Alex Furmansky's little sister, Michelle, would come home from school with creative artwork. The family would display it on the fridge for a few days, but soon the drawings wound up in the attic. Meanwhile, Michelle would be entertained by her collection of stuffed animals.
"I dreamed of a way of combining her original art with her love for plush toys," said Furmansky. So after toying with the idea for several months, he founded the start-up, Budsies.
Watch Alex Furmansky show off his custom toys in just 60 seconds to a Power Pitch panel with former toy retail executive, Rachel Jarrett, President of K'Nex Brands, Michael Araten, and co-founder and COO of Expansion VC, Ryan Melohn. Will the panelists be buddy-buddy with Budsies or call it child's play?
Paper to Plush
Furmansky is no toymaker. But he said he's partnered with some top designers to create an online destination for designing custom plush toys. And he's made it pretty easy. Customers just snap a picture of the artwork and email firstname.lastname@example.org. Next, a team of designers, cutters, and seamstresses coordinate to complete the final Budsies plush toy.
And Budsies can pretty much create anything a child can draw—puppies, chickens, robots, even monsters, rainbow colored hearts and there was once, a s'more.
"It is quite literally their [child's] own imagination brought into huggable physical form," said Furmansky.
Budsies' target demographic is children ages 3-10, but it also caters to older customers. The company has crafted video game characters, selfies, and adult artwork.
Playing for keeps
The Toy Industry Association reported that in 2013, the U.S. toy industry alone was worth $22 billion, $1.39 billion of which was in the plush, stuffed animal category. According to the firm, the global market is worth just over $80 billion.
Budsies retail from $69 to $99. Although the drawing interpretation and toy design takes place in the U.S., Budsies are produced in China (cutting, stitching and sewing).
"This allows us to keep prices low enough for the mass affluent consumer to afford. We want to make this magical process available to as many families as possible," the founder told CNBC.
During the Power Pitch segment, panelist and former director of merchandising of Toys "R" Us, Rachel Jarret, said that most parents are price conscious in today's economy. "The sweet spot for kids' toys and games is usually in the 15 to $25 price. How do you expect to stay competitive and scale?" she asked.
"This is not your basic toy that you walk into Toys "R" Us and spend $15 on. This is a fully custom, handmade artifact. This is a true keepsake," the founder responded.
Furmansky also said the price may come down to $59 in the future.
Furmansky told CNBC the start-up has sold more than 1,800 Budsies since launching in March 2013. The founder would not disclose specifics regarding revenue, but did say he expects additional revenue will be generated from add-ons, like the option to include monograms.
And Budsies recently partnered with scrapbooking company PlumPrint, which turns kids' artwork into custom albums. Customers can now repurpose their PlumPrint album artwork and turn it into a Budsies piece. Partnerships with scrapbooking app, Keepy and drawing app, Drawing Desk, have also been made.
So far, the company has raised $75K in total funds. But it has not raised any venture capital, and is 100 percent bootstrapped.
See Alex Furmansky Power Pitch his start-up Budsies to a panel with Rachel Jarrett, former toy retail executive, Michael Araten, President of K'Nex Brands, and Ryan Melohn, co-founder and CO for Expansion VC.
--By CNBC's Joanna Weinstein