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A parent's elf-help guide for the holidays. One of Santa's elves showed up at Buzz Bishop's Calgary home in mid-November. (Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail)

A parent's elf-help guide for the holidays. One of Santa's elves showed up at Buzz Bishop's Calgary home in mid-November.

(Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail)

Small Business Briefing

Elf on the Shelf creators cash in on toy's wild success Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz.

While the Elf on the Shelf is by no means a new phenomenon, its popularity continues to balloon. The pixie, who flies to the North Pole every night to tell Santa whether your children have been naughty or nice, was introduced to the masses in 2005. But since then it's become a holiday tradition in its own right, appearing for the first time in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving day parade and starring in the Pinterest boards of parents around the world. Even Saturday Night Live poked fun at the elf's tattle-tail nature. Dressed in the red suit, a shrunken Bobby Moynihan tells Seth Meyers that he loves being "a little snitch" and a "friggin' narc" in the holiday episode's dress rehearsal.

The product, which retails for about $38 in Canada, was invented by mother Carol Aebersold and her twin daughters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts. Packaged in a keepsake box alongside a hardcover book, the seasonal sprite likes to play hide-and-seek in different places in the house. Children are told not to touch the elf, as he will lose his magic, but they’re encouraged to give him any special messages they have for Santa.

While the three women have sold more than four-million dolls since the company's inception, according to Fox Small Business, it wasn't an easy road. In 2004, after finishing the book, Ms. Aebersold began pitching the idea to book publishers. Faced with rejection, the women eventually pooled their money - from retirement accounts, houses and loans - to create a privately owned publishing company, Creatively Classic Activities and Books (CCA and B), and self-published 5,000 copies of The Elf on the Shelf.

The three Southern women also worked hard and hustled. With a strategy of starting small, they carefully targeted specialty family stores and leveraged social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to reach parents directly. For more on their roller coaster ride to success, see Elf on the Shelf’s Sleigh Ride to Success.

Though the women deliberately started small, The Elf on the Shelf has experienced strong steady growth year after year, with annual revenue topping $16-million in 2011. All sales, marketing and distributions remain in house.

And while not everyone is a fan of the Elf (a guest parenting blogger in this Globe and Mail video says "Ho Ho no thanks" to this tradition), there's no denying the worldwide success of this new Christmas tradition and the entrepreneurial accomplishments of the Elf's family of inventors.


Canadian Startup Awards open for nominations

Hosted by Techvibes and presented by KPMG, the awards are meant to be an annual celebration of startups and technology. And it’s up to you to nominate (and then vote for) the most deserving startups, founders, and investors across six categories. Click here to find out how to vote.

TiEQuest is now accepting applications

Applications are now being accepted for TiEQuest 2013 and registration will be open until Jan. 31, 2013. There is a $100 entry fee for a venture to participate in the competition, which also entitles the contestant to one free regular membership for a year in TiE Toronto. The top teams receive substantial cash prizes as well as professional services. The total value of all prizes exceeds $150,000.


Calgary apps maker scores No. 1 sales slot

Started by a husband and wife, Calgary-based Robots and Pencils, a developer of apps for Apple's mobile platform, has grown exponentially by solving two key challenges.


Recommended reading for small business owners

if you're planning to take a break from the daily grind and want to keep your business mind sharp, there are many good books waiting to be read.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at smallbusiness@globeandmail.com. Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzTOur free weekly newsletter is now available. Every Friday a team of editors selects the top picks from our blog posts, features, multimedia and columnists, and delivers them to your inbox. If you have registered for The Globe’s website, you can sign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit ‘save changes.’ If you need to register for the site, click here.

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