It all began when Lois was working at Ballantynes, where her and many other talented girls, were crafting black gowns and hoods for judges and graduation ceremonies by the hundreds.
One day Lois got the idea to create miniature gowns, mortarboards and hoods from the significant amount of scrap material available to dress a bear she had.
Not long after, all the girls were taking scraps home and working on such bears over the weekends. They were proving to be quite profitable, especially when several of each element were done at once.
From her comfortable sewing cottage located on her property, which is a stark contrast to the relatively basic conditions she grew accustomed to as a dressmaker, Lois remembers the moment she decided to begin working for herself.
“We were always in a rush, and I got sick of the gowns. I just thought one day, ‘why can’t I do more bears?’ So, I got in touch with all the polytechs and so it began,” she says.
Whilst on a cruise, Lois and her husband spent some time in Hong Kong where she made a valuable connection with a local man who made his own teddy bears.
She ordered her first 2000 bears from him before he retired. Lois continues to order bears from China and has a couple of different bear styles that she uses for various outfits.
Lois not only produces graduation bears but has a trademe profile(external link) where she sells a variety of dressed bears for all occasions.
While there’s potential for Lois to travel around the country and sell her bears at graduations and other events, Lois admits to enjoying a slower pace of life now in her retirement.
“My brother and sister-in-law live in Nelson, so we come up to spend some time with them.”
Local dressmaker, Joanne Ryder, has also been employed to support Lois for many years.
“She has become one of my best friends also, always there for me in many ways more than just an employee.”
Now offering her bears via mail order, Lois hopes to reach the Marlborough region as well as to those who are not able to make it to the graduation ceremony in person.
“The bears are for both men and women. As men don’t often get flowers, many find receiving a bear a nice touch.”
You can order a Degree Bear or a Diploma and Certificate Bear by order form(external link). Degree bears costs $55 and Diploma and Certificate bears cost $45.