, or have travelled the world dangling from a backpack, all of these toys have been Loved Before — and that means they often look it. They can be worn, battered, broken and in general, terms, are far from ‘perfect’. Through Loved Before, Charlotte teaches that ‘imperfections’ mean absolutely nothing in the context of love and acceptance and that there really is no such thing as ‘perfection’.
The pre-loved toys that arrive are given a “spa treatment” as Charlotte calls it. But she’s not into making them like new; she wants the toys to retain the love that they have experiences. “There is very little we won’t accept,” she says. “We don’t take plastic toys or any with mechanical or electronic inner parts, but otherwise they can have missing limbs and missing eyes, and be worn from hugs.”
Loved Before believes that when it is time to pass a toy on, the lives, stories, characters, and memories shared with those objects make them even more valuable.
How it works is that when someone donates a toy to them, they fill in a Loved Before card to tell Charlotte a bit about that toy, whether it’s the life they’ve shared with them, a bit about their character or personality, or even a memory they have had with them. Toys with special stories seem to sell faster.
“We accept all donations of teddy bears and other soft toys. No matter if it’s an old bear, a handmade friend or a new branded toy, there is a place for everyone at Loved Before,” says Charlotte.
Once the donated toy arrives, it is taken to settle into HQ and its previous owner can follow what the teddies are up to on their Instagram account. Eventually, the toy will make its way through the spa and then have its own personal photoshoot before being added to the adoption centre and finding a new adventure with someone else.
The company uses recyclable or biodegradable packaging and has donated 50 per cent of its profits to charity since it was established in 2019.
With Christmas coming around the corner, we at Happy Ali, think this initiative should be supported all the way. Make a kid happy by buying a cuddly toy from Loved Before — it is worth it when you think about it this way: America buys more than an estimated 100 million stuffed animals every year. That makes a lot of landfill once they’re no longer loved and wanted.