How to Launch Plushie Merch
Hello! Welcome to How to Launch Plushie Merch, authored by your favorite shark! In this article, you'll learn how to go from an emote to an adorable shark plushie owned by over 900+ people.
First, it all starts with a design. If you don't have a completed plushie drawing, have an artist draw a full body plushie drawing. Usually manufacturers require at least the front + side views, but the backside may also be helpful to provide further clarity.
Next, it's time to find a manufacturing partner to make a plushie sample! It may take a few tries to get a plushie looking perfect, so don't be worried if it doesn't work out on the first sample. Try to provide clear and concise feedback on what needs to be changed. Pointing out areas with MS Paint and drawing roughly what they should look like can be very helpful.
If things aren't turning out as you wished, it's always a good idea to shop around and order samples from a few different plushie suppliers. I personally scout suppliers on Alibaba by reading their reviews and viewing their plush showroom. If you feel like they make cute plushies, give them a shot and ask for a sample!
Once you are satisfied with your sample, it will be shipped to you. This is your last chance to check for quality and make any last-minute changes. This is also a great chance to show your plushie to your community and on social media to see if people are interested in purchasing! Before you order, you should also be looking for a fulfillment center to ship your plushies to your customers, as well as, freight forwarding to ship your plushies from the manufacturing company to the United States or the country most of your potential customers are in. You may also ship the plushies yourself from your home if you don't want to pay fulfillment center fees.
Usually, plushies manufactured in China are shipped across the ocean to Los Angeles, so you may want to search for a fulfillment center based in Los Angeles. Make sure to ask for all the potential fees a fulfillment center may charge, especially inventory and account maintenance fees, as they can rack up over time, especially for smaller Creators. Fourthwall is a great option for smaller Creators with limited time merch drops, as they don't charge monthly fees outside of inventory storage.
If everything checks out, it's time to order bulk and manufacture some plushies! You can either pay upfront and hold excess plushies as inventory OR collect pre-orders to both help fund the initial purchase and ensure all plushies manufactured have a home to go to!
Remember to have them individually polybagged and barcoded (required for fulfillment centers). Production + overseas shipping can take around 2-3 months before they arrive at your fulfillment center.
While you're waiting for your plushies to arrive, now is a great time to get working on your website! Personally, my favorite options for a small-midsized Creator are Fourthwall and Shopify. Shopify is one of the biggest ecommerce platforms out there, but it does run at around $300 per year. With no monthly subscription fees, Fourthwall is a one-stop shop for all things Creator merchandise. Fourthwall also offers printed-on-demand products, so if you want to sell hoodies, shirts, mugs, and more to your fans without paying upfront for inventory, this would be your best option. Additionally, like I mentioned previously, Fourthwall can also fulfill your orders for you.
Both of these options make it really simple to add products and customize your website's design. As always, feel free to do your own research on any other possible options to see what works best for you.
Finally! Your plushies have arrived! If you ordered from Alibaba, the plushies will usually pass through customs with no paperwork from you. Then it's off to the fulfillment center. Once there, the boxes will be scanned in and put into inventory.
Once that's all done, you're ready to sell! Depending on your website solution and your fulfillment center, you may have to link the two to automatically forward orders over to your fulfillment center. Pretty much all fulfillment centers are compatible with Shopify. Fourthwall is only compatible if you fulfill it as well. Otherwise, you'll have to upload a spreadsheet of the orders periodically to your fulfillment center.
Some good practices for selling and marketing your plushies (and any merch) are to post your drop on social media and have your website visible in your video or stream's description. Additionally, have a CTA at the end of your video or stream, telling viewers to go check out and purchase your plushie!
If you want to go above and beyond, I've sent plushies to my streaming friends for them to show off on stream as well. I've also partnered with any large event in my space, from TFT tournaments to dating shows to an upcoming LAN. There are a lot of creative possibilities here if people really like your plush!
Finally, if you want all this done for you and even more creative marketing ideas that I'm always brainstorming, you can have this shark as your very own merch manager! Just join my Discord and DM me to get started on your merch today!