Child's play Featured

9:44am EDT September 27, 2004
When Bendon Publishing International was founded in Ashland in 2002, it had roughly eight employees on the books. Just two years later, more than 100 make their living working for the children's book publisher.

Although it is a relative industry newcomer, Bendon has quickly become the fastest-growing children's publishing house in the country, says Ben Ferguson, Bendon's president.

"We have gone from eight to 25 employees in our offices, and from 15 to 90 people in the fulfillment sector of the business," he says. "We outsource our fulfillment and distribution to a local company that we helped set up for the purpose of handling our fulfillment. We pay them a percentage of sales on the product that is shipped through our door."

That symbiotic relationship is beneficial to both parties, and, says Ferguson, provides a guaranteed pipeline of work.

"We are their only customer," he says. "And in direct response to our business, they have more than 90 employees right now, up from 15 last year."

Bendon is a full-service publishing house. It sells directly to retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Barnes & Noble, Sam's Club and numerous specialty stores. As the publisher has grown, it has secured contracts to represent several big names -- 28 in all -- in children's entertainment, including Disney, Sesame Street, Barbie, Barney and Bob the Builder.

These licensed brands make up about 65 percent of Bendon's sales revenue. The remaining 35 percent is comprised of generic titles and seasonal publishing for holidays including Christmas and Halloween, says Ferguson.

Bendon's growth has also benefited the surrounding area in Ashland County.

"The creation of jobs in this region has helped the small community of Ashland," says Ferguson. "To create 100 jobs in a year is great."

And while the increase in employment is a factor in the company's explosive sales growth, it's also a sign that Ferguson and company have hit upon a growing area in the publishing industry -- the burgeoning children's market. Last year's revenue has tripled in the last nine months alone, and Ferguson sees the company's uptick continuing.

Ferguson says his main challenge is to manage the company's growth without sacrificing its ability to service its customers and to create more partnerships. One of the goals is to identify and offer more titles in the company's education sector.

"We are rounding out our educational offerings with pre-K through third grade workbooks, flashcards and other materials," he says.

In a time when other publishers are struggling, Ferguson is making Bendon's growth look as simple as 1-2-3 and ABC.

How to reach: Bendon Publishing International, (419) 281-5985.