Charm Ryrie was one of the driving forces behind Tambo Teddies, there from the beginning her determination saw this little business establish and succeed.
Incubated at a government workshop, Charm’s idea of making sheepskin teddy bears got only few votes and many just laughed and said it couldn’t work. Well, this was just a ‘red rag to a bull’ and Charm got pattern books of teddy bears and the group began sourcing supplies and working out what styles would work with sheepskin. The first months were exceedingly challenging as they attempted to sew their bears by hand, it just wasn’t working.
Not to be beaten by this set back, Charm researched and bought the first fur over locker and presented it to Helen and Mary. The initial reaction was ‘you can’t sew’ to which Charm responded, ‘no, but you can!’ And finally, they were able to start making teddy bears in November 1992.
By February 1993, they had product to sell and took their bears to the Charleville show, where they rapidly sold out. Within a week, Tambo Teddies were invited to a Trade Fair in Japan and soon orders were outstripping supply. More machines were purchased as the business could afford it and sewers were engaged and trained.
Charm’s role was media and publicity, she often travelled to the larger shows and trade fairs with Helen, including the Ekka, Beef Week and the Sydney Royal Show. Charm created the small basil and the Bickie bear, launching the Bickie at the Brisbane exhibition they ‘sold like mad’ when customers were told the sad tale of the bears becoming road kill on their trip down the Toowoomba Range.
Charm remembers one of the biggest challenges the group faced was the high cost of postage, not wanting to be beaten by this Charm designed the hexagonal carton to package the bears. This shape meant Australia Post could only calculate the postage cost on weight and not on the dimensions, which generally worked out as a more expensive option. This innovative thinking has delivered an exciting looking package to the customers door ever since.
Looking back at the highs and lows, Charm notes the biggest disappointment for her was the lack of support from the Wool Board, who denied Tambo Teddies the right to use the Australian woolmark. The group applied to the use the wool mark and were rejected prior to making the trip to Japan, and while this rejection was one of the lows the trip to Japan was one of the highlights for Charm. The bears were invited into the cockpit by the pilots to essentially ‘fly’ the Boeing 747 in November 1993.
In 1996, Charm relocated to Toowoomba where she continued to promote Tambo Teddies and organise marketing the bears at Trade Shows from Rockhampton to Sydney. Eventually, Charm found it was becoming too difficult and her business goals were not aligned with Mary, the remaining partner and she sold out in 2000.
Not one to sit still, Charm embarked on her next ventures, Farmyard Friends, creating small soft toys before starting her boutique children’s clothing range, Barcoo Brats, while at the same time managing her Droughtmaster Stud at Pittsworth, near Toowoomba.