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with teddy bears...began when I was a child. The first bear in my life was a toy bear from my dad.
I grew up with the bear as my companion, and it became a friend... a part of me even. It was a cuddly, China-made bear with big ears, a huge head and a chubby body."
like a familiar scenario? Then it's time you got acquainted with Jackie
Declares Jackie, "Teddy bears are my life. I don't think about my shop as a business. To me, it's a lifetime's worth of enjoyment." Not that she had an easy time convincing others that her labour of love would amount tomuch. Says Jackie, "When I started this business, people asked, 'are you sure?' or 'are you crazy?'. Even my mom asked, 'are you sure it's profitable?'. A lot of people thought it was a strange thing to do."
Naturally, the prevailing sentiment did little to dampen Jackie's enthusiasm for her newfound pet project. "I quit my job to conduct research for a year before I opened the shop in 1994. I was really careful and knew what I was doing," says Jackie.
Jackie's resolve to turn Jackie Teddy Bear into a success can be attributed to her longstanding passion for collectible teddy bears. "Some people may think it's childish, but just looking at bears makes me happy... Teddy bears make me feel complete. I wouldn't know what to do if they were taken away from me... It's hard to describe this emotional sense of attachment."
As far as possible, Jackie has tried to incorporate elements of her personal style and preferences into her store concept. "All the artist bears in my shop are bears I would collect for myself... I'm very inclined towards bears that are sad. Some customers come in looking for bears that make them happy - they draw happiness from their bears. For me, I'm a giver and tend to go for bears that need me."
Speaking on what she and other bear collectors have in common, Jackie observes, "We are sentimental, very expressive, and we like showing our love for people. And of course, we are genuinely in love with our bears. When we buy a bear, we don't see the price tag as the number one priority. We use our emotions to judge whether or not we want to own a bear."
Which accounts for the common myth that bear-collectors are extremely wealthy, a misconception which Jackie is quick to correct. "It's not true, because bear collectors are just normal people who work for a living. Most of them are professionals, but they are not necessarily rich people. It's a matter of prioritising your finances."
Ultimately, says Jackie, teddy bears are symbols of love and cheer. "So when I was invited to participate in the NKF's charity drive, I thought why not? The economy is quite bad, and it's good to do a bit of charity work at this time since everyone's so gloomy. I donated about S$6,000 worth of artist bears to the NKF... If my bears are able to help the dialysis patients, then it's the right thing to do."
Still, her decision to part with her cherished bears was a heart-wrenching one. "My favourite bear is Benjamin. He's big and nice... and a very loyal bear. I really enjoyed having him in the shop. But I know it's for a good cause and I think Benjamin can fetch a high price, which is why I gave him up. It was a sad occasion, but I had to let him go."
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9 Penang Road, #B1-08 Park Mall (Next to Dhoby Ghaut MRT Interchange),
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