If you've got teddy bears on the brain as a business venture, take stock of the predecessors before you. One Croatian startup won top honors at the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow for Teddy the Guardian, a plush stuffed bear that also monitors the bear owner's vital signs. You don't have to get quite so specialized, but as a new business, you must establish what sets your personalized bears apart from the pack.
Your Scope and Niche
By focusing your business on personalized teddy bears, you have already narrowed your niche, but you still have some fine-tuning to do. Figure out where in the overall personalized teddy bear space you want to be, whether as a mail-order business, delivery service or retail store. Determine what product lines you will carry, whether that is just teddy bears, teddy bear gift baskets, or assorted novelty products. Hammer out the personalization features of your enterprise, such as monogramming options, changeable bear attire and accessories, or talking bears that say a person's name.
Licensing, Location and Manufacturing
Find a name for your business that describes what your teddy bears are about and what you specialize in, and register this with your local licensing entities. If your bears have proprietary features, obtain patents. Get quotes and comparison-shop stuffed toy manufacturers to find a manufacturer that executes the customized elements of your bears for the most reasonable price. If you are opening a retail location, secure a location that fits the demographic for the kind of patrons you want, where neighboring businesses complement rather than clash with your cuddly critters. Calculate how much you would pay in rent and utilities for each location.
Suiting Up Your Venture
For a retail venture, figure on purchasing display cases, lighting, cash registers, shelving units, computers, phones, gift wrapping and supplies to get started. For an online business, your overhead may be lower, but you'll also be paying for e-commerce hosting fees and shipping services. For a delivery or singing teddygram service, you must recruit talent to perform and deliver the goods to the customer. You'll have to supply the vehicles to transport the products, as well as costumes and musical accompaniments to create a memorable experience for the recipients.
Marketing & Expansion
To increase the visibility of your company and generate more sales, invest in high-quality photography to prominently display your teddy bears in print and online media. Offer a bear-of-the-month program that encourages people to return and buy the latest version of must-have bear. Provide loyalty incentives to shoppers where they receive a free bear after purchasing a certain number of bears, or invite repeat customers to participate in exclusive savings.
Timothea Xi has been writing business and finance articles since 2013. She has worked as an alternative investment adviser in Miami, specializing in managed futures. Xi has also worked as a stockbroker in New York City.