Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Start-Up Story - Zylie the Bear

Last week, I met the creator of a new toy and a new business -- Zylie the Bear. Wow. I've been working with entrepreneurs since 1994, and very few of them really impress me with their ideas or their abilities to transform their ideas into a business.

I met Mary Beth Minton at a Wharton Alumni networking breakfast, but it was clear that a few others in the group had already met her over a year ago. At that time, she was just talking about her idea for a toy and a book to go with it. When Mary Beth took her toys and books out of her bag, everyone's eyes popped open. The excitement around the table shot up.

Within one year, Mary Beth had actually produced the toy -- Zylie the bear -- and a book -- The Adventures of Zylie the Bear - New York -- and another toy - Shen (Zylie's friend in China, who is a really cute Panda) complete with book about adventures in China. The bears are top quality, as are their clothes and accessories. The stories are adorable and educational. Truly, what's not to love? These toys and books are of physical and conceptual quality equal to American Girl Dolls, but without the girlie trappings. Both boys and girls can love these darling plush toy bears. It made me wish I had little kids again.

Even better, Mary Beth has turned her company into a family enterprise, tapping her son's expertise in social media, interactive websites and marketing. Take a look at the website: www.zyliethebear.com and the Facebook page, which gives discounts to "friends": facebook.com/zyliethebear.

What I really love is how Mary Beth took her idea, created her plan and then executed it. She figured out how to design, write, manufacture and sell. Now, she is marketing and creating and managing. I hope I'm right about this business and will watch it grow, live long and prosper.
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