Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on October 2nd, 2012

Margarete Steiff: Who overcame polio and bias to start and build a major company.

Born in what is now Germany in 1847, as a child Margareta contracted everyone’s nightmare, polio in which there was little anyone could do for her and she bore the pain, but she survived. For the rest of her life, she would be in a wheelchair, without use of her legs.

But Margarete also faced another difficult problem. In the 19th century, if parents could afford to educate their children, they often educated their sons, for daughters usually became wives and mothers and they labored on the farms or did repetitive work in factories.

Given her bright mind, Margarete was determined to be self-sufficient and pressed her parents to pay for her education. At first they refused but eventually she convinced them.

After receiving a basic education Margarete became a seamstress, but she was determined to use that knowledge of tailoring to found and build a business. Once again her parents were skeptical that a disabled person, and a woman, could accomplish such a thing.

Margarete began creating and stitching cute and cuddly animals at first as pincushions and then as toys, with some success and in 1880, at the age of 33, she formed a company, Steiff, to create those adorable animals on a grand scale.

She focused on employing as many disabled people as she could, to give them the opportunities she too had longed for. And she and her team would only build top quality cuddly animals, priced at a premium.

As a result, parents who could afford quality bought Margarete’s products and collectors bought them as well, as the Steiff reputation for quality spread far and wide. As production and profits grew, she had a successful company.

But Margarete’s big breakthrough came in 1902 when she heard U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, an avid hunter, rescued a baby bear cub, that otherwise would have been shot or left to die in the wilderness.

In President Roosevelt’s honor, Margarete created the “Teddy Bear,” a cute little bear whose sales skyrocketed all over the U.S. and eventually across the world. Today, her Teddy Bears continue to be very popular and are easily recognizable by the trademarked button in their left ear.

As for Margarete, she stayed active in Steiff until her passing in 1909. But even now, the company still uses her motto as their guide: “Only the best is good enough for children,” as Steiff produces stuffed toys we can all treasure.

Success Tip of the Week: If you believe bad breaks are holding you back, think of Margarete, her polio, and the bias against her, and then go out and accomplish the extraordinary as she did.

Editor’s Note: To visit the Steiff North American website http://www.steiffusa.com/

In the next KazanToday: “Mama Bird,” a record setting female pilot.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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