Ben Callicott explains how his dream to launch a den building business is becoming a reality.


Most business ideas start out as a dream and PL-UG is no different but, having just launched our first range of den building kits in John Lewis this Spring, that dream has slowly become a reality.

Like all good stories, I should probably take you back to the beginning.

There are two of us in the business; coincidentally both named Ben, not that you need to be a Ben to work for us. We met several years ago whilst designing children’s playgrounds, and always had aspirations of working together at some point, but with our careers going in separate directions it wouldn’t be until 2011, whilst walking around Nuremberg Toy Fair, that we had that eureka moment.

We had both loved den building as kids and noticed there was a gap in the market for good quality, innovative den building kits that could work with a child’s immediate surroundings, such as, tables, chairs, and windows, or trees. Something to enhance the tradition of den building, and eradicate the problems often faced with trying to hold a sheet in place, normally with a book or cushion. It was at this moment PL-UG was born!

Coming from design backgrounds, we were always at an advantage when it came to turning an idea into a reality but it’s fair to say we have had our challenges along the way.

At the time of starting PL-UG, I was lucky enough to be working as a toy designer in Hong Kong and this helped opened up doors to manufacturing in the Far East but, whilst having obvious benefits, we still got our fingers burnt.

My advice to anyone wanting to go down this route is plan carefully, prepare thoroughly and persevere. Time spent on research and building relationships will enable you to get the factory onboard with your quality expectations. It’s vital that they totally understand and believe in what you’re trying to achieve.

Once we had the idea, we focused on getting the all important feedback; family at first, then friends, friends of friends, etc. Slowly, going step by step, each positive reaction gave us the confidence to keep moving forward. However, we know the hard work really starts now because the most important test is what the consumer thinks.

When I reflect on our journey so far, it has definitely been an advantage to meet the right people along the way. Fortunately, we are now working with a quality factory, have a great distributor in Asobi, who believed in the product when we only had a prototype, and we have a sound investor that backed us when others wouldn’t.

I also believe it has helped starting out as a partnership, as it’s been invaluable to have the other person there to help pick each other up when we’ve gone through the inevitable bad times.

We’re very excited by what the future holds and already have some great initiatives in place for the next generation of PL-UG den kits.

Happy den building.

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