The idea for the teddy bear she’s been selling for several years now came to Kissy Booboo president Maggy-Nadyne Lamarche from her 18-month-old daughter’s health issues. While her daughter was recovering from a major operation, this engineer-turned-entrepreneur began seeking non-medicinal ways to relieve inflammation.
After several months of work in collaboration with various specialists and naturopaths, the very first Kissy Booboo teddy bear, inspired by heating pads sold in Europe, was tried out… and proved very successful! The bear had the expected effect on the child, which allowed doctors to reduce the dosage of her medication.
“Requests from moms flooded in. During the first six years, I used the teddy bear as a way to raise funds for my daughter’s treatment,” said Ms. Lamarche.
For her, this adventure became a career choice in 2006. After striking a deal to sell the teddy bear in Quebec pharmacies, the Kissy Booboo company experienced tremendous growth, expanding from 30 to 1,500 points of sale in less than five years.
Unfortunately, things did not go as smoothly in the next five years. Since her daughter started having health problems again, Ms. Lamarche chose to slow down and focus on her family. “The truth is that before 2014, I held back my company’s growth to devote myself to my family, but my daughter has been fine since then. So I can now focus on Kissy Booboo and seek maximum growth,” she added.
Through exporting, the entrepreneur expects to triple her sales over the next five years. She started the process by taking part in a trade mission to France in March 2015. The teddy bear, which was already known there, quickly attracted interest from local partners. “Two distributors were interested. In fact, we’re on track to enter into an agreement with one of them,” explained Ms. Lamarche.
Upon returning from the trade mission, she started an accreditation process for the company and the product so that the teddy bear would be officially recognized as a medical device. The certification was finally obtained in April 2016 and according to Ms. Lamarche: “Doing business with French officials is time-consuming! This is the first time in my career as an entrepreneur that I’ve had to adapt to a slower pace.”
Though she remains convinced that the company has its place on the European market, Ms. Lamarche admits that not all negotiations have been successful. “As it turned out, one of the distributors who approached us in France was having financial difficulties, so we had to cut negotiations short, which was certainly a setback for us. The company’s proposal had seemed very attractive and would have allowed us to branch out into all of Europe.”
Far from being discouraged by this episode, Ms. Lamarche explained that France is just Kissy Booboo’s gateway into Europe: “We will be focusing on this for the first few months, as a learning experience, too. The company has no experience yet in this field, so we’ll need to do our homework.”
Kissy Booboo has already adapted its teddy bear to better suit the preferences of Europeans, who prize paler colours rather than the sharp contrasts of the original model. The manufacturing process was also changed due to the value placed on safety standards and the product’s place of origin. “The fact that the bear is made in Québec is a plus on the French market,” explained Ms. Lamarche.
The company expects a first order of about 25,000 units, which represents a full year of production to be carried out in just two weeks. And that’s not counting the usual level of production for the Canadian market.