BE MY BEAR (Rhos on Sea)

Origins

The company was registered in the UK in 2001 after discovering a unique niche market with its make a bear kits. The concept had taken off in the US but had yet to reach the UK market. Hamleys actually opened the very first bear-making shop in the UK just months after Be My Bear started trading in North Wales. An award in 2003 opened up exciting windows of opportunity, but it took more than 18 months of ups and downs, changes and challenges to reach this point. With no experience or knowledge of the toy industry, Pippa, a journalist and Jane, a teacher, spent 12 months sourcing the component parts and researching the market before they felt confident enough to launch their business. Although the company was registered in 2001 the best part of the year was spent sourcing the products.

Success Factor

The directors have always been quick to spot changing retail trends and moved into e-commerce at a time when the public were still wary of shopping online which meant that they were best placed to take advantage of the market when confidence grew and there was a change in attitude. A major factor in the growth of the business was the switch of focus from the gift market to the party market resulting in volume sales rather than single gift purchases. This brought new markets and raised the profile resulting in an approach by the American Bear Factory who wanted the firm to distribute their products in the UK and Europe. Product development has also been key with emphasis on innovative materials and fabrics. The quality of products is monitored with an independent quality control company at manufacturing and pre-shipment stages in addition to the in-house production line checks. Pippa and Jane have visited a number of factories in China to ensure both quality of products and also the working conditions and employment policies of the suppliers they were dealing with. Quality and service to customers are high on the firm’s agenda and the founders are always at the end of a phone or an e-mail if customers need help, advice or suggestions and can talk through products and advise on the best value purchases.

The Future

The company have developed a new product - Make A Bear Anywhere - which can be made anywhere - on a train, in a plane, car on holiday etc – and which will be ready to market in the New Year. It is also manufacturing teddy bear stuffing machines with potential with the aim of targeting the holiday park sector as caravan park. Finally, the firm is currently in the process of designing a new website and plans to increase direct sales by optimising the new site, developing a new blog page, boosting its Facebook and Twitter pages and generally raising its internet profile.