Starting a Toy Company

Interview with Christy Cook, Founder of Teach My

Moms often get the best ideas! Christy Cook was frustrated with the lack of quality toys for her toddler. Today, you can find her products in all the biggest retailers.

Christy Cook founded Teach My 2007 in her home in Toronto.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

Teach My sells award winning learning kits for babies & toddlers via Toysrus, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, independent retailers and our own on-line store.

How did you come up with your business idea?

I was trying to home educate my 18 month old son and I discovered a gap in the market.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

My background is PR & Marketing, then a mom. This is my first business.

Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?

I wrote a loose plan. I'll confess, I didn't really follow it. In my experience, I have found business is like life, it doesn't always go as planned!

Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers ...? Would you suggest others do the same?

I would recommend a good bookkeeper and accountant. I haven't used a lawyer and I think, for the most part, you can get away without paying their high fees. I did all my own trademarking and copyrights. Just get good at reading the fine print!

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

I still operate out of my home. I don't want to pay big overheads. I want to stay lean & mean! It is a challenge because I see a messy house most of the time but I have become great at prioritizing!

Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?

I hired a full-time product designer. The rest is out-sourced. The biggest challenge with staff is motivating them. As an entrepreneur, I am naturally motivated because it is my idea but it is tough to push the passion to those who don't have the same vested interest.

Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?

My husband has just joined me in the business. We are learning how to manage our personal & business relationship and working hard to ensure they don't overlap.

With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?

Work with blogs and social media. Do product giveaways instead of putting out more money for advertising!

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

I outsource bookkeeping and accounting. It works well because it is still a minimum number of hours a week.

Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?

Word of mouth is still the best way to find employees.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

Tradeshows! They can be gold, if you market your business correctly.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

It has taken much longer to get in with the big players than I expected. It comes down to a lot of hard work, a bit of luck and making contacts.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I wish I had have read the fine print on the credit card contracts. I have found out the hard way that merchants are not protected from fraud. Read your credit card agreements carefully!

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Take a refresher course in accounting! I've realized everything comes down to the numbers!

Isn't that the truth, Christy! Thanks for the helpful advice!

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