Hingham students design accessories for stuffed animals
One of the keys to small business success is having a passion for the business - no matter what it is. Right now, Karlee Koswick and Grace McMeekin are passionate about Webkinz, so the enterprising 9-year-olds have set out to design, construct, market and sell clothing accessories for their favorite stuffed animals.
Karlee and Grace, both of Cohasset, are entering the fourth grade at Derby Academy. Over the winter, the pair was “fooling around” with leftover fabric on Grace’s ping-pong table when the idea hit them.
“We wished we could get clothes for Webkinz,” says Grace. Their big idea was put on hiatus as they wrapped up another year of school, but it was not forgotten. When the summer rolled around they decided to focus on an endeavor to bring their stylish creations of ponchos and sweaters for Webkinz and other stuffed animals to more kids.
Webkinz is the latest toy craze to define an era in toys. Cabbage Patch dolls were the must have toy for Christmas in 1983. In 1996, Tickle Me Elmo sold out in stores almost instantly. Then Beanie Babies were all the rage in the mid-nineties, for kids and collectors alike.
Although Webkinz has not sparked frenzy yet, right now it is enjoying immense popularity among kids. The cuddly stuffed animals come in two different sizes and each is equipped with a secret code, unique to the toy. The owner can then go online to www.webkinz.com and interact with their Webkinz online. The toy is a sign of a more computer literate generation.
With the encouragement of their parents the girls have started their very own business — Klothes-Kins. In what is a fun activity for the girls to do with their summer, the parents see it as an opportunity to learn about running a business, “it’s a learning curve,” says Grace’s mother, Mary McMeekin.
The girls have seen their product through several stages and have hashed out details over business meetings and power lunches. First, they designed and bought fabric and yarn for the clothes. They utilized their third-grade math skills to figure out how much fabric they needed for the product. Next, they hired a professional seamstress to build the product for them. Lastly, they discussed the financial end of the business — how they would split up the profit and re-invest in the business.
One of the more important decisions was deciding to donate a portion of their profit to Children’s Hospital in Boston. Stuffed animals are often used to comfort children when they are sick or sad, so they figured with their business, the donation would be appropriate. Fifty cents from every Klothes-Kins sold will go to Children’s Hospital.
The final products are finished looking accessories any stuffed animal, Webkinz or not, would be proud to wear. The ponchos are reversible, adorned with pom-poms and ruffles, while the sweaters sport pins and patches. Karlee designed a sweater with a large ‘U’ on the front to go specifically with the beagle Webkinz as a tribute to the new movie (and old cartoon) “Underdog.”
The girls each have about a dozen Webkinz to model their fashions. Both name the koala as one of their favorites. Although for Grace her panda Webkinz runs a close second.
Each decision the girls made for the business was well vetted between the two of them, a sign of good friendship and a great business relationship.
“They really worked together as a team, with each decision they worked out their differences,” attests Beverly Koswick, Karlee’s mother.