If you were to try to count the reasons Matt McCarty should have ended up on Wall Street, you’d get bored.
It would have been so simple for the 23-year old to not end up making teddy bears with his mum for a living – but that’s what he’s doing, launching Zylie the Bear, a high-end line of educational teddy bears.
“At first I was getting sceptical looks from people when I told them what I do for a living,” McCarty says about working in what’s called the “plush market.”
McCarty grew up in Greenwich with a dad who works in finance and he’s watched almost every one of his friends march onto Wall Street like it’s their duty to defend a line of yuppie clones.
You’d think the Vanderbilt grad would’ve ended up on the front lines, but he’s traveled totally askew of the path so many of his friends chose.
“Growing up in Greenwich, it was just expected that I’d go into Wall Street.”
So at first, the toy industry seemed bizarre.
“There’s never any coverage of this world. The only time the plush market was popularised was with the Beanie Babies craze,” he explains.
“And you realise that some people in this business are obsessive,” he says. “The collectors are so research intensive.”
So, naturally –
“I thought, do I really want to be a guy working in the toy business?”
Yes, he did. And now he’s fast becoming an unabashed expert of the business.
“I started focusing on how to use the web and all the tools available on it to build this brand,” he says. “Looking at it that way, it doesn’t feel weird, because its just like any other startup.”
“It took me just realising that that was what was interesting about this to be “ok” with being a guy in the toy biz.”
The 23-year old realised Wall Street wasn’t the career for him after an internship at CRT, a boutique investment firm in Connecticut.
“I engaged more with the companies we were working with than my own,” he says.
So after he graduated, he worked on a side project that was an idea of his mum’s – a teddy bear that travelled the world wearing cute clothes.
“At a bank, you’re looking at numbers. You’re taking a cursory glance at everything. There’s a glaring difference from that and what it’s like working on a start-up.”
“On Wall Street, you’ve got to think about ways to maximise the bottom line. But if we’re deciding between something that will save us money and a quality item, we always go with the decision to improve the product over improving the profit.”
Of course he hasn’t totally forgotten Wall Street – Wall Street wives and mums were some of Zylie the Bear‘s first customers, and they remain loyal to the company today.
“They just happen to really like it!”