Phil Barbato

Richmond, VA

Personal Story

About the Artist:
Philip Nicholas Barbato was born in 1976, in Smithtown, NY, the last male descendant of a proud family of farmers. By the age of three he enjoyed memorizing design details of automobiles and pointing them out to his mother. This is mostly irrelevant, except to indicate Phil’s instinctive inclination towards order and control in art. Also, it was obvious that he was not going to be a farmer.

In his late twenties, prolific and successful artist friends (and jealousy) motivated Phil to rededicate himself to his creative endeavors. He began painting regularly and experimenting with plush. He discovered his work had the power to make people giggle and point and say things like, “I want that!” This was a good thing.

Currently, Phil is at work in his home studio, painting, sewing, drawing, or staring out the window imagining what it’s like to be a farmer.

About the Businessist:
Meghan Barbato received a bachelor’s in Entrepreneurship from Virginia Commonwealth University. After five years as a professional marketer, she chose to make a triumphant return to the classroom, and she went back to school for her MBA from the College of William & Mary. While her classmates plotted dreams of Wall Street domination and sexy balance sheets, she decided to spend a semester in the rain forest of Costa Rica and in the Galapagos Islands. Arriving back in Williamsburg far more tan than her classmates, she realized that she would never be content with a life of trying to make spreadsheets “sexy.”

When Phil started making his plush creations, and more so when people started buying them, both Phil and Meghan realized that maybe this little hobby should be taken seriously. Fortunately for the artist in residence, his wife had experience in business-y sorts of things. Meghan promptly took over things like craft show applications and, inevitably, the spreadsheets. (Which, of course, are damn sexy.)

About Us:
Phil & Meghan are happily married monster-makers, and have recently celebrated the arrival of the cutest monster of them all, a new baby boy named Enzo.

Business Description

Our Story:
Phil & Meghan married in the fall of 2007. While on their honeymoon in Italy, sipping cappuccinos in the Tuscan countryside, Phil mentioned he’d been thinking about sewing more. Meghan agreed, thinking creative endeavors would be a great outlet for her husband, and she ordered another cappuccino.

Once they were back stateside, Phil also announced he would be participating in a 4-month-long beard-growing competition called Whiskerino. Meghan stared at him flatly, and pondered returning to Italy. Unbeknownst to both of them, Whiskerino would inspire a business.

Phil started out making Whiskerbears, and in the six years since, he has continued to develop his line of monster creations, while Meghan decided that Italy wasn’t actually all that great. (Note: that is a flat-out lie. Italy is wonderful.) True love winning out over Italian daydreams, Meghan stayed in Richmond with Phil and took over the business-y aspects of, well, the business.

Our Business:
Our customers range in age from kids spending their saved up allowances, to parents and grandparents buying gifts, and to adults in their 20’s and 30’s with distinct a sense of humor who buy our pieces as collectibles. Our goods are handmade, almost entirely by us (though we are looking to hire some help via this loan), and our prices reflect that. Our biggest challenge is finding enough customers who love what we do and who understand why our prices are not as low as a big-box retailer’s toy aisle. Our goal is that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have a two-pronged approach, and can cater to customers who support handmade crafts, as well as the customers who want our designs at a lower price.

We are most proud of the fact that we have built this business together, and we’re very happily married while doing it. We each contribute to the whole, making recommendations to each other that make the entire operation a little more creative, and a little more successful each year. We love the adventure of doing this together.

What is the purpose of this loan?

$5000 will get us to New York Comic Con (NYCC), the country’s 2nd largest comic convention, happening over 4 days in October. The booth fee alone costs $1925. Lodging for 5 nights (Wed-Sun) will likely cost around $1000, assuming we can find something pretty cheap (okay, REALLY cheap) outside of the city. Transportation costs (tolls, gas, public transportation, etc...) will be about $500, while meals for ourselves and our helpers during the show will be another $500. The remaining $1000 will be spent in the months leading up to the show, as we hire people to help us sew the inventory that we will be selling while we’re there.

We attended the con last year, and boot-strapped our trip out of our own savings before the show. This year, we will have a 6-month-old in tow with us, and while we’re thrilled to have some adorable “booth bait” to lure in shoppers with his inimitable cuteness, our personal savings account could use some recovery time after his arrival.

At last year’s con, part of the Javitz Center was undergoing construction, and we were in a corner that was behind the construction, which greatly impeded traffic flow and limited many con-goer’s ability to find us. This year, the Con will be wide open, with no traffic limitations. Our booth is near name-brand draws, like Kid Robot, I Heart Guts, and My Plastic Heart. At last year’s con, we just about broke even on our expenses. The plan this year, with better traffic flow, is to take advantage of the increased visibility, amp up our inventory (especially the lines that sold well for us last year), and create brand extensions that cater specifically to the crowd at the Con.

Besides the obvious intent of selling lots of monsters at the Con itself, we have two goals that our attendance at NYCC will facilitate: first, and most importantly, we are aiming to expand our brand recognition beyond the Mid-Atlantic indie craft circuit. We will seek out press and potential cross-branding opportunities with other indie toy designers, especially in taking better advantage of the “Pros Only” day on Thursday, where access to the Con is limited to professionals in industries related to the con, and the general public will not be admitted.

Our second goal is that we’re seeking to expand our monster empire by mass-producing some of our lines in factories. Thanks to our past experiences at NYCC, we’ve been able to build relationships with other toy designers who have gone ahead of us on this path, and we are using their experiences with mass production to guide us as we move forward. We will reinvest our profits from NYCC into the next step, which will likely be a trial run with a manufacturer, and will require the commitment to purchase thousands of pieces of inventory. We love that we can offer a handmade product to consumers who appreciate it and who understand the importance of supporting small designers. We also understand that our handmade pricing pushes us out of many people’s budgets, and mass production will allow us to expand beyond our niche market, and capture a larger audience.

Phil's loan is endorsed by Richmond Craft Mafia. The information below explains why her trustee thinks Phil is a great candidate for a Kiva Zip loan.
How long have you known this person?

3 years - 5 years

Tell us about your relationship with this borrower.

We work together frequently as members of the Richmond Craft Mafia. Through this organization we plan art and craft shows, schedule and implement classes for small business owners, and organize networking events. Outside of this organization, we consider them to be trustworthy and dependable friends.

Tell us about this borrower's personality and character, and why you are endorsing him or her for a Kiva Zip loan.

Phil and Meghan are the type of people to see a project through to the end. They are dedicated to their craft and to their community. We are endorsing them for a loan because they have built their handmade business from the ground up and just need a little help to get to the next level.

Tell us about this borrower's business, and why you believe a Kiva Zip loan will contribute to his or her success.

Since 2007, they have managed to build their business to extend far beyond the Richmond, Virginia area. Their products are currently stocked around the country from Los Angeles to Atlanta and available world-wide on the internet. With a Kiva Zip loan, they will be able to increase their exposure in the independent toy maker industry. This loan would be a key stepping stone in their expansion plans which include third party manufacturing.

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A loan of $5,000 helps me to to acquire a booth and hire people to sew inventory for the second largest comic convention in the country, which hundreds of thousands of customers in our target-market will be attending.

Disbursed Aug 2, 2013
Repayment Term:
24 monthly payments
Grace Period:
Jul 29, 2013
Aug 2, 2013
Paying Back:
Aug 3, 2013

About Phil Barbato

Arts / Crafts
Years in Operation:
More than 5 years
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What are Borrower Badges?

Borrower Badges are a system designed to recognize and reward borrowers’ engagement with the Kiva Zip website.

There are two types of badges that are tiered like medals: Gold, Silver and Bronze.

  1. 'Repayment badges' are awarded for the on-time repayment of loans.
  2. 'Connectedness badges' are awarded for engagement with the Kiva Zip website.

This loan is endorsed by

Trustee Type:
Business League / 501(c)6
First Tier trustee
Richmond, VA
On Zip Since:
Jul 29, 2013
(21 months)
Loans Endorsed:
Total Value:
Paying on Time:
Not enough data
Paying Back Late:
Not enough data
Repaid in Full:
Repayment Rate:
Not enough data
Why are you endorsing Phil?

Phil and Meghan are the type of people to see a project through to the end. They are dedicated to their craft and to their community. We are endorsing them for a loan because they have built their handmade business from the ground up and just need a little help to get to the next level.

What are Trustee Badges?

Trustee Badges are a system designed to recognize and reward trustees’ engagement with the Kiva Zip website.

There are two types of badges that are tiered like medals: Gold, Silver and Bronze.

  1. 'Repayment badges' are awarded for the on-time repayment of loans.
  2. 'Connectedness badges' are awarded for engagement with the Kiva Zip website.