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Growing Pains Of A Small Toy Company

Posted by MissBonnified on December 3rd, 2012
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love and dumplings.jpgHappy *belated* Thanksgiving!! Did you guys remember to wear your buffet pants? I wore mine with pride as I stuffed my face with stuffing. The irony is not lost on me. Before I get into the point of this post, how many of you guys actually physically braved Black Friday? I sure as hell hope none of you guys got trampled. I was watching footage on the news about the people who got into a fist fight over Victoria’s Secret unmentionables. C’mon. Seriously? * shakes head *

This is why I shop online. An added bonus would be not having to battle grandmas for parking and I get to shop all over the world from the comfort of my couch, pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

Anyways, moving on.

I’ve been MIA because I recently started a small toy company with some friends.

We’re Love & Dumplings. :D

We design all our stuffed toys ourselves and make them all by hand with the help of a sewing machine. I never, in a million years, thought I’d be involved in a toy company but the toys my friend had designed were just too cute NOT to share with the world. And that’s why I jumped in.

If I have any advice to give to future potential toy designers who dream of sharing their toys with the world, I’d tell them to plan very very well. Here’s what we did.

RESEARCH

This is the equivalent to the “location, location, location” mantra of real estate moguls and brick-and-mortar stores. You need to see if there are any other toys out there that :

-look like yours.
-look like yours and are copyright protected / trademarked / etc
-function like yours
-have patents on their designs
-have patents on their designs that are similar to your designs.
-These are good things to know because you do NOT want to get something in the mail asking you to cease and desist with your production because you’re copying their designs. That would be a nightmare.

When I was researching how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign, I found a perfect example of this. I won’t out the designer by linking them but what I essentially found was that a project was successfully funded for a sea creature plush toy. When I started researching this toy, I learned that there was another toy designer who had the SAME sea creature plush (same color, accessories) for sale. Designer #2 had her work protected by copyright on her page PRIOR to Designer #1 launching their Kickstarter campaign.

Awkward.

Granted, I didn’t go crazy researching the copyright but I do know that the names of the designers are not the same which means they’re not the same person.

love and dumplings2.jpgPROTECT YOUR DESIGN

That brings me to issue number 2. Protect your stuff!!! You spent time and effort bringing these guys to life. Don’t let someone come in and take it!

There are a bunch of ways you can protect your work. You can copyright them, trademark them and/or patent them.

The cheapest route is to copyright them. It will cost you $35 per submission. This link takes you to the government site to copyright stuff.

Trademarking your design is exponentially more expensive. It cost us over $300 to trademark our logo. Trademarks are good only for that particular category. The waters of this particular sea is a bit murky. Your best bet would be to get an attorney to help you navigate this area.

The same is true for patents, the holy grail of design protection. I know next to nothing about patents except that they’re super expensive, it’s very time consuming and the Sharks of the Shark Tank love them. It’s like their favorite treat, next to a really good deal on a business idea. Definitely enlist the help of a patent attorney. They know much more about this stuff than you (unless you happen to be a patent lawyer) and they know what they’re doing. You and I do not. Pay them for their brains. If you’re sitting on something that revolutionary, cough up the dough.

To Incorporate Or Not To Incorporate

I chose to take us down the incorporation route. I recommend looking into this because you don’t want to be personally liable for something someone did with your toy that was not recommended. Hey, you never know.

Another reason I chose to incorporate? I have a definite vision on how I want to grow and in what direction I’d like to see us go. I’m one of those people who like to have a solid foundation before I embark on a journey.

Don’t let the thought of incorporating dissuade you from your dreams. It’s not as complicated as might think. I’m a Registered Nurse by day. I’m not rubbing shoulders with Wall Street guys (unless they happen to be a patient….har har har) or swapping war stories about acquisitions and mergers but if I can figure it out, you can too!

All you need are :
-A good attorney to help you file all your papers and to advise you.
-A good CPA.
-A filing cabinet.
-A business bank account.
-Enough cojones to get you to take that first step and belief in yourself.
-That’s basically it. If your venture doesn’t work out, you can always get your attorney to help you dissolve the entity you formed and take care of any loose ends you might have.

love and dumplings1.jpgSeed Money

You will need to have some funds to start your new adventure. These funds will have to cover the cost of your attorney’s time, your CPA’s time and any filing fees you will be responsible for. Basically, have a couple thousand ready.

After you have that, you have options. You can harass ask your family and friends to help you fund your dreams….OR you can take it to the almighty Interwebs and leap into crowdfunding.

That’s what we did.

This is our Kickstarter link

Crowdfunding is a great way to not only raise money but it’s also a GREAT way to gauge reception for your product. Take a look around Kickstarter and you’ll see that it’s been the launching point for many very successful projects that have raised MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in funding from people eager to get behind a good product. This could be you!

There are other crowdfunding sites, like Indiegogo.com. I went with Kickstarter because I liked the name. :D

Kickstarter has guidelines you’ll have to meet and you can read all about them on Kickstarter’s start page.

If this is the route you want to go on, you’ll need an Amazon payments account. You don’t have to be a corporation to have this kind of account but know that you will be issued documents from Amazon for tax purposes.

From The Ground Up

You’ll also need a strong web presence. I’m talking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, PINTEREST, Tumblr (sure, why not?), a well thought out site, blog….the whole she-bang! This is so that you can start building up an audience and a following. You want to engage the people who like your stuff.

Your first attempts at marketing will be your family and friends. Ask them if they know of any pertinent bloggers / writers / influencers they might know who they can put you in touch with and then you can work with them to see if they’re open to spreading the word about your stuff.

Your next wave should be targeting bloggers, social media influencers and niche bloggers about your design. For example, our campaign was picked by none other than The Nerdist!

In our case, I’m lucky enough to be on YouBentMyWookie. ^_^

Final Words

It’s going to be tough. I won’t lie. It’s not easy starting a company. It’s not easy to pour so much of yourself into something and not have it work out the way you had imagined.

Every endeavor has to go through some growing pains. I know we’re going through ours but that’s okay. We’re only a few months old and I think we’re miles further than what I had initially anticipated.

Having said that, have an exit strategy in place. Not every business makes it despite our very best efforts. And that’s okay! Don’t be discouraged if you’re not chugging along at the pace you want. Keep your eyes on the prize but know when it’s time to let the curtains fall.

Good luck!! Wish us luck too!

Bonnie N. Clyde is a writer for YouBentMyWookie.com and the alias of the Supreme Commander / Ultimate Destroyer. When she isn’t Shark Tanking, she writes in her blog over at MissBonnified.com


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