Where do Dolls Come From? Pt 2

dolls 1

Have you ever wondered where dolls come from? Not geographically — although that can be an interesting story as well — but where a particular doll started and how it came to be?

I’ll be going to Toy Fair in NYC in a few weeks, and for The Pattycake Doll Company this is probably the biggest link in the supply chain for us. I’ll be making a few posts about Toy Fair, but today’s post is more about ‘where dolls come from part 2,’ a follow-up to last week’s post.

Last week we got from the beginning – an idea or a design up through the manufacturing of the doll. Let’s pick up her ‘journey’ from there:

  • Regardless of whether a doll is made in Spain, or the Phillipines or in China, the next step is to place her in her packaging – the box that she will be in when put on the store shelf.
  • Then she’s put into cartons… from as few as 2 to as many as 48 dolls per case, and then those cartons are put into containers (the trailer part of a tractor trailer), and then the containers are stacked on a ship.
  • Dolls are not flown to the states, they are shipped by sea.
  • There are various ports of entry but the majority of the dolls enter via the West coast ports, and then are sent to warehouses. Most companies do not warehouse their own dolls, but rent space in huge warehouses near the docks that they share with all the other renters.
  • From those warehouses, the dolls will be generally be sent to the stores, but they may also be sent to distribution centers like Walmart’s or Amazon.
  • But before the dolls can be ordered and sent to the stores, they must be shown to the various buyers like myself. That’s where Toy Fair comes in.
  • For the Pattycake Doll Company, I’ll go to The Jacob Javitz convention center in NYC, and over the course of a few days – walking up and down the aisles of three floors of toys, dolls, games and books – meet with almost every manufacturer of dolls.
  • I’ll place my orders, (I will generally spend upwards of $30,000 in just two days – and I’m small potatoes compared to most!), and then return home and wait for the dolls to arrive.
  • The dolls I saw at Toy Fair may or may not yet be ready to ship… I have ordered dolls in February that didn’t arrive until December!
  • I photograph and write copy for the dolls, enter them onto the website, and that’s when you, my dear customers place your orders.

And now you know where your dolls ‘come from!’

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’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.