Teen Entrepreneurs Tana and Myla Zapf

Taking their unique plush toy invention from Idea to Kickstarter

By Tana Zapf

I’ll never forget the night we won 1st place at the San Diego Inventor’s forum contest for our Curly Petz invention. My sister Myla and I couldn’t believe that we beat out all the adults and won the $1,000 prize. That was a lot of money for a couple of kids!

Myla and Tana Zapf being presented a $1,000 check for winning 1st place at Inventor’s Contest in San Diego

It was that night that really encouraged us to try to turn our idea into a reality. We never imagined how hard it would be and the long road ahead of us with no guarantee of success. Looking back, it’s kind of crazy that a conversation my sister and I had a few years ago would bring us to this place of starting our own business.


When we were little kids we both lost special stuffed animals. We remembered how traumatic it was for us and how our parents searched everywhere trying to them. That’s how came up with the idea of a stuffed animal that would hold on to a child instead of the child having to hold on to the stuffed animal. That way, children can have their hands free and play without worrying about dropping and losing their special stuffed toy.

We both loved playing with “slap bracelets” and came up with the idea of having using them to have the animal curl around the arm and hold on. Kids love playing and cuddling up with them. Our design is so unique we were issued patents.

Children can play safely at the playground without dropping their special stuffed animal


Our parent’s helped us get meetings with designers, manufacturers, buyers and retailers. At times, we felt like we were on Shark Tank! We’ve watched many episodes with our parents and it actually helped us when we were meeting with buyers ourselves.

One of the most important things we learned is that although buyers and retailers really liked Curly Petz, it’s all about hitting the right price points. The San Diego Zoo buyers told us they would sell Curly Petz if we could get it to them at the right price. They said that at the end of every day there are lost toys all over the park that were bought at the zoo gift shops.

We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy inventory and get our business off the ground. We learned how to produce a video, create and upload images and information, and use social media for marketing.

It means so much to us when people back us and believe in what we’re doing. It’s really encouraging when people we don’t know sign up to get their own Curly Petz! It would be a dream come true to be at the Zoo and see kids wearing Curly Petz!

Teen entrepreneur inventor sisters Tana, 17, and Myla, 15 showing two of their Curly Petz designs

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