Teddy bears are HUGE online.
Huge teddy bears are even HUGE-ER online.
When we add in lions and tigers, well, the market just explodes.
I don’t know what children did before they had teddy bears, and soft plush lions and tigers and dinosaurs. I guess they had dolls, which is really nice. But just imagine a huge teddy bear. How excited would you have been receiving one of these from a UPS truck when you were kid? Maybe one that said, “To Jenny, from Gram, with love”?
And we can’t stop at teddy bears. Above is Kingsley, my lion. He was actually the mascot for a website on romantic places in California. One day I went to take him out of the trunk of the car to bring him into our hotel room. A little girl appeared beside me, her eyes as wide as a pies, and asked if she could pet him. We had a charming conversation while she gently petted him. It was a special moment.
Moms and dads, especially busy moms and dads, love bringing special moments to their children. And my guess is that Grandma and Grandpa enjoy it every bit as much.
And THAT is your real market: grandmas and grandpas. When you can wrap and ship it, while personalizing it at the same time, well, you’ve hit a home run.
Since this is such as immense market, you need a way to distinguish your creatures from any others. They really need your personal creative touch.
You might consider buying teddy bears already made. There are suppliers who can sell you any size, any color of teddy bear.
Then make it personal.
Maybe a tee shirt that is personalized will work. Think about colors for different ball teams, or school colors.
Maybe a baseball cap with personalization.
Ballerina plush toys are also a possibility, with a big bow in her hair with a young lady’s name embroidered on it. And don’t overlook gymnasts and girls in sports outfits, and explorers and scientists, and certainly plush toys of every size and every color. We desperately need a broader representation of the feminine in all toys, as well as a wider range of toys for our boys.
Maybe you can include a basket with the plush dinosaur, one that has books for the youngster.
Really big bears are a true possibility, as are tiny bears, and everything in between. Bears with personality are always in demand, so make them grin or giggle, or even frown. Develop your brand, your bear, so that it becomes recognized as “your” bear.
When I got Kingsley, my lion, I looked at several at the shop. Each one was different; each had a different expression or a different mane, or a different shade of golden color. I really got to choose “my” lion, and I have loved him ever since.
There are 4 different approaches you should consider in developing your line:
(1) Pick one style, then create that style on several plush pets
Suppose you wanted to create an Hispanic line of plush toys. Find that one “look”, then re-create it on bears and lions and dinosaurs. It might be the fabric you use, or the hair style, or something your pets hold in their paws.
(2) Choose one plush pet you especially like, then create it in a lot of different styles.
When I was little my mom got me the Mary Jane doll collection, one doll at a time. I loved them. You can do the same with chipmunks or elephants or any other plush toy. Find fabrics or hats or banners or whole costumes to decorate each one a certain way. The whole set becomes a collectible, immediately creating repeat buyers.
I once suggested to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival here in Ashland that they should put a custom bear in their gift shop, in the costume of one of the plays from that season. Well, they did me one better. I walked by the Visitor’s Center this morning and saw a dozen bears, each one in the costume of a different character from this year’s repertoire — they are adorable! They will be auctioned off at a special event. Look around and see what special critters you might create.
(3) Pick one plush toy, then show it through the ages.
Show your dinosaur as a baby, then as a 1 year old, a 2 year old, etc. This too makes a great collectible toy with lots of repeat buyers.
(4) Go for total personalization.
Let each customer pick the plush toy, choose colors for hair and eyes and complexion, maybe even have a selection of wardrobe choices. When you can include handicapped toys and minority images, your market expands exponentially while you are creating toys for a special child.
Whatever you opt to do, there are two critical elements to making this type of business a success:
- Make your plush toy unique, and
- Market to a specialized niche.
Don’t try to market to everyone, or your bears will just get lost in the shopping areas. This is an immense market, and it is easy to lost in the shuffle. The true secret here is identifying your niche market.
It will be tough to compete with mass marketed plush toys at the retail level, so at least in the beginning plan on going online with your plush toys. That is where the ready market sits. And don’t be intimidated by the big numbers online.
When I searched on just “personalized bears”, over 600,000 hits came back. That means that there is a lot of interest in the topic, and it means that you will need to do direct marketing to the niche that you have identified. This market is pretty easy to identify, and reach, so in spite of the competition this is definitely one of the easier businesses to make successful.
And do look beyond your country’s borders. Plush pets ship easily. Just figure in the shipping cost when you price them.
Whether you create the whole creature yourself, or just add the finishing touches, this is a real possibility for a very creative home based internet business.
One last note: Don’t go cheap. Grandma and grandpa have more discretionary money than most moms and pops, and they loooove lavishing it on their grandchildren. Go for quality, not cheap.
If you happen to have an idea in mind, I’d love to hear about it — do jot a note below!