The teddy bear was introduced more than a century ago and sales are just as strong as ever. Businesses now offer an interactive experience to create a unique teddy bear. Customers have an array of choices to create their own bear, from clothing the bear to fabric patterns. Such “bear-stuffing” stores are an attractive financial opportunity and many businesses offer franchises in this industry.
Learn the basics about franchising. Essentially, a franchisee pays an initial fee and periodic royalties to a franchisor. In return, the franchisee gains the use of a trademark, ongoing support from the franchisor and the use the franchisor's system to sell its products. A franchisee gains a proven system of operation and training in how to use it. Reputable franchisors also conduct market research to determine if there is demand for the product. The franchisor also provides a clear picture of the competition and how to differentiate a business from them.
Once you’ve learned the basics about franchising, use your knowledge to evaluate potential opportunities. There are many options when it comes to starting a bear franchise. For example, Build-a-Bear Workshop offers international franchises for countries other than the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United Kingdom. Teddy Mountain offers a franchise for either a store or kiosk business. Stufflers provides a party activity where kids stuff their own teddy bear with a mobile stuffing machine.
Talk to franchise owners. Owning a franchise is a serious commitment. Talk to other franchise owners and ask how the business is doing, how long they’ve been in business and about potential profitability. They may provide helpful insight in starting your own franchise.
Find an attorney to help you work out the legal details. Once you decide on a franchise and submit an inquiry, the franchisor provides disclosure documents and other agreements. You may find that it’s several hundred pages. This is where a good franchise attorney is helpful. They can help you protect your home and assets before entering into a legal agreement. Attorneys may also evaluate a company’s litigation history and look for any warning signs.
Find out if the location you want is available. Some franchisors grant territorial protection to existing franchises in a given area. Everything you need to know should be spelled out in the franchise disclosure documents.
Prepare a business plan. It describes your company, the products you’ll sell and the sales and costs you expect during your first years of operation. Some franchises assist with preparing business plans and determine how you’ll make a profit. If they don’t provide assistance, it’s important to prepare one on your own. You'll need it to secure financing and to apply for a retail location.
Finance your franchise. Find out whether the franchisor provides resources to help with financing. They have relationships with other lenders and can assist with finding the capital you need. Another resource to look into is the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers a variety of loan guaranty programs for franchises that don’t qualify for conventional loans.
You can bypass the franchise route and start a business from scratch. The Bear Mill offers wholesale products to help you launch your own bear stuffing business, as well as consulting and business coaching.
Cindy Bendel has been writing articles since 2003. She has extensive experience working with small businesses and also worked for well-known companies such as Ernst & Young and Symantec. She is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Washington.