Monsters are large and scary, representing the fears we hide from ourselves. Promise Monsters are different. They’re small, but they were powerful enough to inspire Michael and Erin Bogan, along with their kids, to become a family. Then the Bogans unleashed more monsters to inspire people everywhere to do good deeds.
Now Promise Monsters is a family-run toy company making stuffed monsters. Each one comes with a Monster Mission, which is basically an act of kindness to perform secretly. When the mission is completed, Promise Monsters mails a reward. A real one, not virtual gifts or codes for online games.
Before telling you the delightful story of this company’s origins, you’ll want to know they are committed to manufacturing in their home town of Indianapolis while using as many locally sourced materials as possible. To launch their newest monster, Albert, they’re running a Kickstarter campaign. The giveaways are monstrously enticing.
Now for that origin story, from Michael Bogan.
About five years ago I went through a tough divorce (aren’t they all?). It had been a very difficult time for me and my four kids. They were at my house nearly every night and I wanted our family to do something kind for others to help us through our difficulties. But we didn’t have the time or emotional energy to do something big.
So as a family we came up with a simple plan: we made cards with drawings of monsters on them. We wrote kind messages on the cards (I Promise Someone Loves You, I Promise You’ll be OK), and hid them all over Indianapolis. We created a small website where people could leave comments when they found the cards. My friend from work, Erin, came over and helped us.
We weren’t sure what to expect, we just wanted to do a small kind act, but we had a great response! People all over sent us nice messages about how we made their day a little better. And, we found that by taking the time to make people happier, we also became happier. Conversations at dinner changed from arguing and bickering, to talking about what comments we had gotten that day, and how it made us feel. I think the kids realized that a small act of kindness helps both the giver and receiver.
In the course of creating the cards, Erin and I started talking more, getting to know each other, and eventually … started dating!
We had so much fun with the cards and made so many people a little happier, that we decided to try to do something more. We decided to make the monsters into real stuffed monsters. So as a family, we started a toy company that makes monsters that all come with acts of kindness for kids to complete.
Our company has grown and spread thousands of acts of kindness over the past year. And yes, Erin and I have married! We have blended our family and now have five kids between us. And we now have a family business that makes us happy, keeps us working and talking together as a family, and is spreading kindness.
Promise Monsters designs are based on drawings done by the Bogan kids. Marketing and graphics, even the main font they use, originate with the kids as well. And the kids help out, doing everything from cutting fabrics to making media appearances. Perhaps most fun of all, the family likes to test out kindness tasks before including them as official Monster Missions. Secret cookie deliveries and anonymous gifts must be rampant in Indianapolis.