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TG Bears is born – handmade teddy bears Made in the USA

TG Bears is born – handmade teddy bears Made in the USAThe first step towards the start of TG Bears http://www.tgbears.com happened with the registration of the domain in February 2011. The first bear was made and sold in March 2011.

Through TG Bears, I offer handmade teddy bears. They come in different color variations and styles. All the bears can be personalized at the request of their adopter. However, customized bears are the ones that I really enjoy making. From a photograph to celebrate a special event in your life to a bear that stands tall for a specific charity or awareness project, they are all made with love and completed with attention to detail.

TG Bears started out of the need to supplement the family income when the bread winner suddenly got ill and was unable to maintain our income. Despite two different completed college qualifications, I was not able to secure employment in the formal sector. So, the only option left was to create my own job. I was already running a small business, Tall Guys Ties – offering neck ties for big and tall men. However, I needed something that would appeal to a wider section of the population and quickly.

Enter the teddy bears. My long-term love for teddy bears was the spark here as well as a love for sewing. It did not take long until I realized that I had hit on the right idea.

The business was financed by stealing a little of the grocery money to purchase the domain, the webhosting, the first yard of fur fabric and a few pairs of eyes and joints. All materials could only be purchased once a previous bear had been sold. There were a few lucky breaks in being able to obtain materials at discounted prices, but essentially there was not even a complete shoestring to start the business on.

TG Bears is born – handmade teddy bears Made in the USA

Jenny

I run every part of the business myself. I maintain the website, I do the marketing and keep the books and I sew each bear from scratch. I make use of Social Media and have enjoyed doing so, despite it being extremely time consuming. Believing that social media is an easy method of marketing, is definitely a fable. You can connect with TG Bears at:

http://www.facebook.com/tgbears

http://www.twitter.com/tgbears

http://pinterest.com/tgbears/

http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/tgbears

http://www.youtube.com/user/TGBears/videos

I use free online tools to generate press releases for new things that TG Bears is doing. I also use NOPCommerce as my shopping cart which is open source software. This allows me to adapt the code of the shopping cart to meet my specific needs.

With regards marketing, I use Social Media and online promotions and giveaways. Since the funds were limited for any sort of more formal advertising, I believed that getting a bear out into the community would be an advert in itself. This has definitely paid dividend in exposure and further sales. I also believe in supporting other members of the handmade community. The reciprocation I get from doing that has proved to be an amazing marketing experience, sales have been directly related to these relationships.

TG Bears is born – handmade teddy bears Made in the USA

Uncle Edward

The one bit of advice that one never gets, is that being a small business owner is the hardest work. There is no time clock to punch, which means you never had a home time. When working from home, you live and breathe your business. But without that work and persistence through the hard times, no business can be a success. The extreme tightness of funds was a factor that nearly forced me to stop a number of times, but somehow, from somewhere, we made it work.

TG Bears is proud to have been accepted as a member of The Artisan Group. This is a great honor since the group is juried and only artisans with handcrafted items that meet a certain standard are accepted. Through this membership, I have been able to gift celebrities like Jessica Alba, Hilary Duff and Cari Cucksey and got to participate in the 2012 GBK Productions Oscars luxury gift lounge.

Since this business sprung from a very dark spot in my life I am very mindful to pay the kindnesses that my husband and I received during his illness forward. This is the reason that I will try to help most charities that approach me that support a cause that I can stand behind. Giving back to the community is about one of the most fulfilling parts of being self-employed and being able to make decisions oneself. I designed and created mascot bears for Angels4Epilepsy, Henry’s Hope and to raise awareness for Intracranial Hypertension. I am also part of a program to support military families. All these bears can be seen in the Charity category at TG Bears.

Looking down the line of TG Bears life, I would like to continue to grow the business and eventually be able to provide work to some other people who are in a similar situation to what I was before I started the business. What my decision would be in the event of the offer of a buy-out would entirely depend on my situation in life at the time. However, from where I stand now, that is not something I would entertain since it would change the face of TG Bears forever. My stress is on each teddy being made by the same person from scratch. That would no longer be the case if it would be swallowed into another company.

When looking back at TG Bears first year of business, I have to say that it has been a rough road. But the advantage of starting on such a very limited budget is that it does not take much to reach break even point and be out of the red. However, some additional funds would certainly help to spread the word further and allow me to spend more time doing what I do best – sew teddy bears.

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