This week my guest on the podcast is Stephanie Mensah, the founder of Bibinee Dolls. Bibinee Dolls are a range of early years soft diversity dolls, which help to encourage learning through play and positive representation.
Stephanie’s business launched at the beginning of this year, and she has already achieved great things, getting stocked at Very and Littlewoods. Stephanie explains how her children’s own experience at nursery inspired her to create this range, how she went about manufacturing the dolls and ensuring that they met safety standards.
Stephanie explains how customer feedback has informed the development of her range of products which now also includes clothing and accessories. Most of all Stephanie is just a really inspiring person to listen to - she shares what drives her, what inspires her and how she has navigated setbacks. It really is an episode packed full of positivity and inspiration.
Listen in to hear Stephanie share:
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Welcome to the Bring Your Product Idea to Life podcast.
This is the podcast for you if
you're getting started selling
products, or if you'd like to
create your own product to sell.
I'm Vicki Weinberg, a product
creation coach and Amazon expert.
Every week I share friendly, practical
advice, as well as inspirational
stories from small businesses.
Let's get started.
So today on the podcast, I'm speaking
to Stephanie from Bibinee Dolls.
So Stephanie creates early years
soft diversity dolls, which help
to encourage learning through
play and positive representation.
I came across Stephanie online, loved her
products and invited her onto the podcast.
I was so glad she joined me.
We just had a fantastic conversation.
Um, I was actually really surprised
because before speaking to Stephanie, I
didn't realize how new her business was.
And when she talks to you about
how much she's done, um, in the
last few months, I think you're
going to be as amazed as I was.
So it was a really, as I say, it
was a really great conversation.
Stephanie has such a clear vision.
She's so passionate.
She talks a lot about the inspiration for
her dolls, the process of creating them.
And I think there is so much
that we all can learn from this.
So I would love now to
introduce you to Stephanie.
So hi, Stephanie.
Thank you so much for being here.
Stephanie Mensah: Hi, Vicki.
Vicki Weinberg: Can you start by
giving introduction to yourself, your
business, and what you sell, please?
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, of course.
So my name is Stephanie, uh, Mensah.
Um, I'm 44, mum of two.
Um, I currently reside in London, so
I'm in South London at the moment.
My background is in project management,
so IT, procurement, um, management,
um, nothing related to what I
do, but, uh, that's, uh, that's
what I kind of do at the moment.
Um, in terms of my business, I
currently, um, make early years,
diversity, soft plush dolls.
Um, the reason why I started
the business, um, is three years
ago, I had my, my two children.
Um, And the nursery that both of
my children go to, um, doesn't
have much diversity within the
nursery when it comes to their toys.
And I thought it was very important that
this be something that they have exposure
to, especially since myself was growing
up, um, in the seventies and eighties,
there wasn't anything like that out there.
Um, and I really wanted my
children to have the opportunity
to have that representation.
Um, so that's, that's really
the background as to why I
kickstarted the business.
Vicki Weinberg: That's amazing.
Thank you so much for sharing.
So if anyone who hasn't yet looked
to your website, which of course
we'll link in the show notes,
everyone can go and have a look.
But if anyone who hasn't looked or maybe
driving can't look right now, can you
just, um, tell us a bit about your dolls,
some of the dolls in your range, what
they look like, just describe them for us.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, cool.
So, um, we have a few series
in terms of the dolls.
So we launched with the Mabel doll,
uh, Mabel doll series, and that
consists of four dolls, um, who all
have, uh, four different outfits.
Um, the story behind Mabel is actually
they're named after my late mum.
Um, so originally I'm
from Ghana in West Africa.
Um, and I thought it was really
important to have dolls that represent
a cultural influence as well.
So two of the dolls wear, um, one, um, one
fabric, which is called kente, which is
normally worn by, um, royalty in Ghana.
So it very much linked into or synced
into the whole of the idea of being a
princess, kind of like a Ghanian princess.
Uh, and the other fabric is Ankara, which
is commonly worn in West Africa as well.
Um, and then growing up, I've
always been into fairy tales.
So I've always loved unicorns.
I thought, well, why don't
we do a unicorn doll as well?
Um, and then we also have, um,
another doll, which, uh, wears hearts.
So that's the Mabel doll series.
Um, and then obviously having my son, um,
I realized that there wasn't much, um,
black or brown, uh, boy dolls, especially
within the soft doll marketplace.
Um, and so I created two, um, boy
dolls, one which is called Rhys
and the other one which is called
Kojo, which is named after my son.
Um, and, um, uh, Rhys is, uh, has
a dinosaur, um, top because my son
is just besotted with dinosaurs.
We watch that all day.
Um, And then Kojo is wearing a
tracksuit, which says Little King.
Um, growing up his dad really,
um, tries to put a lot of positive
affirmations in him to let him know
that, you know, when he grows up, he
can become anything that he wants to be.
So it was important for us to
reflect that within the dolls.
One of the tops says little
King on his tracksuit as well.
Um, and then speaking to, um our friends
and family and just going out and
really doing a lot of market research.
We also introduced, um, Amira,
who is, um, Islamic doll.
So she's wearing a hijab.
Um, and it was really based upon the fact
that within the black community, obviously
there's a um, Muslim, uh, is a large,
uh, religion within the Black community.
There wasn't any dolls that reflected
that, um, and so we thought it'd
be great for us to introduce that
into the collection, um, as well.
Um, and then we, we actually launched a
doll in, um, February at the Baby Show
and a large part of our audience had
really said that, um, had come from a
multicultural background, so a mixed
heritage background, and they had also
felt that there weren't any dolls that
reflected mixed heritage, um, children.
So it would either be Caucasian or, um,
from an Afro Caribbean, um, background.
So we created Zara.
Um, so Zara and Reece are
our two mixed heritage dolls.
So that's the collection so far.
Um, and then we're hoping to release
Sky who will be our neutral doll.
So for either a boy or a girl.
Thank you so much for talking us
through that because I've obviously
been on your website and seen your
dolls and they're beautiful by the way.
Vicki Weinberg: Thank you.
And so it's, yeah, I think, I thought it
was really important for you to explain
to people so they can just understand
the range of dolls that you have.
Um, and thank you for explaining
how that's grown as well.
Um, we're going to go back
a little bit if that's okay.
So Stephanie, you mentioned that you had
your, was it your daughter you had first?
Stephanie Mensah: My son.
Vicki Weinberg: Your son first.
And then was that, was that this
inspiration for thinking that
you wanted to create your dolls?
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah.
So we, we actually, so, um, we
had to change nurseries, um,
uh, about six, seven months ago.
Um, and we were really restricted in terms
of what nursery we could put him into
because his old nursery had closed down.
Um, all of, uh, you know, quite suddenly.
Um, and we had done the
settling in day with him.
And in that particular nursery
that we had, uh, got into, there
was only one, um, one other, uh,
black child within the nursery.
Um, and immediately all the children
there were like, oh, is that your brother?
That's your brother.
And it was really, really innocent
because to them, they had seen another
boy with a similar skin tone to the
boy who's currently within the nursery.
Um, and then when we had a quick look
around, we realized that actually there
wasn't much diversity within the nursery.
So immediately, that's the reason why the
children had associated my son with the
other little boy that was in the nursery.
And so we did some research into it.
Um, and we we said, you know,
for us, it was really important
that children from early years.
So there's a lot of dolls on the
market at the moment, plastic dolls,
but they really start from an age
group from, I would say maybe five or
six years upwards, but it was nothing
that really targeted early years.
So from birth, um, and looking into it,
we noticed that children really start
to grasp, um, identification of, you
know, where their eyes are, nose are,
the colour of their skin, their hair,
really from the age of one years old.
Um, and this is what we wanted to do,
to introduce it to families and to also
introduce it into child care facilities.
And that's really where
the idea, uh, was born.
So it was from that little comment
that, that child had made in the
nursery that made us just realize that
actually this is a common problem.
And then when we spoke with quite a few
mums and my friends, um, who may have
moved to slightly more, um, remote areas.
We were coming up with the same
thing, that there isn't really
much representation there.
Um, and also that the children who
were not, um, of Black heritage
actually welcomed having dolls
of a different colour as well.
Um, and so that was really,
um, great to find out as well.
Vicki Weinberg: Thank you
for explaining all that.
And I think until I had my own children,
I actually didn't notice how early
children pick up on these things.
I just assumed that
little children didn't.
And it wasn't until I had my
own that I went, oh, actually
kids pay real attention.
And they notice what people look
like and they notice who looks like
them and who looks different to them
and all of these things they do.
And I really assumed that
little kids wouldn't and didn't.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, I mean, there's
a common analogy that says, you know,
children are blind to colour and, um,
I think that the correction that people
want to say is, children don't see race.
So there's no such thing as
racism when you're a child.
but there's not racism.
Um, and in fact, I mean, my
son, his best friend is, um, uh,
white and he has ginger hair.
So that's, you know, and that's
his closest best friend of all.
Um, but it's important for us to be able
to teach our children the differences.
So, and it's not just skin colour.
I mean, it just so happens, obviously
we've created dolls that represent the
black and brown community, but there's
lots of other diversity issues out there.
There's, um, children with disabilities,
there's, um, different skin, um, skin
disorders that children may have.
Um, you know, there's so many other
variances and it's important for us
to teach children that to be different
um, is, you know, is, is fine, um, and
to educate them on that so that they
don't grow up not having that empathy
for people who are different to them.
And I think that's for us one
of the key messages that we
want to really send out there.
Vicki Weinberg: Absolutely.
And then I think there's also probably the
side of that it's really nice for a child
to have a doll that they feel represents
them as well from a really young age.
Because as you say, I've seen lots of.
So, um, there's definitely more
diversity in the plastic kind of
dolls aimed at older children.
Stephanie Mensah: Yes.
Vicki Weinberg: But yeah, I think
until I came across your brand,
I don't think I've seen a brand
for newborns that, that does that.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, that not a lot of
people, if anything, I don't want to put
myself on a record, but we've done some
market research and it's very limited.
There are soft black and brown dolls
out there, but again, you know, they're
very kind of, um, more for presentation.
So to look really nice in the nursery,
whereas when we created our dolls,
we wanted them to be really durable
because, you know, if kids are like
my daughter, for example, they're
going to be tugged, dribbled on.
Um, they're going to go through it.
And it was really important that when
we create the dolls that we could
you know, we made sure that they
weren't really there for presentation
purposes and that a typical one year
old would be able to use the doll.
Um, and also we made it
machine washable as well.
Um, because, you know, my daughter,
she'll get Weetabix on her soft
dolls, you know, like literally
I'm washing every single day.
So it was important for us to make
sure that we could machine wash it.
And it was a good enough size as well,
um, so that it could also just be used
as not just a doll, but a comforter.
Um, so I don't know about you,
but in terms of my daughter.
So, she slept with us for a long time.
Um, we still have instances
where she comes to sleep in our
bed and she's 14 months old.
And so transitioning her from the big bed
to her own bed was an ongoing process.
And so what we did was we introduced
one of the dolls to her so that it
became more of a comfort so that
now when we put her into her cot,
she's sleeping with one of the dolls.
And, you know, when she wakes up all of a
sudden, she doesn't feel that she's alone.
There's a doll next to her to give her
that comfort and soothe her back to sleep.
So yeah, it was overall,
um, uh, a process there.
But yeah, you're absolutely right.
There isn't a lot on the market at all.
And that's one of the reasons why we
really want to drive awareness and and
get it into the big stores as well.
Vicki Weinberg: Yeah.
And we'll talk a bit that a bit more
about that later if that's okay.
So you've spoken a lot about what your
dolls, and I can tell so much thought and
care has gone into the design of them.
Um, can you talk a little
bit more about that, please?
Because I think it's amazing
you had such a clear vision.
You knew what you wanted your dolls
to be and how, and all of this, but
how did you go from having that vision
and those ideas to actually having
your, your physical product there?
Because that's quite a process.
And you've done it
reasonably quickly as well.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, we did, we did.
Um, a lot of research.
So as you said, you know,
we knew what we wanted.
Um, I knew, or I guess I could
say I knew what I didn't want.
So I'd seen what was on the
market and I didn't want that.
So I wanted to make sure that
I had the complete opposite.
So we, we went on the rampage.
We looked at various, um, distributors.
So I already had a design in my head.
Um, I reached out to a couple of,
um, illustrators, um, who created the
designs based upon the ideas that I had.
Um, and then from then I
went into various platforms.
So I actually reached out to companies
who already produced soft plush dolls,
and I ordered a few in, and then I sampled
it myself to see the quality of them.
I washed them several times, just to
make sure, and then based upon that, I
then reached out to them and said, look,
I would like to customize my own doll.
Is this something that you can do?
Or is this something you'd be,
um, willing to work with us on?
And a few of them said no, you
know, we only do our own brand
dolls, we don't customise.
Um, and then I was lucky enough
to get two that said that they do.
Um, and so we then, um, did the
designs but the two, one still
wasn't quite working out right,
and then the second one was just
perfect, and so we went with them.
Um, so it was a bit of, it was a
bit of a process, um, and obviously
when you're creating a doll, it's
proofing it, sending samples, making
sure that we're happy with it.
Um, and we went back and forth
a few, a few times until we got
it to where we wanted it to be.
Vicki Weinberg: That's brilliant.
And yeah, I'm, I feel like you definitely
sound like a sort of person who just
decides to do something and goes for it.
I mean, there's a lot to be said for that.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, well,
I should say it's not my first
business, um, that I've done.
Um, I actually come from a family of,
um, I wouldn't call it small businesses.
So my mum has, you know, ran several small
businesses in the past when I was young,
I'd walk with her door to door to houses.
She would do, um, you know, somebody
would buy items from her and then
they would lease it from her.
So I kind of got the sales angle from her.
Um, and she'd always said to me,
you know, if you, if it's something
that you're believing that you're
passionate about, go for it.
Um, if it fails, just try
again or just change the model.
Um, but don't give up, you know,
if you've got the idea, see it
through as far as you can do.
Um, and then, you know, you're
going to come across challenges.
Um, and that's what sometimes the
challenges are, is what allows
you to know whether you have
an actual good business idea.
Um, if it's going too well, sometimes
that's a bit of a sign, but um, you
know, you need to have those obstacles.
You need to have other people and
companies challenging your idea
for you to know whether you've
made the right decision or not.
Vicki Weinberg: And have you had
many challenges out of interest?
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, so
I've, I've had knockbacks.
So certain platforms that I thought,
you know, would jump at the chance
of, um, this particular product
have said, no, it's not for them.
They don't feel they have the
marketplace or the audience for it.
Um, and I guess you have that inner,
you know, that, that, that inner self
that says, okay, well, I'm going to
show you, you know, look at me in,
you know, two, three years time.
Um, but then at the same time, it's also
understanding that your business or your
product isn't going to be for everybody.
Um, it may only be for selected
stores or selected audience.
Um, and that's okay.
You don't have to create
something that appeases everybody
or that everybody wants.
But you need to create something
that a big enough audience will want.
So, obviously, you can make
some profit and income from it.
And I think it was just realizing that,
um, because, you know, when I had my first
few knockbacks, I took it personally,
quite personally, um, and I thought, you
know, have I made the right decision here?
Should I have changed this?
Maybe should I have done, um, dolls
that reflect all races instead of
just doing black and brown dolls.
So you really start to question
your idea and your motive.
Um, and then it's just kind of
sitting back and reflecting on why
you did it, um, what you're trying
to achieve, what your goal is, and
then really stay in the course.
Vicki Weinberg: And I think you're
right as well, that your products or
nobody's products will be for everyone.
Um, and it's, but I think that's
sometimes a hard thing to realize, even
though I think most of us know that.
But I think your first real
reminder of that can be a bit of
a, feel like a bit of a setback.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
And, you know, I mean,
we do pop ups as well.
Um, so we've recently started doing
like little pop ups, market stalls.
And again, you're not going to get,
it's not going to be for everyone, but
then when you do, like, I could do a
pop up, maybe it might be quiet for the
first few hours, and then I'll get this
little girl running up to the stall,
and she's like, mummy, daddy, look
this doll, I really, really want it.
And then just that look
alone, just reinforces, I know
I'm doing the right thing.
And then it just pushes you
to continue what you're doing.
Because I know I made her day.
So I know she walked away that
day, not expecting to see our
doll, saw it, fell in love with
it, and now that's her best friend.
For me, that's an achievement.
Vicki Weinberg: That's lovely.
And let's talk a little bit about
stockists if that's okay, Stephanie.
So is finding places to stock your
dolls, was that always part of your plan?
Stephanie Mensah: Yes.
So when I created this, um, I always
knew that I wanted to do B2B sales.
Um, so business to business.
Again, I do want to obviously maintain
the business to consumer side.
Obviously that's where
the passion comes into it.
Um, but the, my business plan was
always in order for me to create that
awareness and to reach a wide marketplace.
Um, I felt that the products would
be suited to, uh, businesses and it
could be either a boutique business or
it could be more mainstream business,
um, to allow them to have the dolls
within their facility so that it
could reach their audience as well.
Um, so that was always on my, uh, agenda.
Vicki Weinberg: And how have you
gone about finding stockists?
Stephanie Mensah: Um, good old internet.
Um, back in the day it was yellow
pages, but we won't go there.
Um, but yeah, the good,
the good old internet.
Um, and, uh, Instagram
has been a great, um, aid.
Uh, pint, uh, pinterest.
I never think I'm saying it right.
Um, and it was just looking at each, um,
stockist or retailer, looking at what's
currently stocked within their stores
at the moment and just seeing would my
dolls be a good fit for their store?
Um, will it create the, uh, attention
or the awareness that we're looking for?
Um, so yeah, so that, that's literally
part of our daily activities as we'll
look at um, toy, uh, toy magazines.
So we look at Toy World quite a lot.
We'll go into the internet,
we'll do research, um, and
then we'll look for stockists.
And then we'll approach them
directly either via Instagram, um,
or we'll reach out to them via email
or even just a simple phone call.
Um, I think sometimes we forget the
basic, so, uh, networking and, you
know, creating that relationship and
just picking up the phone and calling
somebody and having a conversation, it's
just as powerful as using social media.
Um, so yeah, that's,
that's really what we do.
Vicki Weinberg: And you're right.
It is really nice because so
for, I know even with our friends
and family, sometimes it's so
easy not to pick up the phone.
So I can see that that
probably would go down well.
Stephanie Mensah: Yes.
And I think sometimes they're taken aback
because they think, oh, they called me.
But I think what I had to remember
is a lot of the, so my stockists
are a mixture of old and new.
So some of them, you know, they've been
running these, uh, either gift stores
or toy shops for many, many years.
So they've seen, they've
gone through the whole cycle.
And so they're very used
to how things used to work.
And I think they appreciate, you know,
that one to one, um, um, connection as
opposed to, um, you know, an email or
Instagram, because sometimes, I mean,
I met somebody on Saturday, on Saturday
and, um, he said to me, I'm going
to, he said, I'm going to Insta you.
I said, what does Insta mean really?
Because I don't know, this
is something new to me.
Um, but you know, he said, you
know, he'd had to adapt to how
things are going at the moment, but
he very rarely checks his emails.
He doesn't do it.
He just doesn't know how to do it, but he
will check his text messages, for example.
So I think it's just understanding,
um, your stock issue audience and
the right method of communication
that will best suit them.
Vicki Weinberg: Yeah,
that makes a lot of sense.
And you mentioned earlier on that you
were at the Baby Show earlier this year
when you launched your latest doll.
So how, how did that go?
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, so
that was actually the launch.
So we launched in February this year.
Um, when I tell people, they're like,
well, yeah, we, uh, so we, or I should
say we did a soft launch in December.
To see if the business model really works.
So we did a soft launch in December,
and that's when we thought, yeah, this
is really, really going to do well.
And then we did the official launch.
We registered the business, did
official launch in February,
and the baby show was in March.
Um, and it was, it was scary to go
into a big environment like that,
because I think for us, it was a true
test of whether do we have something
that will relate to a varied audience.
Um, and I'm not sure if many of your,
um, your, uh, members know, but obviously
the Baby Show is, uh, an annual event.
So there's four that
happens throughout the year.
We chose to go to the one in Excel.
Um, which happened in March, and
it's a three day event, and it's
really targeted towards, um, new
parents, um, or existing parents.
So, you come, you can get to look at
some of the products that you normally
see online, you can get to test it, um,
and then you can meet companies like
us, who are brand new into the industry.
Um, but we got a really good reaction,
um, and that's what made us realize
that actually, although our dolls
are black and, uh, black and brown
dolls, it's not just for the black and
brown community, it's for everybody.
Um, we had a lot of parents who were
not from the, uh, Black Heritage who
came up and said, I want my child to be
able to know that there are differences.
Um, and at the moment, my child only
has dolls with blonde hair, blue eyes.
Um, and we want them to know that there
is a, uh, you know, there's a variety.
And in fact, their best friend
is, is, um, a black girl or their
best friend is an Asian girl.
And, you know, so for them, it was really,
really great and refreshing to see.
Um, and then for the parents who are
from a black and brown community, it was
like, oh my God, where have you been?
Um, I've been looking for
something like this for so long.
I really want my daughter or my son to see
himself or herself in a positive light.
Um, and I, and this is
just, you know, everything.
And so that really cemented the idea
and then from then we've just been
going from strength to strength.
Vicki Weinberg: That's amazing.
And I also, I didn't pick up on
this earlier, but I was actually
thinking that even having boy dolls,
I think, is, is another difference.
Because I remember my son being
two and wanting a baby doll
and wanting a boy baby doll.
And I was really surprised that.
And this was like a hard, but baby,
but I was actually surprised at how
little choice there were of male
baby dolls at the time as well.
That really surprised me.
I, I assumed that dolls
were of both genders.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah.
No, I mean, it's funny that you should say
that because when we, we launched it at
the baby show and I think the issue you
have is, um, there's a lot of stereotypes.
So, you know, as soon as somebody is
having a boy, or they find out their
gender is going to be a boy, immediately
they're either linked to playing with
dinosaurs, trucks, you know, everything
is already kind of paved out for them.
And we had a lot of really
interesting conversations with
not mums, funny enough, but dads.
So a lot of dads were very hesitant
to have their child playing with a
doll, because they saw it as a doll.
Um, and we, you know, we spent a lot of
time, and that's why I think sometimes
these shows are really great, because
when you're, if, if they were online
they would never have this interaction,
um, but face to face you're able to
really break it down to them why it's
important that whether it's a boy or a
girl that they have the, they have access
to be able to, um, have imaginative
play with a doll that represents them
you know, that, that looks like them.
That is also a boy.
Um, but yeah, that there's,
there's a lot of stereotypes.
A lot of the dads were very against,
no, I only want my son to be playing
with a car and I don't want my son.
And you know, the mums were like, no, and
some dads gave in and some dads were very
headstrong and, you know, we're like,
no, it's, it's, it's not going to happen.
And I think because of that, that
has influenced manufacturers.
Um, and toy makers out there as well,
because they immediately, you say
a doll and it's linked to a girl.
Um, and so for commercial reasons,
the industry has focused more of
its time producing girl dolls.
Um, as opposed to boy dolls.
Um, because it just doesn't want to
go through that whole convincing, I
guess, if you want to put it that way.
Um, but we, when we released our
girl dolls, our mums were upset.
They said, you know, but where's the boys?
I want one for my son and, and that's
what really pushed us to, um, we weren't
going to release a boy until probably
towards the end of the year, um, you
know, for financial reasons, because
we were, you know, we had a lot, a lot
of stock, um, and, you know, we did our
focus groups and they said, no, we want
our boys, um, and they are doing so well.
Vicki Weinberg: That's
really good to hear.
And I do wonder whether, and I guess
that possibly things will start to
shift over the next couple of years.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, 100%.
And that's, that's the reason why we
actually created Sky as well, because
Sky is our gender neutral doll.
Uh, and we found that actually when
we was at the baby show, um, you
know, some of the dolls that we had
there were very much girly fied.
So, you know, they were wearing
pink or purple, which, you know,
typical kind of girly colours.
And parents were coming back
and saying, I'm actually tired
of seeing pink and purple.
I want to see a different colour.
I want to see a neutral colour.
And so we decided to come up with
Sky, which was gender neutral.
So it didn't matter whether
it was a boy or a girl.
It was just a baby doll and
they could play with it.
Um, and I think that...
that really intrigued parents as well
and they were really happy about that.
Um, and you know, that's, we
haven't released it yet, but we've
got it on pre order and that's
received a lot of interest as well.
Vicki Weinberg: That's
really good to hear.
And so are these shows out of
interest, purely out of interest
for anyone listening, considering
doing, doing something similar.
Are they also good ways to find stockists?
Do you get buyers and
people like that attending?
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, you get a few.
So usually on day one, so Fridays are
usually, so it's usually Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, um, for the big trade shows.
Um, so Fridays are usually meant
for, um, your influencers, social
media influencers, your stockists, so
it's typically more of a quiet day.
So you get to have really
Um, I think it's also great because
you get to meet other baby brands,
um, or other brands within your
marketplace, um, that you could
potentially collaborate with.
And I think that's something that
people also forget as well, but
I mean, we, we recently did a
collaboration with the food, um, a
baby food brand called For Aisha.
Um, and it went really,
really, really well.
Um, you know, we are marketing
to the same audience.
We just have two different products.
So it was, you know, why don't we
just come together, do a campaign,
do a giveaway, um, and then get,
um, uh, followers from both of our
audiences following each other and
then gain more followers that way.
Um, and so yeah, if you do decide
to go to any of these events,
I mean, do your research first.
I would always say attend
one as just a normal person.
So I had attended the baby show when I
was pregnant with my, uh, with my son.
Um, so I knew what it was about.
Um, I knew what to expect.
Um, and so if I hadn't have
done that, I'm not too sure if I
would have gone forward with it.
Um, so I'd say, well, let's do
your research first as well before,
because they can be quite expensive.
So, uh, you want to make sure
that, you know, it's going to
have the right audience for you.
Um, and it also allows you to decide what
products you're going to take to the show.
And, um, you know how your
marketing is going to be as well.
Vicki Weinberg: That's
really great advice.
I have another question specifically
about toys, if that's okay.
Because obviously toys, particularly
if they've been given to newborns,
have to meet certain, I don't know how
to say it, requirements, legislation.
They need to be certified
basically, don't they?
Stephanie Mensah: Yes.
Vicki Weinberg: Um, how.
How do you go about that process?
And is that, is it like really hard?
Um, I'm asking because I feel
like it's, it's something that
can sometimes intimidate people.
Stephanie, you don't seem like someone
who does get intimidated, which is great,
but, um, it would be great to have a, just
hear a little bit about how you went about
that and what your experience was because
I think there might be people listening
who would really find that reassuring.
Stephanie Mensah: So, again,
it's, it's a lot, it's, it's, it's
research, so it's looking at other
toys which are in the market.
So, we, we actually went on to Amazon
first, so we know that to trade
on Amazon, you really have to have
everything in order, um, because, or
even to trade in a big retailer, um,
because they're putting themselves
at risk of trading your product.
So, they need to make sure that
it's passed all the relative checks.
So we looked at, um, we weren't ready
for Amazon when we first launched.
We're on Amazon now, but we looked
at what are the requirements that
Amazon want from, um, a manufacturer
from a, from a brand basically.
And it was a long list and we said,
okay, let's, let's start targeting to
make sure that we have all of this.
So once we knew what was required,
we then went to the manufacturer
and said, this is what's required.
Do you meet this?
Can you get this?
Um, and they literally
started ticking off the boxes.
So we learned that in order for our
product to be to trade with in within
Europe, they need to be CE certified.
They also need to be UK CA as well.
Um, and we also know that because of
the market, um, the audience, so the
age range that we are targeting, they
need to be fully, um, tested for any
toxins, uh, within the dolls as well.
So from the fabrics that are being
used, uh, that are being used.
Um, and so again, our manufacturers
were really great because they had
all these testings and they had all
the requirements and, um, they kind
of made our jobs a little bit easy.
So we didn't have to go and look, um,
get, uh, you know, an EA, EAN or SKU,
um, codes that was all provided for us.
And that was part of the cost of
them producing the dolls for us.
So I guess maybe we, we pay a slightly
marked up rate for our dolls because
it includes all of those checks.
Um, but if you were somebody who makes the
dolls yourself, so we design our dolls,
but we don't hand make them ourselves.
It's handmade by our manufacturers.
Um, you would need to, you know,
have this list and then, you know,
it will show you if you go into gov
uk, it actually tells you that to
trade, whether it's a doll or any type
of product, what you need to have.
Um, and then it's just
following those steps.
Vicki Weinberg: That's really helpful.
And I think you're right that if
you're working with a manufacturer,
presumably they should be doing all
of these things already in order to
manufacture uh, toys in this example,
so they should be, I mean, it would be
worrying if they weren't up to date.
So I think that's good to hear, but you're
right, if you're making your products
another way, then yeah, you definitely
need to be clear on what's required.
Stephanie Mensah: Yes, exactly.
Vicki Weinberg: Um, I'm going to change
subject just a tiny bit if that was
okay, Stephanie, because I want to talk
really quickly about sustainability,
because I saw on your website that you
do have a sustainability policy and
there are certain things you're doing.
I just thought it'd be nice
to talk about that a bit.
Stephanie Mensah: Yeah, of course.
Um, so for us, um, you know, part of our
research and developing the dolls is, you
know, we're quite big on sustainability.
We really wanted to make sure that
the dolls were eco friendly as well.
Um, and it was important that
the dolls were made in an
environment, um, which supported,
you know, equal rights, equal pay.
Um, and so these are all the
things that, you know, when we
were looking at manufacturers,
that we took into consideration.
So I guess it may have made our journey of
finding the manufacturer who's producing
our dolls a bit longer because we wanted
to make sure that it passed all of this,
but it was very important to us that it
contains those elements, uh, as well.
Um, in terms of how
the dolls are produced.
So the dolls are made using polyester,
but we use recycled polyester
fillings for the, for the inside.
And then in terms of packaging, we're
very conscious in terms of recycling.
So we make sure that all of
our packaging is biodegradable.
Um, and that was one of the reasons
why, when we created the dolls, we
made sure that everything was Engraved.
So all the features are engraved.
We don't use plastic, um, uh, eyes or,
um, yeah, we don't use any, anything
plastic on the dolls, um, because
they, they don't decompose as well.
Um, uh, basically.
Um, so we're trying our best, I mean,
moving forwards, obviously as a small
business, sometimes it's hard to really
utilize everything when it comes to
trying to be sustainable because then
your, your price range just pushes higher
and higher and obviously we want the
doll to be marketed at a price that is
affordable for most families, um, the
majority of families, um, but moving
forward, it's definitely something that
we want to continue to push, um, and
we're hoping that we may be able to
launch dolls which are fully recyclable,
um, and biodegradable, um, and we can
use materials that, uh, you know, a lot
more friendly to the environment as well.
Vicki Weinberg: That's amazing.
Thanks for explaining all of that.
Um, I love how clear you are on
everything that you, that you want.
I should also point out to everyone
that we're recording this in very, very
early June and you launched in February.
So you've come, you've done a lot.
Stephanie Mensah: Thank you.
I think, I think it's because I'm
just so passionate, you know, it's,
it's myself and my husband who run the
business, just so passionate about it.
Um, and I just think there's
such a, you know, there's a
gap in the market, uh, for it.
And, you know, I think when you're,
when you release something and your
audience or your customer and your
client base continuously tell you how
appreciative they are, it's there.
It just pushes you,
drives you to to continue.
And, uh, we, we just have so many big
plans for the brand moving forwards
that, yeah, for us, you know, every
time I talk about it, I have a smile
on my face because I'm just excited
about how the future is going to look.
Vicki Weinberg: Good.
And so you should be, I
think it is really exciting.
And I've got one final question,
Stephanie, if that's okay, which is
what was your number one piece of
advice for other product creators?
Stephanie Mensah: Oh, where do I start?
I think I mentioned
some of this earlier on.
So, um, use your environment around you.
So your friends and your family, um,
you know, when, when I first launched
products, I reached out to friends and
family just to get their, just on it.
What do you think?
Um, I actually sent out, um,
probably about 10 to 20 actually,
to friends and family for free.
Um, I just wanted their children
to be able to play with it.
Just get that feedback from them, um,
whether good or bad, just let me know.
Um, and I got, I got
a mixture of feedback.
I had people say, oh, it's too expensive.
Or, um, can it do this?
Or can you do this colour?
Can you do this hairstyle?
And, you know, some, you can, some
of the feedback you're able to take
on board, and obviously you can, um,
change it or reflect it in your end
product, and some of them, you know,
sometimes you have to park it for now.
I never say disregard it, um, because
that, again, feedback is feedback.
It may not be feedback that you want to
hear right now, um, but it's feedback.
So maybe all you need to do is just
park it for now and then in the
future, um, look into it at some point.
So I guess for me, anybody who's
considering launching a product, use
your, um, community or your family
around you, your friends and family,
just to get an idea of what you know,
what they think about the product.
Um, uh, and then I think, I don't
think you're ever going to be
certain about the decision that
you're, uh, uh, that you've made.
I don't think you're ever going to be,
uh, concrete, but I think as much as
you can, if you have a plan, try and
stick to the plan as much as possible.
Try not to deviate.
It's very easy to try and have your
fingers in lots of pies because you're
just eager to kind of, um, I mean,
somebody said to me, you know, if
you're going to market, choose two
main marketing mediums and focus on
it because there's so many social
media marketing, um, uh, avenues.
There's so many paper, you know.
I said to somebody the other day,
do you do, do you read blogs?
And they said, blogs?
What's a blog?
It's all about podcasts now.
It's like, oh, well.
Um, so I think.
Don't try and do too many things all at
once at the same time, because you'll
either burn yourself out, or you won't
be able to, um, fully present yourself
in the correct way within that medium.
So try and just, you know, pick
a select few, focus on that.
Um, and not obviously, hopefully if things
go well, you can then develop a team.
And then obviously, you know,
it then becomes a full blown,
um, business moving forward.
So I think that those
would be my two key things.
You use your audience around you, um,
and just try and remain focused and not
try and do too many things at a time.
And I guess I'll add one more.
Yeah, have patience.
It may not happen today or tomorrow.
I mean, we do a lot of PR.
We send a lot of PR press releases.
And for every 50 we send
out we may get one response.
Um, but just keep going.
It doesn't mean that
it's the wrong method.
It just means that that person
doesn't need your product right now.
But they may need it at some point.
Um, so just keep going, have
patience and keep doing it.
Just keep going strong.
Vicki Weinberg: That's such good advice.
All of it, everything you said, I
completely agree with Stephanie.
Thank you so much.
Stephanie Mensah: Thank you.
Vicki Weinberg: Thank you
for everything you've shared.
Stephanie Mensah: Thank you.
Thank you so much.
Vicki Weinberg: Thank you
so much for listening right
to the end of this episode.
Do remember that you can get the
full back catalogue and lots of free
resources on my website, vickiweinberg.
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