Pandas and iguanas and Bengal tigers, oh my!
The high-quality, well-made and oh-so realistic-looking stuffed animals at This Place is a Zoo stand out amidst a sea of blah.
Here, we talk to Kirk Larsen about his awesome site (you will love how the animals are portrayed) that includes over 1300 different items, which animals are king of the jungle when it comes to popularity and how his zoo has gone global.
THE FAMILY GROOVE: What inspired you to start your business?
Kirk Larsen: For most of my life I worked a regular full time job. I had always had the bug to have my own business and over the years had tried several things but nothing ever panned out. Then in the late 90′s, when the computer revolution was taking over, I thought trying an internet business would be the idea way to start a business. I went to the Seattle gift show to try to get some ideas and ran across a company that made beautiful and high quality stuffed animals. Since I had wanted to be a wild animal catcher when I was a kid, this was the perfect fit. I started very small and gradually built the business up to now having over 1300 different items.
TFG: What makes your stuffed plush animals stand out?
KL: My niche is realistic stuffed animals. I am adding a few whimsical items now but my main focus is on quality items that are realistic looking. I try to carry a full line of animals and I have one of the most complete selections available on one site. There are very few animal species that I do not have.
KL: It is hard to say what category is the most popular because they all have their moments, but the marine section is very popular. This could be due to the fact that I have probably the best marine animal selection available anywhere. Other single animals that have been very popular are the sloth, platypus, kangaroo and wolf.
TFG: I love that you display the stuffed animals in a natural setting. They almost look real! You can tell that you have a passion for what you do. Which ones are your favorites?
KL: I take the pictures of the animals myself, mostly in my own backyard. When I get a lot of new marine animals I will take a trip to the beach and take pictures there. My favorites are some of the whales and dolphins where I have caught some wave action just behind the picture. I also like the penguins in the snow. It does not snow here very often so getting those pictures with a snow setting was very nice. Some of the birds in trees are also my favorites, like the kookaburra.
TFG: What is your proudest moment as a business owner?
KL: I think the first proud moment as a business owner was getting my first online order. Then it was when I first realized that the business was going to survive and actually do well. Another proud moment was when the Hansa rep told me that no matter where he goes people everywhere, including foreign countries, tell him that they saw his products on This Place is a Zoo website. He said I was getting famous. That was rewarding!
TFG: What exciting things are on the horizon?
KL: This year we are going to be upgrading the website to newer format. It will give me more hands on access to updating the site. It will also allow for more features and specials. We are also looking into starting a Facebook page this year which will help us stay in better touch with our customers.
For more from This Place is a Zoo, go to www.thisplaceisazoo.com. Get 10% off with the code TheFamilyGroove.