In search of the perfect doll to gift to her daughter for her birthday, Emma Egel was frustrated to discover it didn’t exist…yet! So, she set out to design one herself: a cool, colourful, fun doll that was age appropriate and promoted positive body image. Needing a creative outlet from her day job and determined to find the perfect friend for her girl, Forever Dolls was born! Their gorgeous dolls are designed to be a friend. They each have their own characteristics and traits that they themselves value as a family and promote to their daughters. Here, Emma shares the inspiration behind Forever Dolls, the challenges they have overcome along the way, and their plans for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
A natural resource manager by trade, my career took me to iconic Bondi Beach before I ended up in a corporate compliance role for a large multi-national company.
For 10 long years, it crushed my creative spirit.
Zara, my oldest, was turning 6 and wanted a ‘big girl’ doll for her birthday. We knew exactly what we wanted, but we couldn’t find it. She wanted a doll that was cool and fun, colourful and trendy. I wanted a doll that was age appropriate, promoted positive body image and had wholesome messaging.
Needing a creative outlet from my day job and determined to find the perfect friend for my girl, Forever Dolls was born! During my fourth pregnancy, I was made redundant from my corporate role. I took this as a sign that there was more important work I needed to do. Sometimes, the universe knows what you need.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
We started from frustration! Not being able to find the perfect doll to give to my daughter for her birthday. I thought, ‘if I am having this issue, others must be too!’. I was already searching for a business idea as I knew my high pressure corporate role wouldn’t be sustainable long term with our every growing family. I started searching for doll manufacturers in Australia. Sadly, there are none, so I widened my search to international and after several long months of looking, I found the perfect manufacturer. I begged them to let me tag on to the end of another customer’s manufacturing run and ordered a measly 300 dolls to get us started. But it was enough!
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
When I started the business, I had my blinkers on, I naively thought that 7 would be the upper end of the age limit for my product and it would be children 3 to 7 who would be interested in the dolls. I was attending a local baby and kids market when I realised all the children gravitating to my stall, like moths to a flame, were older kids 7+! It spurred me to do some more product research and I realized there was actually a HUGE gap in the market for wholesale age-appropriate toys for older children – but play doesn’t stop when they turn 6! So we switched our focus to older children with our marketing, but sadly still struggled to get momentum. After 9 months of not a single sale, not even to friends, I was beginning to get a little desperate and started searching for ways to offload the dolls I had, assuming the business wasn’t going to work.
I stumbled across an international trend for rainbow-haired dolls, as our dolls have wigs instead of hair plugs. I used the last of my business money and bought some rainbow-coloured wigs in the hope this would shift the stock. Within 3 weeks of marketing the rainbow-haired dolls, sales had sky rocketed, I sold all my stock in 2 months. I realised this pivot to rainbow hair had put us into a niche market that made my business not just viable but gave it huge possibilities.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Gosh this is such a tough one. In all honesty, it’s a struggle, as I feel a true balance it a bit of a myth.
I use time blocking to schedule work time and family time. I also pop in me time and development time as I do lots of courses to progress my skills – as a one-woman show, you need to.
What I have learnt after many hard years in the corporate grind, as a mother and now running my own business, is that you must totally commit to what it is you need to do for the period of time you need to do it. If you can only work for 2 hours, throw yourself into that work and smash it out as best you can. Then you can feel good walking away from it knowing you did you best in that time. Same with family time. If I’m super busy with work and only have 2 hours to spend quality time with the kids, I focus 100% on them and my phone goes away. We play and have crazy fun for those two hours. I can then go back to work feeling good.
Life is much easier now we have a family business. My husband works with me and my children all help in some way, so they understand when I say I need to work. They know what it is I am doing and why I am doing it.