Did you know that Safari Ltd. is a family-owned business, with its owners here in the U.S.? Safari is owned by Alexandre & Christina Pariente, and guided by their young children, Ocean, Wild, and Disco. A fourth child is on the way! Congratulations to their growing family!
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Alex about their brand and the story behind it. They truly built their business around their family and their love for wildlife. I found the conversation fascinating, and hope you do, as well!
Eleda: Thanks for this opportunity to speak with you. How did Safari start, and what originally inspired you to want to do something to promote wildlife and habitat conservation?
Alex: Safari was started in 1982 by my grandparents. It all started with a card game and led to models. Personally, I went to the Galapagos Islands with my mother as a young adult and I was mesmerized by the natural world there and undisturbed habitats. It really made me appreciate nature and wildlife. I am very thankful I went when I was old enough to appreciate and understand the magic of the environment and what conservation can do for it.
Eleda: What do you hope your models will inspire in the kids (and adults) who love them?
Alex: We hope to inspire the love for wildlife and foster imaginative play in children. Before becoming a father, I felt a strong purpose of our toys was to teach children about nature. Since becoming a father, I have really seen first-hand how our toys teach children so much about using their imagination, and this can lead to so many positive developments in children. Open-ended play is something that is frequently lost these days with both parents working and struggling to survive, and it is often overlooked as a real necessary method of play. We hope to encourage more open-ended play with our toys and with that will naturally come the love for nature and all of its creatures!
Eleda: That’s well said. Speaking of becoming a father… Let me send a big hello to Ocean, Wild, and Disco! How old are they now, and do they have opinions about the family business?
Alex: Ocean will be 6 very soon and Wild will be 4 very soon. Disco is 2 and a 4th child is on the way, name TBD! Our kids play with safari figurines on a regular basis but Wild is really the biggest fan! He sleeps with our catalog and smuggles figurines into his bed on a regular basis. I stopped him the other night from taking more to his room and he tried to hide them in his pants. He is really a character and can play all day with figurines. He really taught me how important open-ended play is and how it can actually entertain a child far more than electronics or other interactive toys that all of us parents get fooled into thinking are the most entertaining for kids. Kids really appreciate simplicity and open play time. They have so much structure in school and at activities that open play time at home is valued so much by them.
Eleda: How have your kids inspired the creation of particular models or changed the way you think about model sculptures?
Alex: We are always walking a fine line between collector requests and child requests. For example, collectors want dinosaurs to be exact and their feet to be the exact size recorded, etc., but a lot of times that creates an unstable figurine as it become more top-heavy and cannot balance. So we explored putting these figures on bases and we quickly found out that while that pleases the collector world with accuracy, it does not make children happy. They get very frustrated when dinosaurs fall over or cannot stand and they do not like bases at all. It is hard for kids to understand the purpose of a base. So we are constantly considering the delicate balance of accuracy and playability as children are our #1 fans and source of inspiration. Once you are able to get the attention of a child with a figurine, they fall in love and that prompts questions about the animal, its environment, how to help them, etc and that is how we are going to change human behavior….by captivating children with our figurines. So while we never want to offend collectors with inaccuracy, we do want to stay true to our mission which in the most simplest of words is to bring smiles and curiosity to children through play.
Eleda: Do you have a favorite sculpt from your line, and if so, what is it about that particular model that you love?
Alex: It is hard to pick a favorite model but I will say one of my favorite creatures in nature is the manta ray. They are so magical to watch in the ocean and the way the move thru the water is pure gracefulness. This is how we came up with our daughter’s name, Ocean Ray.
Eleda: Your commitment to keeping a small carbon footprint for your business is impressive. What have been your biggest achievements in that area, and do you have any upcoming projects that will continue that path?
Alex: This is a constant challenge for us as a business. It is easy on the office and personal front to use recycled paper, set thermostats to schedules, recycle plastic, etc., but on the manufacturing and distribution side, it is a constant struggle. Manufacturing is not the most open area to change so we are forced to do a lot of our own research for solutions. Right now, some folks are against any packaging that is not sellable packaging. In other words, they want to receive the items they way they should go onto a shelf and there should be no unpacking of the item. So they have asked us to put our products into single boxes instead of recycled plastic polybags. This is something that sounds good in theory, but doesn’t make sense when we think it through, since we worked very hard to make our polybags on the items eco-friendly. Replacing that with cardboard does not seem like a viable solution as cardboard offers much more waste in terms of space and breakdown. A lot of cities do not even recycle cardboard. Working on our packaging and raw materials to make them more eco-friendly is something we are continuously researching and implementing.
Eleda: That’s commendable, and as someone who handles (and unpacks) a lot of Safari models, I agree with you. Models need to have their paint jobs protected in transit to stores and customers, and recycled poly bags do that better than cardboard, while taking up a lot less space both in transit and in the recycling stream than boxes. Triple Mountain is working on becoming a B Corp, which is a business that places the community and environment higher than profit in their mission. It requires strict adherence to using green energy, recycling, and such, which we do. Yet, we recognize it still makes sense to use plastic packaging for certain items. Is there anything else you’d like us to share with our customers?
Alex: We want everyone to know we really try our best to accommodate the wishes and requests of all and we want everyone to remember in the end of the day, we are just a mom & dad trying to carry on the 3rd generation of a business in a really turbulent world. We struggle to do our best to be eco-friendly, customer oriented, and a reliable supplier but …..we are just 2 humans….
Eleda: Two pretty amazing humans, I’d say. Thank you so much for your time and for bringing great animal sculptures to the world in an affordable way, so that kids can learn about the natural world and collectors can add unique animals to their collections!
Triple Mountain wishes to thank Safari's Jenna H. for her help facilitating this interview.