Start a Doll Business? – Location

Notice: If you have no interest in how to start, how to run, or what goes into owning a doll store, you can skip this post!

About once a week, someone sends us an email asking how they can start a business like ours. But the answer is not so easy to put in an email, so I’ve decided to start peppering this blog with that information, so that in the future, I can just say, read the blog – it’s mostly there!

Thank you for Support

Here are 4 (more) things you need to know to start a Doll Store (in no particular order):

  • Location, Location, Location. You want to own a Doll store? Where are you going to open it? Across the street from Toys R Us or Target? Toys R Us is bad, but maybe not Target. Believe it or not Target doesn’t have a full doll store in there, Toy’s R Us does.
  • How about next to the specialty Ice Cream store? It makes sense that Moms will bring their kids into your store after! Why not? Of course your sticky fingered dirty merchandise bill will be astronomical, but at least you’ll get traffic right?
  • Is there safe off-street parking? Or will Mom be leaning over her baby in the car seat with her ass sticking out in the traffic?
  • But really, the main question about location is:
    • Do you have any competition? No? Why not? Doll collecting, Doll Gifting, Doll Making and Doll Dressing are all parts of the same huge hobby. There are dolls for kids and dolls for collectors. There are Doll Shows and Collector’s Conventions all over the country. BUT! Are there enough people in your community to support your store?

World’s Largest Rag Doll

Nana the worlds largest rag doll

photo © Guinness World Records

I know, I know. We doll lovers already know of all the benefits that come from dolls, but still, it’s always nice to hear another ‘Feel good about dolls story’ isn’t it?

The World’s Largest Rag Doll*, “Nana,” has just been created in Palmira, Columbia, South America in honor of the 10th “National Day of Childhood,” and the proceeds from the unveiling were donated to charity.

  • Nana stands 21 feet 4 inches tall, 14 feet 4 inches wide and 3 feet 6 inches deep
  • She was constructed on a scaffolding of bamboo, and then filled with cloth
  • Her hair is made of natural fique fibers ( a plant native to South America)

*As certified by ‘Guinness World Records.’

PS: The previous record holder, was also created for a great reason: She was created in 2005 to support the UNICEF vaccination campaign in Italy. That one was 15 feet 2 inches tall. (Another ‘feel good about dolls’ story!)

Guest post: Are simpler dolls better?

Phil on JTVGuest Blogger: Phil Wrzesinski is president and owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, recently named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. You can learn more about Phil at”

I often talk to mother’s groups about Play Value. One of the big ideas I try to get across is the importance of Interaction in playing with a toy. Many toys today have little interaction other than hitting a button and getting out of the way. These aren’t really toys, they are novelties.

They take the kid out of the play. The less the kid does, the less interested the kid will be in the toy.

To get the point across I’ll often ask them, “What was your favorite doll as a kid?” Many will wax poetically about their favorite doll. They’ll tell me her name, describe her in detail and even talk about all the adventures they went on together.

Then I ask them, “What did the doll do?” Invariably, they say, “Nothing.”

The doll you loved the most was most often the doll that did the least. You loved that doll precisely because of how little it did. You loved it because everything that it was all came from you. The doll’s voice was the voice you gave it. The doll’s thoughts were the thoughts that came from you. The doll’s personality was the personality that sprung from your heart.

Everything about that doll was you.

There are dolls that walk and talk and eat and go potty. They are fun and they have their place in the toy box. But the more they do, the less your child does. The less your child does, the less interaction with the toy. The doll that will be most beloved, the doll that will take up the most space in the memory box, will be the doll that did the least and required the most from you. The moms in my talks get that immediately.

A Doll by Any Other Name

Sometimes, even though I live and breathe Dolls and the Toy Industry, I am amused by some of its quirks. For example….

I was reading an interesting (to me, probably not to you☺) industry trade report on the size (sales totals) of the Toy Industry, and the size of the various components of the toy industry including dolls and action figures.

What I found most interesting was the fact that they had Dolls as one category, and action figures as a completely separate category.

Separate as in “Retail sales of Dolls increased,” while “Retail sales of Action Figures and Accessories decreased…”

Mattel Female Action Figures - not dolls?

Why aren’t these Mattel female action figures dolls?

Here’s one online dictionary’s definition of Doll: “A small model of a human figure, often one of a baby or girl, used as a child’s toy.”

It continues with: Synonyms: figure, figurine, action figure, model

Then, here’s their definition of action figure: “a doll representing a person or fictional character known for vigorous action, such as a soldier or superhero. …”

So a synonym for the word ‘doll’ is action figure, and the definition of an action figure is “a doll…”

I’m so glad we cleared that up! Aren’t you?

Breaking the ‘Doll’ color barrier

There’s no really nice way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out: It’s a crying shame that with 50% of American kids now ‘non-white’ ethnically, it’s still about 100% White in the children’s doll design and manufacturing world.

The numbers are a lot better in the ‘Art Doll’ world, but the Toy Industry as a whole is still pretty much ‘lily white.’

There are exceptions of course, and one, ‘The One World Doll Project,’ is the subject of today’s post.

the Doll designer Stacey McBride

Me with Stacey McBride

The One World Doll Project makes dolls of color. Beautiful Dolls. They’re a young company as far as how long they’ve been in production, so currently there are only two dolls available: Lena, an African American doll, and Valencia, an Hispanic doll (whose back story has her hailing from Mexico City.) In the pipeline are dolls from Africa and India.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl dolls are built to the 11½ inch fashion doll scale, so there are literally thousands of additional outfits and accessories available for them.

What makes the Prettie Girls special is that they are designed by a woman of color, to represent women of color – for little girls. They have individual personalities and ‘ethnic looks,’ as opposed to the mass produced Barbie Dolls® and her cloned sisters. No one in their right mind would ever expect to meet a woman who looked like Barbie on the street. I see women who look like the Prettie Girl dolls every day. That’s huge in my book.

Seriously, walk down any major Toy ‘Big Box’ retailer… you’ll find plenty of Black  Barbies and her clones. But they all look alike. Prettie Girls look only like themselves, and are beautiful at that. I sincerely hope that this new doll company becomes a tremendous success. Absolutely nothing against Barbie mind you… I’m just a little tired of her ‘look,’ and ready to see real ‘Dolls of Color’ and especially ‘Doll Companies of Color’ take the stage.

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Disclosure Notice: The Pattycake Doll Company, as of the date of this post, does carry and sell Prettie Girl dolls. We were not paid nor asked to do this review. It is as the largest Ethnic Doll site on the internet, and as authors of this blog about ‘Dolls and the Doll industry,’ that we wrote this post as a comment on the industry.

Guest Post: Two ways to look at Doll Play

Phil on JTVGuest Blogger: Phil Wrzesinski is president and owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, recently named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. You can learn more about Phil at”

You can learn a lot about your child from how she plays with dolls. For instance, have you ever noticed that some kids love dolls but don’t play much with dollhouses while other kids prefer the dollhouses over baby dolls? There is a reason.

Kids tend to gravitate to one of two styles of play – Participant or Director.

Directorial play is for kids who love to be in charge. They set the rules. They decide the parameters. They control all the character’s motions, thoughts, and actions. They don’t take on the character role, but serve as an overseer of the action.

Doll houses are a big hit with children who prefer directorial play. So are toys where the child makes the rules and controls all the characters. Action figures, construction toys, and vehicles are their favorites. Open-ended crafts like Play Doh and blank pads of paper also intrigue and engage directorial play kids. They want to be their own boss. Don’t tell them which lines to stay inside.

Participatory play is for kids who don’t have to be in charge. They want to be one of the characters in the play. Baby Dolls allow them to take on roles such as the mom or the baby sitter. Baby dolls let them do that. Sure, they have to direct the other characters, but only so that their character can join in.

Kids who prefer participatory play don’t need to make the rules. But they do want everyone to follow the same rules. These kids tend to prefer sports, dress-up, and story-telling because they get to be a participant. They’re okay with coloring books, too. Just make sure you have plenty of crayons.

And now you understand the difference between the Barbie Doll (directorial) and the Baby Doll (participatory).

(Note: there is nothing “wrong” with either style of play and no child is exclusively one style versus the other, but by understanding their preferences, you are more likely to hit home runs with the toys you purchase for them down the road.)

Book Review: Dream Doll

Dream Doll, The Ruth Handler Story is an Autobiography. Ruth Handler is the woman behind the Barbie Doll. What makes this book review a little different, and I hope a bit more interesting, is that I decided that instead of telling you what I thought about the book, that I would instead tell you what Ruth thought about Barbie:

“When we began sculpting Barbie’s face, I insisted it not be too pretty or contain too much personality. I was concerned that if she had too much personality, a little girl might have trouble projecting her own personality on the doll, that she would not be as free to role play or fantasize through Barbie.”

“Unlike play with a baby doll – in which a little girl is pretty much limited to assuming the role of Mommy – Barbie has always represented the fact that a woman has choices.

“Beginning as early as September 1959, we received hundreds of letters from little girls begging us to make a boyfriend for Barbie. we were scared to death of boy dolls, and so was the rest of the toy trade. Boy dolls had been tried in our industry dozens of times and they’d always flopped.”


Original Skipper Dolls

“In 1964 we also introduced Skipper, Barbie’s little sister. While little girls tended to perceive Barbie as being six or seven years older than themselves, they saw Skipper as close to their own age.”

“In 1967…we brought out a Black version of Francie. …It was a dud….Was America not ready for a Black fashion doll? …research soon told us. Francie’s looks and personality were already well established in our young consumer’s minds – to them a Black Francie wasn’t Francie. The next year, having learned our lesson we brought out a completely new Black doll, Christie, and she was overwhelmingly accepted. In fact Christie stayed in the Barbie line for 17 years, till 1985.”

That’s all for this post… I only quoted some of the Barbie and other doll stuff… remember, the book is ruth Handler’s autobiography… it’s not just about Barbie or Mattel.