VARADERO, Cuba – World famous Varadero Beach is where you will find crystal clear water, and plenty of sun and sand, but the tiny island is also the setting and the inspiration for something relatively new in Cuba.
Gabi & Sofi is the only toy maker in Cuba. It functions as a cooperative, an association of Cubans who run the democratically-controlled enterprise.
Isabel Pulp, who is the vice president of the cooperative, said the toys are designed to help children be more confident and educate them about the importance of spending time in nature.
“Today is a lot more difficult to find children playing outdoors,” Pulp said.
Instead of watching TV or playing video games, Pulp said there is a need for parents to encourage children to play more with toys. For now, the toys are only affordable to tourists.
The business was named after Pulp’s two children with Ariel Balmaseda, the cooperative’s president. He said they have remained profitable since they launched the toys in 2016, and even made enough money to buy equipment that is rarely found on the island.
The cooperative employs about 50 Cubans to manufacture the toys and run the store. Balmaseda said they plan on opening more stores and set up e-commerce in the coming months.
Balmaseda also wants to price them in the national currency to make the toys more accessible to Cubans on the island. He and Pulp envision animated characters that will bring the adventures of Gabi and Sofi to life.