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Meet the exhibitor: Jofli Bear 30 Oct

Suzi O'Neill launched Jofli Bear in 2008, however the idea for Jofli the 'Journey of life' bear was conceived many years before.

It all started in 1998 when Suzi was working in Thailand and was handed a soft toy by a little girl on holiday. The toy was part of a school project from America and was being passed around the world in the hope that one day it would be returned with a list of all the places that it had been to. Suzi took the toy to Australia, and passed it on when she reached South Africa, never to see it again. However the seed had been planted, and as she continued on her journey around the world, ideas of a cuddly companion to share life's adventures started to form. Suzi's own childhood memories had been captured by her grandfather, with photographs and diaries of her early years. The two merged together and formed the idea for Jofli the 'Journey of life' bear, to encourage families to capture memories over a lifetime.

As Suzi continued on her journey, Jofli remained just an idea, but she was constantly faced with news articles about the need to improve literacy, social interaction and family bonding for children. She knew that a product like Jofli Bear could help with many of these issues, and waited for an experienced toy manufacturer to seize the opportunity. After eight years there was still nothing on the market so she took the step herself to bring Jofli Bear to life and started her journey into the world of business.

There are now over 30,000 Jofli Bears having adventures around the world. They are used in schools for literacy, and used by families to record memorable moments for newborns through to grandparents. However, some of Jofli Bear's adventures are not so lighthearted. They have been used in adoption and fostering to keep life storybooks for children by families who have children in hospices to record precious memories and by many parents and grandparents who are separated from the family unit.

Suzi says: "I've had lots of wonderful travel adventures over the years, and I love it when children show me where they've been with their bears, but when the bears have an emotional story behind them it makes all the ups and downs of business even more worthwhile."

Suzi's own childhood was not the perfect family picture and unfortunately this is the story for many children, but Suzi wants to show children that your family and past experiences do not have to define your future. She wants to inspire them through Jofli's stories to show them that life is full of opportunities for everyone.

Suzi has also written a series of Storyjournals to educate and encourage family interaction by completing journal pages on various themes. She believes the 'Journey of life' can take children along many different paths, and spending quality time with supportive parents or carers is a vital part of helping children to create positive memories along the way.

Meet Suzi and Jofli Bear at the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair on Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 December 2017. For more information or to buy your tickets in advance, click here.

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