Zen Rabbit – How a Stuffed Animal Started a Company
Everyone asks, “Where did the name Zen Rabbit come from?” For the first three and a half years, I thought if I shared the real story with people, they would think it was silly. So I made up a reason that sounded good. The facts behind the explanation are true.
The first (and still the most popular) Zen Rabbit product was what is now known as The Gratitude Cookie. So I said that the Zen part is because the cookies are so plain, and like Zen philosophy, the beauty is in the simplicity. The Rabbit part comes from folklore about rabbits bringing good fortune and prosperity to businesses. Those are true statements, but they were only the rational explanation for a somewhat [emotional] way of arriving at a name.
The people closest to me knew where the name really came from. And they felt privileged and special for knowing while the rest of the world was in the dark. One day I was at a business retreat, having lunch with a small group and someone asked about the name. For some reason, I decided to tell them the real story. They were captivated and persuaded me to share the real story with you.
So here goes. When I was an infant, my mom bought a pink stuffed rabbit for me at Bamberger’s (it’s now Macy’s). I had lots of stuffed animals – Jake the orange snake, a nameless brown dog, a white lamb in a dress appropriately called Lambie Pie. This rabbit was presumably just another addition to the collection. However, not long after she joined the menagerie, my mom figured out that I wouldn’t sleep if this particular animal was not in the crib with me. As I got a little older, I would rub her soft ears as a comfort. Somewhere along the way, (no one quite recalls how) she acquired the name Mary.
Take a look at the picture here. I’m two years old, in my grandparents’ living room, with Mary in my clutches. You see that one hand is rubbing her ear and I’m in a bit of a meditative state. Mary was my original Zen Rabbit. In fact, I still have Mary, although I have to admit she does not even closely resemble her original state.
When I started my company and was searching for a name, friends kept saying that the Gratitude Cookies gave them the feeling of getting a big hug from someone they cared about. I translated that to mean “taking them to a Zen place of calm.” Hey, that’s the same thing Mary did! Wouldn’t it be cool to call the company Zen Rabbit?!
Even cooler is the social acceptability of eating “Zen Rabbit” cookies in public. Because, you know, not everyone thinks it’s okay for adults to be rubbing the ears of a stuffed bunny in public. Either way though, you get to the same place of blissful happiness.