Budsies entered the Shark Tank on April 10th. The company turns your drawing or photograph into a cuddly stuffed animal. Heavy interviewed Alex Furmansky, founder and CEO, on the company’s beginnings and growth.
1. Alex Started the Company for his Little Sister
Furmansky’s sister, Michelle, is 16 years younger than him. He saw how her drawings were discarded and how much she enjoyed playing with her stuffed animals, which ultimately led him to create the business.
I watched her parading from camp, pre-school, and elementary school with really cool drawings on a regular basis. The best ones would start on the fridge but even her most imaginative ones would meet their inevitable fate in the recycle bin. Meanwhile, I noticed how much she loved to play and cuddle with her stuffed animals.
A magna cum laude graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and the Wharton School of Business, Furmansky started the company in August 2013 out of his South Florida bedroom. Besides his degrees, he had hands-on business experience having been the Director of Business Development at OpenPeak and a financial analyst at Evercore Investment Bank’s M&A advisory group. He also worked at UBS, Lockheed Martin, and consulted for web and iOS startups. Budsies was not the first company he started, he also founded Sparkology, a dating website for young professionals.
As for his appearance on Shark Tank, he submitted an application only a month after launching the company. They taped a year later, in September of 2014. He gave us this glimpse into the process:
We had to dedicate our entire team to the application process. But, these hurdles are really an opportunity to show how much you want it. We rallied hard! I had a lot of fun filming and there were some funny surprises that happened on the set; but you will have to wait and see!
2. They Turn Artwork & Pictures Into Stuffed Animals
The steps to making a Budsie are pretty simple. You take a photo of original artwork or a person, and visit Budsies.com to place an order. Then you upload the photo directly or text message/email it to a special address shown during checkout.
Once Budsies’ designers receive the order, they review your artwork and notes and sketch out the cloth patterns. Next comes the cutting, sewing and stuffing. Each Budsie goes through two rounds of quality inspection before being shipped out. Budsies have been shipped as far as India, Australia and France.
“Watching kids’ eyes light up when they meet their plush pals for the first time is what makes all our hard work worthwhile,” Furmansky said. He also shared his favorite videos of children opening their Budsies, which have been included in this article.
3. They Have Sold Over 8,000 Budsies in Nearly 2 Years
The company has has gotten orders from professional illustrators, corporate brands, video game producers and authors. They also work with schools, and host drawing contests where they provide drawing templates and award the winner with a free Budsie.
When asked what some of the more interesting creations have been, Furmansky said:
Kids make really incredible drawings of their parents – it’s truly incredible seeing how a child views their own mom and dad. For example, the company made a Budsie for a young girl going through cancer treatments – the first drawing she ever made was of her mom as a superhero- cape and all!
4. There Are Also Petsies & Selfies
The original Budsie is made from your artwork. A Budsie selfie is created from pictures of actual people and turned into plush figurines. Some examples could be husbands/wives, boyfriends/girlfriends, bosses, kids in costumes or wedding parties. Petsies are designed from pictures of your pets.
From the Instagram picture above, you can take a look at the Budsie Selfies Furmansky created for each of the Sharks.
When asked about the company’s future plans, he said, “Budsies is also looking forward to releasing a mobile app API to allow any drawing or scrapbooking app to let their users export artwork directly into Budsies.com by early summer 2015.”
5. They’re Charitable
The company makes sure to give back to children’s organizations, both local and nationwide.
They worked with LSS Foster home in Troy, Michigan. You can see the video of the children playing with their news toys here.
Sixty underprivileged children at the Florence Fuller Child Development Centers in Boca Raton, Florida also created Budsies.
Also on this episode: