The “Early Adopter’s” Dolls

Have you ever heard of people called: “Early Adopters?”

Early Adopters like to be the first ones to buy and try ‘new.’ They’re the ones who line up to get the newest iphone, try the latest app, wear the trendiest clothes, go to the newly opened restaurants, move into the newest up-and-coming gentrification neighborhoods.

I wish there was such a thing as Doll Early Adopters. In my fantasy, there are hundreds of them out there… constantly checking the internet for the newest dolls, searching ‘twitter’ and Instagram, checking Etsy and Pinterest… wanting to be the firstest and the fastest to find a new doll. Sigh…

Because if such a customer did exist, I could show them my two new (exclusive to The Pattycake Doll Company) Black Dolls from Precious Moments.

When I ran into Linda ‘The Doll Maker’ Rick at The American International Toy Fair (she’s the one who makes all the precious moments dolls) we had a nice discussion about how nice it had been several years ago when we carried Black Precious Moments dolls.

And then she surprised me with a very generous offer. If I would pick a few styles that I liked, she would make a few small batch runs for me to carry at www.pattycakedoll.com.

So she did, and we did and they’re available now on our site. (You can click on either

Thousands of people come to our store every week. Some looking for Black Dolls, some looking for Boy’s dolls, some looking for Learn to dress dolls etc.

Unfortunately, very few of them are early adopters… our visitors are usually buying gifts for kids, not because they are early adopters looking for the newest dolls.

Oh well. Maybe some of you readers are early adopters?

One can always hope, right?

 

Do Dolls Need Wheelchairs?

We all know there are children who use wheelchairs.

And of course there are children who play with dolls.

But the question for today is:
Is there a need for ‘doll’s wheelchairs?’ Or doll’s glasses? Or ‘doll’s’ guide dogs / doll ‘guide dogs’ – (which are really just stuffed plush dogs anyway)?

A wheel chair for dolls

A wheelchair and crutches set for 18 inch dolls.

We sell two different doll’s wheelchairs at The Pattycake Doll Company store, the more realistic one above, which is for the American Girl type of dolls, and the one below, which is more simplistic and for Rag Dolls and Teddy Bears.

A Doll's Wheelchair for rag dolls and teddy bears

A Doll’s Wheelchair for rag dolls and teddy bears

Here are just a few of the reasons why we carry these and other special needs dolls and accessories:

  • As a teaching toy. We all know that ‘the child who is different’ can become the child who is laughed at or picked on. Introducing a doll’s wheelchair into the class room can ease the introduction of the wheelchair student into the classroom. The strange can become the familiar very easily.
  • Nurturing and caring: One of the primary reasons dolls have been a ‘classic’ children’s toy for centuries is the fact that children love to nurture. They love to nurture kittens and puppies, they love to nurture their little brothers and sisters. Sometimes it’s better to let young children learn to nurture and take care of a doll in a wheelchair, and let Mommy and Daddy nurture the real child in the wheelchair.
  • Inclusivity: For the same reason it’s important for Black children to have Black dolls to play with – This doll is Black – this doll is beautiful – I’m beautiful too, is the same reason we believe that children should have the option of playing with or nurturing dolls in wheelchairs.

So that’s why we think there should be doll’s wheelchairs and other special needs dolls and accessories.

Just so you know, there are a lot of people who disagree with us… people who think we are cruelly and unnecessarily  ‘singling out’ special needs children. They’re entitled to their opinions too.

Mixed Kid’s Dolls & E-tail

An Asian, Black and Native American mixed race doll

An Asian, Black and Native American mixed race doll

E-tail is a really interesting word. It means having a store on the internet. And it represents two completely different knowledge bases; the first having to do with everything from Search Engine Optimization to Pay-Per-Click advertising to Google Algorithms. Phrases like title tags, alt image and html 5.

The second knowledge base has a lot in common with normal brick and mortar stores, things like inventory management, product turns and marketing budget; although there are some new concepts like long tail and shopping cart abandonment to know about also.

What both etail and retail have in common though, is customers. How to find them and let them know you carry the products that they are looking for. Although to be honest with you, with etail it’s more like how to let them find you.

One of the main tools etailers have to do that with is called ‘keywords.’ Those are the words that you type into the search box on your computer, tablet or phone screen.

For The Pattycake Doll Company, most of the time that is pretty easy. If you’re an African American mom looking for a doll for your three year old, you would probably type in something like ‘black baby doll.’

If you just came home from the hospital with a newborn baby boy, you might look for a ‘boy doll’ for his older sister to play with.

But what do Black/White parents search for. Or Asian/Black. Or Hispanic/Asian?

I have two friends who are White women married to Black men and with girl children, so I just went and asked them. Surprisingly they both answered the same thing: “We’d look for dolls for ‘mixed kids.’ Okay!

But when I went to my online research tool for keywords, Google and Yahoo didn’t agree; the search volume for that phrase was almost non-existent. Some look for Biracial, some look for Mixed kids, some look for diversity dolls. But not as many as one might think considering that more than half of America’s children are ‘non-white!

It makes my life interesting.

Pattycake Doll explains Cyber Monday (plus 15% off!)

Pattycake Doll Coupon

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday got its start back in the day when everybody’s home computers were so slow, what with dial-up and all, that people waited until they came to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving/Black Friday to use their much faster work computers to buy their gifts.

To encourage those online shoppers to come to their stores first, retailers started advertising special deals on that Monday, and they still do.

But for us at The Pattycake Doll Company, Cyber Monday was never the biggest day of the year. For us the Sunday 2 weeks before Christmas has always been best.

But so many people shop before that, that Addie and I really don’t think it’s fair to reward only the last minute shoppers… especially since some of our most popular dolls will be sold out by then.

So in addition to our everyday Free With Purchase Coupon offers (here’s that page if you’ve never checked it out) we’re offering a four day special coupon sale of 15% off your entire order for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Enjoy, and thanks, from Addie and Peter and The Pattycake Doll Company.

PS: All you need to do is drop the word CYBER into the coupon code box at checkout, and you’ll get the 15% off.

Why Do You Do What You Do? PtII

            It’s an interesting question, and one we had to think about for awhile to answer: Why Do You Do What You Do? Here’s how we finally answered it:

            Why do Adrienne and I run The Pattycake Doll Company?

            Let’s start with how we got started. Believe you me, when we were children and someone asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We never said: “Be the country’s largest online specialty doll store owners.”

            So we have to admit that how we got here was as much of a surprise to us as to anyone else. But to make a long story short, we tried something else, (gift baskets for parents of new babies) failed miserably, (never sold a one), and before we shut down the store, tried selling some of the stuff ‘inside’ the gift baskets separately. Surprisingly, an Asian rag doll named ‘Ling’ by the Russ Berrie company, sold out almost immediately.

Ling An Asian Cloth Doll for Children

The Doll That started our business

            We made a few ‘customer service’ follow up phone calls and asked: “Why’d you buy the doll?” (This was back in the very early days of the internet, and not so strange as it would be today, when you get emails after you buy.)

            We got the same answer several times: “We just got back from China with a little adopted girl, and couldn’t find any Asian dolls in the stores, so we came online and found Ling.”

            Aha! Here was a need!

            So instead of continuing along with what we wanted to do – sell Baby Baskets – we decided to do what ‘they’ wanted us to do – sell multi-cultural and ethnic dolls for children. And then a few years later, we discovered that there was a pretty big demand for boy dolls so we added them too.

            So that’s how we got started. And we found that we loved it!

            The other part of the question of “Why do you do what you do?” is probably: “So why are you still doing it?”

            There are three parts to that answer:

            First: We had a family to support, we loved our work, so yes, part of it was to make a living so we could support our children.

            Second: We love what we do because we understand that we’ve helped create happiness and joy for thousands and thousands of people!

            When a child unwraps a doll, and sees its face for the very first time, the sheer joy and pleasure that child feels was – just a little bit- caused by us. And the smile on the face of the Mom, or Dad, or Grandma, or Auntie when they see their child’s joy; well… we’ll take a little credit for that as well. We’re in the happiness business.

            And finally, Third: We donate 10% of all of our company’s profits to charities that help children. So in addition to the thousands of families that have purchased and gifted our dolls, there are hundreds of children who needed help who got help from our tithe. So the bigger we build our business, and the more doll happiness we can create, the more charity we can give to children who need it.

            That’s why we do what we do.

Where do babies (dolls) come from?

I wonder how many children ever ask where dolls come from. I’m pretty sure that they almost all get curious about where babies come from, do they never wonder where baby dolls come from? Maybe because they’ve all seen them in stores they’ve already figured it out for themselves.

Maybe they think that the mailman makes them? Seeing how more and more people shop online and such.

But I know for a fact that most adults have no clue where dolls come from. I know because The Pattycake Doll Company get lots of calls and emails from folks who want to start their own doll stores; they’re thinking they can get their dolls from us.

So then we explain that we neither wholesale nor export dolls. Invariably they then ask the next question: “Can you tell us how we can set up a store just like yours so that we can compete with you and maybe steal all your customers and put you out of business?” Of course they don’t word it exactly that way, but that really is what they’re asking.

But Addie and I are nice people who don’t believe that the customer pie is a finite resource, so we tell them where to get dolls:Toy Fair Logo

Actually, if you want to open any kind of toy store, Toy Fair is the best place to go. Because this is where dolls come from. From approximately 1500 Toy Companies, and the 400,000 square feet of the Javitz center, and the 30,000 people in the Toy Industry who all come to Toy Fair. This is where our ‘babies’ come from.

Javitz Convention Center, where Toy Fair is held

Javitz Convention Center, where Toy Fair is held

PS: For those of you who want to know where our babies are made… mostly in China, but a lot in Spain.

Pattycake Dolls & The Pattycake Doll Company

Madame Alexander Pattycake Doll

Our personal Madame Alexander Story Book series Patty Cake ‘Wendy’ doll.

 

Once we’d decided on the name: ‘The Pattycake Doll Company’ (based on a treasured family heirloom from my wife’s family – that post is here), it became a fun game to see if we could find other Pattycake Dolls to go along with our namesake doll.

Patty Cake Doll Wendy by Madame Alexander

Madame Alexander promotional picture of the Wendy ‘Patty Cake Doll’

Sure enough, we were able to find plenty, including this other favorite doll of ours, The Patty Cake Doll from Madame Alexander. Patty Cake is one of the famous 8″ Wendy dolls and was one of the ‘Story Book’ series. it is based on the children’s Pattycake poem, and includes the ‘Baker’s Hat,’ and “cake marked with a ‘B’ ☺”

Patty cake, patty cake, baker man,                                                                                    Bake me a cake as fast as you can.                                                                                  Pat it and Prick it and mark it with a ‘B,’                                                                              And put it in the oven for Baby and me!

Where’d you get that name from Pattycake Doll?

When you start your own business, what are you going to call it?

I think that’s one of the most interesting questions ever. Right up there with asking someone “What do you do for a living,” or asking a married couple: “How’d you meet?”

I mean it. I am really interested. And you know what? Once I ask those types of questions, I find that you are really interested too! Unless you’re a spy, or running from your past of course. Most people love to tell you about their beginnings, and most people love to hear those ‘the start of it all’ stories too.

At any rate, in our case, we happened to have an antique porcelain doll handed down through the generations of my wife’s family. It’s of a little girl in a lace dress with her hands out, playing ‘Pattycake.’ (We think. If you have one and your family history tells it differently, we don’t wanna know.)

The Pattycake Doll Company Logo

“Let’s Play Pattycake”

So at the time, knowing that it would be a good thing if our web site url and domain name had the word ‘doll’ in it, and knowing that we would be selling dolls for children, (the main players of the game of Pattycake) and having this ready made doll to use as our logo and such, it just seemed as if fate was telling us: “that’s the path you should follow.”

When fate hands you a bunch of clues, I believe you should listen to her.

And that’s how we became The Pattycake Doll Company at PattycakeDoll.com

Clones of American Girl® Dolls

18" ethnic dolls of color for children

A selection of Black, Biracial, Multicultural, Asian and other ethnic 18 inch dolls

It started with a simple phone call:

“Do you have any Black American Girl® Dolls?”

And although I did have one (a clone by  Madame Alexander called ‘Oh So Groovy’), I didn’t realize it at the time and said “sorry, I don’t, but American Girl dolls are beautiful and very well made and I’m pretty sure they have a Black one.” Being in the doll business you know darn well that I knew about the phenomena that is American Girl dolls!

But I was shocked by her answer… “I don’t want a Slave Girl doll for my daughter!”

[In case you didn’t know, American Girl Dolls are exclusive to American Girl stores and their website, or in the aftermarket like Ebay. Mattel does not allow any other stores to carry them.]

The doll she was referring to of course was American Girl’s Addy, who is marketed by American Girl as an escaped slave of the Civil War era.

Today of course 18″ American Girl Doll clones are available everywhere, including PattycakeDoll.com, so there are lots more choices. But for us, then, it all started with a phone call.

From failure to success

Ling An Asian Cloth Doll for Children

The doll that started our business

Our doll business – The Pattycake Doll Company – was an accident. We started as, (and still are) a Graphic Arts Studio!

In 2002, the dot.com crash hurt our ability to give as generously to charity as we liked, and we were looking for a new ’stream of income.’  We decided to try e-commerce and launched HappyBabyBasket.com which featured themed baby baskets.

We had an Irish themed basket with a stuffed Irish Setter with a four leaf clover hanging from it’s mouth; a Jewish themed basket with a Blue Teddy Bear in a kippa and the Star of David embroidered on its paw, and a basket for a newly adopted child with Ling, (shown above, wasn’t she cute?) etc. We failed to sell a single basket. In fact, you couldn’t even find use in the search results we were so far down!

After a year and a half, we decided eCommerce wasn’t in the cards and decided to shut the site down. But since everything was already paid for, and we had six more months in our contract, we decided to take some of the items out of the baskets and sell them individually; to see if maybe we could recoup some of our inventory expenses at least.

Silver piggy banks, cute little custom tee shirts, etc. Now we had slowly been learning more about e-commerce, and we must have done something right, because all of a sudden our Asian dolls were selling. ( Not for a lot mind you, maybe $12.95?… I don’t remember anymore).

Well, one of my favorite phrases is “you don’t learn a heck of a lot from thesecond kick of the mule!” and that was the case here as well. After a year and a half, something had happened, but what? So we called a few of the customers who had purchased with…”hi, this is the Happy Baby Basket customer service follow up call. Thank you for your purchase… did everything go OK… and by the way, why did you buy that doll?”

And we kept hearing the same thing: ” We just came back from China with a newly adopted little girl, and we went into our local stores, and we couldn’t find Asian faced dolls. So we went online and found you!”

We had found a niche market. Underserved customers with a need. ant that was the start of The Pattycake Doll Co., and PattycakeDoll.com selling Asian Baby Dolls, Dolls for Black ChildrenDolls for Boys and Boys Dolls, and contributing thousands of dollars every year to children’s charities.