By Jessica Hill Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Nicole Bessette, an entrepreneur who refuses to let a loss diminish her goals and enthusiasm for her unique business.
Nicole Bessette has figured out how to rebuild her business after a disaster.
When her Cape Cod Bear Factory bus was struck by a live power line, nearly totaling the vehicle, Bessette was able to get a fresh start with a new storefront in the Cape Cod Mall. Now, she's moving forward with her plans to open a large, indoor play structure.
On June 15, Bessette was driving the bus carrying her mobile stuffed bear-making business on Route 28 to Polar Cave Ice Cream when a utility truck pulled in front of her, dragging a low-hanging live wire with it. The wire snapped back and hit the bus, causing extensive structural and electrical damage.
"It was sad. I cried quite a bit. And not just for the scariness," Bessette said. "There was that to deal with, but also all the hard work I had put in ... this year to make it successful, and I felt like all of that was taken away in an instant."
Bessette's husband, Brenden Bessette, remembers getting a call from his wife after the accident, while she was still in the bus. He took their two children and rushed into Friday night traffic to meet her.
"Luckily, she was all right," he said. "That's the important part."
The bus was not drivable, Bessette said, and she has been having a difficult time finding a shop to take on all the work to fix it. Within a week of the disaster, Cape Cod Bear Factory had its own store up and running in the Cape Cod Mall.
"This is the end of the bus, at least for now, and you need to move on in this direction to get where you're trying to go."
In her new space across from Shoe Dept. Encore, Bessette has set up the bear factory where children can create their own stuffed animals. In the back, she has two couches where moms can meet and chat while their children play.
In her mall location, Bessette will host story times, yoga classes and POUND classes, where children can bang colorful rubber drumsticks. She hopes with these events to get the word out so people will start booking parties.
Before setting up shop, Bessette would come to her customers, traveling to private homes for birthday parties. She remembers traveling to a birthday party where the children didn't know she was coming. She said they screamed when she arrived in her bright blue bus.
"It was one of the best moments to be on the bus and know that I'm providing so much fun and excitement for these kids and a memory that not only I will never forget but they will never forget," Bessette said.
Bessette's mother-in-law started Cape Cod Bear Factory in 2008. She had stores in Harwich Port and Mashpee until 2013, when it became too much for her to handle on her own.
Bessette reopened the business last spring after moving back from Washington with her family and looking for extra income while she home-schooled her two children. She joined Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), an organization focused on helping up-and-coming entrepreneurs through mentoring, classes and grants.
Kailey Anarino, one of Bessette's EforAll mentors, said Bessette hasn't let the loss of the bus diminish her goals for the business. "She's already found an alternative," Anarino said. "It is really showing that something that originally sounded like a scary thing, she turned it around and it's going to turn out to be a great thing for her."
Bessette wanted to expand the Cape Cod Bear Factory into a large play space for parties and was aiming to find a location by October. With the bus out of operation, her plans are delayed by a few months, she said.
"Our goal is to have a 3,000-square-foot indoor play structure, hopefully three levels at least, with lots of slides and the ball shooters, and a toddler section with soft play, things for the smaller kids," Bessette said.
Bessette said she hopes to finalize a location between January and March.
"It's kind of like taking this awesome idea that my mother-in-law had and blowing it up into this much bigger but still awesome and fun thing," Bessette said.
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