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Creator Series: Pajama Monsters

It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s a monster, and it’s under your bed. Well, that’s what most children believe.Each week WJCT highlights one of the creators participating in Jacksonville's One Spark Festival as part of our Creator Series.

Hank Champion began sketching characters of monsters when he was in New York after being laid off from an ad agency.

His drawings weren’t ordinary monsters that some would normally think of. These monsters wore pajamas. He called them Pajama Monsters.

With friends and their children falling in love with the characters, he began to get them hand-sewn.

“What better way to protect kids than having their own monster buddy,” he said. “They [Pajama Monsters] own the room and the monsters can’t hurt you. That’s powerful for kids because all of that lives in the imaginary world.”

He created five characters including “Stinky,” the ringleader, “Nipper,” “Daisy,” “Vincent” and “Fluffy.” They each have their own personalities.

Stinky loves to play and acquired his name from the limburger cheese that he always keeps in his pocket.

Nipper bites everything from bears, lions and sharks, but he wouldn’t dare bite you.

Daisy is the dreamer who’s sweet, quiet and sluggish. Vincent is the visionary who’s not one to show emotion, but creates his own art.

Fluffy is just a little deranged and never sleeps.

“Everyone gravitates towards one,” he said. “People can see something they like about  themselves or things that they’re interested in.”

Champion found his way to Jacksonville, where he met his future wife and business partner, Megan Champion.

“She married me even though I was making dolls,” he said.

But since the Champions started their brand without a real business plan, things began to get tough. They realized that getting the characters manufactured was more costly and difficult than they originally thought, especially without any investors.

They were determined to keep investors not involved. So, the Champion’s decided to take a break.

“We learned a lot and learned what we needed to change,” Megan said. “It was good for us to take a break and talk about our plan.”

Once they heard about One Spark last year, they knew that they wanted to call off their hiatus and give it a shot. With old prototypes, drawings and the rough draft of a storybook, the Champions displayed their brand at One Spark.

“One Spark was great because you had contact with so many types of people and got such great feedback,” Megan said. “We placed in the top 50. It was really encouraging for us and gave us the courage we needed to keep moving forward.”

The strong encouragements and high placement lead the couple to make the decision of putting Hank on the company full-time while Megan continued working at Boeing.

“One of the reasons why we want to do One Spark again is because we’ve come so far in the past year,” Megan said. “People were asking us a lot of questions last year that we just couldn’t answer, but now we can.”

The rough copy of the book is finished, published and available for purchase. It will be showcased this year at One Spark.

“We’ve gone from point A to point B and people will see a full colored book after seeing what probably looked like chicken scratching on the wall,” Hank said. “They will see more refined Pajama Monsters.”

The main goal for Pajama Monsters at One Spark this year is building enough clientele to get the dolls manufactured in mass production, which is more cost effective.

Future plans for Pajama Monsters include introducing a new character, writing a new book and offering a gift set that includes a monster and book.

Since their brand involves the world of sleep, they also want to make a whole market of their brand with things like pajamas for kids, sheet and bed sets, blankets and whatever else the market allows.

“We want to become as big as we can within reason,” Megan said. “We really want to see our products on shelves.”

You can follow Emily Long on Twitter @EMchanted_.