In April 2008, Believe a Buddy founder Cat Kozuch was paralyzed in an accident. Doctors told her she would never walk again – she was determined to prove them wrong. During her recovery, she relied on positive affirmations and gifted teddy bears from family members to boost her morale. And eventually, Kozuch did walk out of the hospital when her release date arrived. Her journey inspired her to launch Believe a Buddy, a company that sells teddy bears with positive affirmations displayed across their tummies. The Scottsdale, Arizona, entrepreneur’s primary objective? To uplift children with her line of positive plush toys.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
We give back to the community by partnering with incredible foundations and companies such as the Giving Goodness Foundation, Origami Owl, Brave Gowns, as well as various mental health facilities and elementary schools. With these organizations, we bring Believe a Buddy bears to kids who need them most.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Donating 100 teddy bears to a pediatric hospital through one of those partnerships. This collaboration created a ripple effect, inspiring others to join in and make their own donations and contributions.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Funding my company independently. At 35 years old, living on a single income while starting a business can be financially demanding. I’ve established clear and realistic budgets to gain a better understanding of my financial constraints. This allows me to allocate resources efficiently and make informed decisions. I’ve also set realistic timelines for various aspects of my business’ development. While I may not be able to achieve everything as quickly as I’d like, this helps me stay organized and focused.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
In addition to my demanding day job in medical sales and growing Believe a Buddy, I also live with a disability — a spinal cord injury that requires regular rehabilitation and physical therapy sessions. Balancing it all can be quite challenging, but my unwavering motivation keeps me going. I’m determined to successfully manage it all.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Be prepared to sacrifice social outings in favor of prioritizing your startup. Expect a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Stay resilient and persistent. And, seek out a community of like-minded individuals for support, because the entrepreneurial journey can be isolating.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I remember being a 19-year-old girl in the hospital with a broken back – paralyzed and yearning to be outside, healed and free. When I face tough days now, I reflect on that younger version of myself and quickly gain perspective. Then, I think about the children who are learning affirmations through Believe a Buddy, and it rekindles my motivation. Gratitude is a powerful reminder that helps me stay positive and focused.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Unstoppable” by Sia. I can’t count how many times I have listened to this song. It really helps me!
Who is your most important role model?
My sister, Samantha Kozuch. She is the founder of Maniscripting, a journal business that she launched during Covid lockdowns. It has since blossomed into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Samantha has been a constant source of inspiration, urging me to strive to be my best self while providing unwavering support as I travel on my own entrepreneurial journey. ◼