Huggy Founders Merili and Kätlyn

Inspiration – Huggy

Kätlyn Jürisaar and Merili Ginter are the co-founders of Huggy. Huggy stands for spreading self-confidence and positive mindsets amongst both young and adults.  

Why is purpose and making a difference, so important to you both?

Kätlyn: Merili and I are both very similar, growing up with a difficult background. I grew up without a father and a big part without my mother too, so I lived with my grandparents. During this time, I always felt so lonely and it was very stressful for me. I had very difficult times thinking straight and had dark thoughts, and today I have the scars. At this time, what helped me was a diary, it was a way I could express myself and put into words everything I was feeling – on the inside and outside. During my life, I realised that I wanted to help others with my story and knowledge. If you are young, you have so much to deal with yourself, because if you don’t think about what you are feeling or what you’re doing in your life, then you don’t have the aim or way of where to go. So, where do you go? I have learnt and now I want to inspire others so they can be healthier, happier and much younger in periods of their life 😊. If we make little steps in our lives, ultimately, we make a big difference.

Merili: We share similar backgrounds, but I’m also the oldest sister for six brothers and sisters. And that has given me a sense of being a role model. I was also living with my grandparents, throughout all my school life until the end of high school. I was also struggling with different thoughts. The way I handled stress was actually being proactive, so I just had to do things, so that I just wouldn’t have time to think about the stress and the problems that I had in my home. I then gradually went into charity projects and later received an Estonian prize for being a role model, which made me realise what I do has an impact. I really aspire to be a good role model for my brothers and sisters. 

But actually, every single person that I meet, I am a role model in a good or a bad sense. And I can choose that myself and that has given me a thought on how to run a purpose driven businesses and I really think it should be the way of how to do business.

What was the inspiration behind the diary and how did you get the idea?

Merili: The thought sparked when we did a brainstorm writing down what makes us sparkle. We then
added different thoughts, mainly about hobbies. We also added some problems that we see in the world that touch us. And then some other random things to keep the ideas going. We then put together different aspects, for example, going around in nature and helping people who are lonely. And then we tried to put these things together and think about different services or products. When we thought about products, the first thing that came to our mind was a diary.

Looking back, the inspiration was already there before we did the brainstorming because I had been doing a diary myself every day for more than two years. I wanted to give something to my sisters, so that they could have better habits. I went looking
in stores to find something that could support them and a diary, but I couldn’t find anything. At that time, the idea didn’t come into my mind that oh, I could do it myself. So yes, the inspiration came earlier. But in a sense finalised in a different way.


Kätlyn: We both had a diary writing period in our lives and doing that we thought we could provide more inspiration to others. As well as a diary, there are stories and experiences from other youths, how they have solved problems with families and

You had a very quick initial product development?

Merili: I think the first prototype came in two weeks after we got the idea. But we then introduced it on a TV show one month after the idea. With a fresh copy of Huggy in our hands.

That’s a very quick turnaround, can you talk me through some of the key things you did in the two-week period?

Merili: One of the first things we did was to quickly establish a checklist of what needed doing – the inspirational stories we wanted to include in the diary and some stories from more normal people, that maybe people don’t know about, but are still inspiring. We made sure we had an evening meeting almost every night.

Kätlyn: During the normal workday if we had a lunch break, or had free time, then we made it a Huggy meeting where we talked about different questions, how to reflect and also tips on how to make your own daily life better, for example, if you have very, very bad thoughts just write it down and things like that.

Merili: I think one of the other key points is that we really used our network. We knew someone who could help with illustrations, which was a big, big help because we couldn’t have done it ourselves. But with the help of a friend, we did it, and we also had two psychologists who reviewed the content before it went to print, who is one of our friends. This helped to speed up the process. So when we had a good network, it was easier, I would say. Our network helped with the printing too, because it was in the run-up to Christmas. But luckily, we already had one contact, who was eager to help us out and could do it in time.

What are the biggest challenges you faced? How have you overcome them?

Kätlyn: I think the basic timetable is the main one, with so many projects and working for different organisations, where you are involved in other mission-driven activities. So, it’s difficult to find time for them and be healthy yourself, like sleeping correctly and everything. I think because it was a very fast-moving project for us, time was the most difficult thing.

Merili: I think it was important for us to set up designated ‘Huggy Time’ periods, where we had spurts on the project. We have used this approach before, and it works well. Another key thing that also helped, was setting up boundaries. So, when we were too tired or our head was already aching because we had worked so much that day, then we just say it’s okay “we ourselves are the most important things”. When we talk about mental health, we can’t do bad things to ourselves as well, so we have to stay really cautious about that. I think for me, boundary setting was really good and also talking through expectations.

Kätlyn: We see that if we want to do something good. We have to be good to ourselves and between ourselves.

How did you manage to fit all your initiatives together at the same time?

Merili: I think one of the key things here was being flexible. But also structured, so if it was Huggy time, we had an alarm set. We hadn’t really agreed on it, but we also tend to work in waves. So, one initiative comes in and we work on it and then another project doesn’t take as much of our time, and then it’s time for another, so we go in cycles. This is quite refreshing for us as well, because then you can switch and try out some other things.

How have collaborations impacted the initiatives you are part of?

Kätlyn: Collaborations have shown that if you are working together with other people and organisations, then you can do greater things. I think it’s very important to have an open mind and make the most of collaborations and opportunities.

We met a TV show host when we were launching our diary and she has been such a big supporter for us. We recently held a charity event, and she was also there as a guest and she had helped us get into the radio station for the charity event. So we can see that if we are somewhere or with someone, if you have the same mission to do great things and to help others, you can use these connections. You can then follow up in the future and have a great project together. For us, it has been great.

Merili: I can see it helps others too, I like the saying “What goes around comes around”. I really believe in cooperation and not in competing. I feel that cooperation is something that leads us forward and it’s the only way I would like to do it actually.

This is something my dad has always said and he is also my hero. And that is simply to be good ancestors. And that’s it. That’s the aim. That’s the aim of life is to be a good ancestor. So put your whole life into being a good ancestor.

What do you think are the key factors behind successful collaborations?

Merili: I would say that it all starts with the why. Begin by establishing why both parties are participating, what are we both striving for? Then you will, most probably, find some common ground. For example, when we have such meetings, we will first talk about the mission and then look into “What can we do to help us both?” Then it’s relatively straightforward. Also, think about not only what can we get from their side, but what can we give to them – So there is value for both sides.

How would you describe a good collaborator?

Kätlyn: Open-minded, mission-driven, and knowing that if you do something good, you get something good. It may not always be money, but a good feeling, and you get closer to your mission. I would also like to say to be vulnerable, so be honest if you have problems, or if you’ve tackled a challenge and you don’t know how to do something. It’s then easier to see the solutions and work together to solve them. 

Merili: I would also say a good collaborator fulfils his or her promises and words. So when we agree on something, it will happen. It’s not just a word to say, but an action to do.

What advice and tips do you have for people starting purpose-driven businesses?

Kätlyn: As Simon Sinek says, start with the Why? I think it’s the main reason, we are all together here, and doing what we are doing. But also, sometimes, if we start something, it seems so big and such hard work, but by taking little steps, step by step is also a very, very good way to just start with things. Sometimes you get stuck seeing the big picture and everything that you must do. So just little, little steps are also good.

Merili: I would add getting people to help you with or spreading the idea. So invite other friends or acquaintances to jump on board to help, for example, in marketing or on your website, or also bring some known organizations in to just ask for help or for guidance. That has been one of the key things that have helped me throughout different initiatives. And also, if you find a good community, it really helps because with Huggy, we have now got the psychologists community, so we have a whole community behind our backs that really support and help us and who also help us to spread the word. So finding good, good people.

Can you give examples of how someone can find a community?

Merili: I would start by googling or even doing a Facebook search, because there are a lot of different Facebook groups out there. I have also found that when I did the charity project, to help children with diabetes, it was an association that was already there. I just reached out and asked if they could help me out.

Earlier this year, you did a Facebook live 24 hours event to promote mental health awareness. How did that go?

Merili: It was a roller coaster. There were many ups and there were also downs. There were some moments that were a bit more stressful between us, even though we have such a great bond. Some things happen when you are too exhausted. But overall, it was amazing, we even had some people who were with us throughout the whole 24 hours! The feedback that we got afterwards from some of the youths who said that “it really inspired me, it was something that I needed right now”, was very special.

What gives you hope for the future?

Kätlyn: Hope. Hope that things will be better. I can see that we talk about mental health more, which means we are dealing with it more than we used to. So with that, there is hope that we will do more. I don’t only want to talk about mental health. In a broader sense, I think that when we have problems in our lives, if we don’t pay attention to the environment, or other things, I think it shows the importance of having more purpose-driven people around us. We want to do something about that, by seeing how companies are thinking about their approaches, to make them better and to do something good. I think this is the hope for me.

Merili: I see that purpose-driven businesses are a growing trend and people are really starting to take action as well. I think we can learn from Covid and people are using the time to re-evaluate their life. It’s now a popular time for people to start a purpose-driven business. So I’m really looking forward to what is happening now and what great initiatives are coming up.

Do you have a simple quote or anything you’d like to share with people?

Merili: I have my favorite one that I have on my vision board, it’s by Walt Disney and is
“If you can dream it, you can do it”. This is a quote that has helped me through different initiatives to keep moving forward, because I believe that if you believe and really, really give something your best, then everything can happen.

Kätlyn: Overall, I would say that, yes, you have to believe it, and do it. Just do it. Just start with things and everything is possible. You don’t know where you may get to in the end and the way may change. But you find the things you want in your life. And just seeing inside you.

The importance of mental health

Merili: It’s something I think people will always be struggling with.
It’s quite funny because even though Kätlyn and I talk a lot about it, we are still dealing with mental health. Even between ourselves, sometimes I can ask “how are you?” and it may be a day when it’s like “well, let’s not talk about it”. Although we could be honest, I understand, sometimes it’s also okay, to just push it away. But we need to know and also be speaking about how we are.

Kätlyn: Yeah, it’s also very important to be aware of yourself. Then you can be honest with yourself and say and communicate this to others. I may say that I’m okay today. Actually, I’m not, just don’t ask me for more details today or something like that. It’s also a challenge to be aware of it.

Is there anything else you want to add or mention or talk about for us to include?

Kätlyn: If we talk about mental health and how to be true with yourself, I think that Brené Brown is one very admirable person. ‘The gifts of imperfection’ is one of her books, which I really, really enjoyed and so many simple steps for people to take. It’s so important to embrace who you are.

Merili:  Brené also has a TED talk, a movie on Netflix and a podcast I think.

Kätlyn: I want to say, if you are hoping to start a mission-driven business or you have a little problem to solve, it is so important to know that you are not alone. Find people around you who can help, because together we can do anything. If someone wants to communicate with us, it will be such a pleasure to do it.

Do you want to collaborate with amazing game-changers like Kätlyn and Merili? Join CollabMaker today and see what amazing initiatives you match with. Have your own initiative? Join CollabMaker and find skilled people to collaborate with.

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