Launching a business for pillow pets


“If you like what you do, then life is a whole lot easier for you and for those around you.” According to Jennifer and Clint Telfer, this is the key to success as an entrepreneur. Beginning with an idea and using $50,000 from credit cards, the Telfers launched the company CJ Products with the featured line of Pillow Pets. The idea began as Jennifer watched her son patting down his stuffed animal to use it as a pillow. Since that humble beginning, the company has grown tremendously; that growth includes a successful website and licensing agreements with Major League Baseball, the National College Athletic Association, and Disney. Jennifer cites two mistakes they made early on as entrepreneurs: (1) they tried to grow the business too quickly; and (2) they used a less than quality manufacturer. These two errors were costly, and it took the Telfers a year and a half to recover their losses. Since those early setbacks, the Telfers and Pillow Pets have never looked back. Today, the company sells over 15 million units a year. Part of the Telfers’ success stems from their many years as salespeople in retail markets. Success as an entrepreneur requires a passion for what you do, action orientation, self-discipline, and high energy levels. Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, with more than 2 million currently operating and over 750,000 new businesses starting up each year. Small businesses are responsible for over 75 percent of all jobs in the United States. In fact, small businesses generate over 50 percent of the U.S. GDP annually. And over 80 percent of all Americans began their first job with a small business. Many of today’s large businesses, such as Avon, Ford, DuPont, Walmart, and, all started as small entrepreneurial ventures. Do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? While self-discipline and high energy are essential, you must have a passion for what you want to do.

1. How does the notion of taking an existing idea and making it better relate to the successful launch of Pillow Pets?

2. What personal characteristics helped Jennifer and Clint Telfer succeed as entrepreneurs and build C.J. Products into the multimilliondollar business it is today?

3. How did the Telfers finance their start-up? Why is it difficult for budding entrepreneurs to secure bank financing or venture capital?

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