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.

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?

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.

Start a Doll Business? 4 (More ) Things to Know

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):

  1. It’s called “Black Friday’ for a reason. Of all the businesses you can start, the Doll Business is definitely skewed towards Christmas Sales. At the Pattycake Doll Company, 60% of our business comes in during the last 6 weeks of the year.
  2. Why are we in the red before Black Friday? Because if you want to sell $100,000 in dolls for Christmas, you have to buy that inventory beforehand. And not a week beforehand, but months ahead of time. So you have it. In your warehouse.
  3. The dolls you sell during the year are different than the dolls you sell for the Holidays. The dolls you sell for the holidays are generally more expensive.
  4. Never trust the manufacturers to ship you the right products in the right quantities. Check the purchase order against the packing slip. Does what you received match what you ordered? Then confirm the packing slip. Did you actually get everything they claim they shipped? Then check the invoice. Are they charging you the right price for the right quantities? Remember, there are seven people involved in every order. Salesman vs Buyer, Pick-pack vs receiving, and Accounts Receivables vs Accounts Payable. Add the shipping company, (shortages and damages) and you can see all the places where mistakes can be made.

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

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.