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Vaden Hughes, Joe Rogers, Caroline Rogers and Easley Hughes. COURTESY PHOTO
Palm Coast Thursday, Jul. 7, 2011 8 years ago

Not just kids' stuff

by: Mike Cavaliere Multimedia Director

Lou Hughes, founder of character brand company Tickle Me Silly, recently debuted his first character, Olly Oogleberry, at the Hammock Beach Resort. The character already has 12,000 Facebook fans and big plans ahead.

Lou Hughes was 12 years old, in seventh-grade math class, bored. And so he started doodling.

What he came up with was a blue, big-headed alien with giant rainbow eyes. He called him Olly Oogleberry.

Now, Hughes, 42, is founder, CEO and creative director of Tickle Me Silly, a kids’ character brand company. Oogleberry is his first character launch, plugged recently at a Las Vegas tradeshow, and, as of two weeks ago, for sale at Flagler’s Hammock Beach Resort, in apparel kiosks at both entrances of the gift shop.

“You can always pick something back up,” Hughes said. “Even when you’re 40 years old, you want to do something interesting and fun.”

Hughes, who in 2006 started an international marketing/branding firm, Moving Minds, in Palm Coast, said the Olly vision has evolved over time.

When his two daughters were younger, he started using Olly in their bedtime stories. Today, the character isn’t just a story or face, Hughes said. He’s a lifestyle plan.

The story goes like this: Oogleberry is an alien who has been adopted by earthlings. Humans teach him about the wonders of the world, and Olly teaches them about space.

He even has a website — www.olly — where children can go to explore the universe through various multimedia.

The character is meant to inspire children to “see, do and be something great,” Hughes said.

“We hope to be able to bring the world to kids,” he continued. “From their laptops or iPads, they can travel the world … We’re all, in our hearts, adventurers and discoverers.”

Tickle Me Silly started as a side venture for Hughes in 2009, when he began planning and conceptualizing Olly’s release. Then in March of this year, an Olly fan page was made on Facebook, containing just a photo of the character’s fingers in front of a closed curtain, with educational status updates written in Olly’s wisecracking voice.

Already, the page has more than 12,000 fans.

“The same way I stared out the window as a 12-year-old … (kids) can project their own aspirations for adventure and discovery into the character,” Hughes said.

Tickle Me Silly has five other character brands pending. Hughes hopes Olly will take flight and the company’s consumer line will expand out of just apparel and into plush dolls, books, games and possibly TV shows.

In the fall of last year, Olly apparel was introduced in a trial run at the largest independent retail store in Mississippi, where it quickly became the top selling children’s product. Now, with a second retail location at the Hammock — where, starting this week, Hughes will also run educational seminars for kids — Hughes is hoping for an explosion.

“This is the beginning of what will hopefully be something very big,” he said. “We all seek to do something great with our lives in the time that we have here.”

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Contact Mike Caveliere at [email protected]

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