Bliss Man talks creating cuddly creatures with “Monster Factory”
Who knews monsters could come out of Canada? Bliss Man did, several years ago when her and a group of friends based out of Toronto began making their own line of plush critters that has since brought them to a product line of over 100 unique characters that offer something for everyone – “Monster Factory”.
We first met Monster Factory mogul Bliss Man at New York Toy fair 2013, and saw her again at NY Comic Con later that year. Bliss will not be attending NYTF 2014 due to a prior engagement on that date, but we did get a chance to speak with her about what is new for this year for her company, as well as how things got started and how budding toy developers can get their feet in this industry!
NerdNewsToday: How did “Monster Factory” get started?
Bliss: Believe it or not, the Monster Factory started out as a video production company that Adam started when he was at film school. The logo for his company was a drawing of a monster. At the time, Rhya, who went to the same school, was experimenting with textile art. One day, she made a plush toy that happened to looked like his drawing, so naturally she gave it to him. Adam was inspired by her creation and decided to make some monsters of his own. Luckily for him, he had just started working with me, who was studying fashion design and had access to sewing machines. It turns out he had a special monster making talent. When Rhya and Adam realized they were both making monsters, they decided to join forces. After making a few prototypes, Adam and Rhya realized that they’d need help replicating their designs. They decided to ask me for help pattern making and together we developed a line of 6 monsters we called the Heartbreakers. Five months later, we launched our line of monsters into the world and the rest is history…as they say.
NerdNewsToday: How did you manage to take the company from your living room and into the retail world?
Bliss: When we first started we sold monsters at local art and craft shows in Toronto. It was a lot of fun because we got to see how people responded to the monsters. It was also a lot of work designing and sewing all the time. We couldn’t keep up, so after a year of working in our living room we got ourselves a small studio space and found interns to help us out. A few years later we found a factory in Toronto that could manufacture the toys for us, and that’s when we started to sell to retail stores.
NerdNewsToday: What were the challenges of starting a business in the toy industry?
Bliss: We had trouble finding a local manufacturer for our toys. There were plenty of garment factories, but none of them wanted to make toys. When we finally did find our factory it was great, but expensive to produce still. We needed to find another solution that would allow us to grow the brand and business. That’s when we decided we had to go overseas. Lucky for me, my dad lives in China so I was able to visit him while working with the factory!
NerdNewsToday: When you began, were you hand-making all of the items?
NerdNewsToday: Are you surprised that it has come along so much in the past decade since you started?
Bliss: Yes and no. I’m proud of what we’ve done, but there’s so much more we want to do!
NerdNewsToday: What are the challenges of running a business with friends?
Bliss: Communication is key with any working relationship, but it can be even harder when working with friends. We’ve had to navigate each other’s personalities and adjust, but we’ve managed and in the end we always end up laughing together. I couldn’t have asked for better partners or friends. This experience has definitely made us a closer and stronger team.
NerdNewsToday: Tell us about some of your inspirations, both in the world of art and in the plush business?
Bliss: Each of us have different inspirations, but I love Miyaski films because they are fantastical and whimsical. I am also inspired by the people around me whose idiosyncrasies make me laugh.
NerdNewsToday: What is the story of the world these monsters live in?
Bliss: Monsters are just like you and me, so we imagine them living in a world similar to ours, but not quite. We’ve always wanted them to be relatable which is why people love them so much.
NerdNewsToday: What’s the most popular monster that you sell?
Bliss: Colin is the most popular by a landslide. His characteristics are, “He divides his time between playing video games and fretting about his future”. Sound familiar?
NerdNewsToday: What are some of the new monsters planned for 2014?
Bliss: We have 3 new monsters that we’d like to release next year: Eli from the Wall Flowers series, Donny from the Buddy and Friends Series, and Clarence from the Captain Freedom series.
NerdNewsToday: Are there plans for an expansion beyond the plushies and into other markets?
Bliss: We are currently working on an app and are in the very early developmental stages of an animated television show.
NerdNewsToday: Any advice to budding toy makers out there looking to break into the industry?
Bliss: If you’re more of the creative type, find a business advisor or mentor at the beginning so that you can start planning where you want to be in, say 5 years. At the end of the day you need to make a buck to keep the business going. We tend to forget that little detail when we’re excited and we have this exciting idea, but you need to have a plan and someone who can help keep you on track.
NerdNewsToday: Who is your personal favorite character?
Bliss: Mr. Jefferson. I like that he’s so competitive and it usually gets the best of him.