Friday, September 4, 2009

Angela Larson >

Angela Larson, Founder, Fierce Fun Toys.

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
A business idea, a passion for seeing that idea come to life, flexibility to recognize when changes need to be made, AND thick skin to sort out all the “advice” that you will be given.

What did inspire you to start your business?
I had an idea that I thought could help make the world a tiny bit better for my boys. Then realizing that maybe other families could embrace the message as well.

How did you finance it?
After watching my 401K shrink significantly, I cashed it out. I decided I would have more fun developing and giving away my toy/story than losing the money to invisible market forces as well as a greater chance of return.

Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
I grew up Hispanic in a very non-Hispanic neighborhood. My friends spoke one language and I was regularly hearing two languages. We had different rules and social structure in my household. Most of all we had different food. I think from those influences I’ve learned that different doesn’t mean better or worse, just different. This insight has helped me craft a message for my company that appeals to a wide group of diverse individuals. It has helped me as a business partner to think twice on why people may respond in a particular manner. And maybe the taste for diverse food has lead to much better business meetings!

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
Evaluate the concern at hand; is it a valid hurdle, is it surmountable, or is it something that needs serious consideration for the business model. Then deal with it. No matter what the issue, if left alone it is unlikely to be addressed. And when dealing with issues I just try to remember, “this too shall pass.”

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Prioritizing. When first starting out, there is so much that needs to be done, but only limited time and funds. So prioritizing what is necessary now vs. what can wait till later becomes key. However finding any time and money has also provided challenges.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
I’m looking forward to having systems in place rather than building them. I love what we are about and what we are doing, but being a bit more mature in the process is something to which I’m looking forward.

What was your childhood ambition?
I was a day dreamer and book reader. I was not classically ambitions and did not have heroes. But my passions stir deep, and when I become passionate about something, it is the path I must follow. I guess all the books instilled the belief that anyone can cause change.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire?
Kenneth Cole, he started from the back of a truck in mid-town NYC because he couldn’t afford to rent retail store space.

Martin Luther King Jr., ok, maybe not an entrepreneur, but he did repackage the message of ‘think beyond yourself and create good for the greater society’ in a non-religious metaphor so more people would understand.

Ruben Blades, the man is an amazing talent, passionate soul, and continues to build his life the way he chooses.

For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
I totally prefer breakfast. The meeting starts and ends on time due to the demands of the rest of the day, and I generally like the food. If it is a business/friendly meeting then dinner is nice, but because I have a family, don’t be surprised if I offer a cooked meal at my house.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
I held off having children for a long time. I’m older and more mature so maybe this wait was maybe a good choice overall. I also worked very long hours in the beginning, which if my husband hadn’t been so patient, we would not still be married. Now I still struggle to find a balance, I still work well over 40 hours a week, but I don’t do it all from an office.

What is your favorite quote?
“What would you do if you were sure not to fail?” It is a good question.

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
Sometimes. I think it instinctual to go the path that works best for oneself. However, others will try to focus you back on what is conventionally accepted. Thick skin definitely helps.

Biggest mistake made?
Not listening to my inner voice. Not following my passion. But I’m changing that now.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
Yes, because while I look for solutions I don’t only review what is available but consider every idea I can conceive.

About the Company
Fierce Fun Toys, LLC started one fateful morning when its president, a mother of two boys, was struck with a thought during her morning shower, “This can’t be all there is. I’m starting my own company!” A month later she went from working on Wall Street to working with a farting elephant, Norman PhartEphant.

Norman PhartEphant evolved from a funny idea, to an irresistible plush toy to an engaging picture book series about adoption, transition, cultural differences and overcoming odds. This toy and book series is the starting point for Fierce Fun Toys and mirrors the many events that have occurred in the founder’s life.

Fierce Fun Toys marries fun with charity by donating a portion of proceeds to children’s charities - The Smile Train and Half the Sky. We believe life should be fun, that we are all in it together, and everyone can make a difference.

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