Welcome to our exclusive interview with Samantha, the remarkable founder of Joeydolls. Samantha’s story is a testament to the power of personal experiences and the drive to make a positive impact in the world. In this interview, we delve into the journey behind Joeydolls, a company that aims to provide diverse dolls that children can connect with on a deeper level.
Join us as we delve into Samantha’s inspiring journey, from the initial spark of the idea to the challenges she faced along the way. Discover how Joeydolls came to life and learn about Samantha’s unwavering commitment to offering children a more diverse and representative play experience.
How Did You Get Your Idea or Concept for the Business?
Being a new mother, I had always been on the hunt for toys and activities for my daughter. My daughter had just turned 1 at the time, and I had been reading about how doll play was quite educational for young children, as it provided them with an opportunity to communicate, care for one another, and engage in creative play.
I remembered back to when I was younger and how much I enjoyed playing with dolls. But at the time, there were only blonde hair dolls available. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these little things, like playing with pretty blonde dolls, really affected the way I saw the world. Growing up in Australia, there were only Caucasian people on TV. I found that I always envied the girls at school who had blonde hair, and I felt like I didn’t really fit in with everybody else. I felt small like I didn’t really matter much in the world.
I thought it would be a great idea for my daughter to have a doll that looked more like her so that she could have a lifelong friend she could relate to. I was shocked at how difficult it was to find playful dolls with Asian features. After a lot of searching, I turned to my husband one day and said, “I want to start a doll company,” and he said, “Okay, so go do it.” So then, I did.
What Was the Mission of Your Business?
Over the years of watching the media, I’ve found that the Asian community has tended to be underrepresented. Asians are usually portrayed as the “token Asian,” often not in lead roles and typically confined to the same type of character. Asians tend to be grouped together as one homogenous race, but in fact, there are so many different cultures and traditions in Asia that not many people know about.
Now, as an adult, I’m really proud of my Asian heritage. But it took a long time. I don’t want my daughter to go through the same feelings I had when I was growing up. I want her to grow up knowing that no matter how you look, you are beautiful just the way you are. I want her to feel proud of her heritage and believe that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.
I believe that building self-confidence in young children is incredibly important, and it starts at such an early age. I hope that these dolls can inspire young children to learn more about their culture and take pride in who they are.
I also grew up having a darker skin tone because I tanned very easily. I’ve always been proud of my skin colour. However, over the years, I’ve noticed how, in the Asian community, light skin tone or “porcelain skin” has been preferred by many.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, some people said to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice if your daughter had your husband’s skin?” My husband, who is Korean, has fair skin, and I was pretty angry at the implication that the skin I was born with was apparently not good enough for my own daughter.
When people say awful things like this to you, it makes you realize that so much needs to change in the world. We should be embracing the beauty of every skin color and every race. Our perception of the world begins at such a young age. I want her to feel confident in her skin and know that anyone who looks like her can be loved.
What Is Unique About Your Business?
I love how Asians are starting to become more represented in children’s media for learning purposes. But it’s not enough. We want our dolls to not only represent the Asian community as a whole but also to show that there are many different cultures in Asia with diverse skin tones. I am tired of seeing the token Asian doll with dark black hair and a light skin tone. It is not a true representation of the Asian community. We want our dolls to be a starting point for educating not just about Asian culture as a whole, but also about the various cultures within Asia.
How Did You Come Up With the Name Joeydolls Co.?
Because this company all began with my daughter, Joey, in mind, I decided to name it after her too! The name Joey actually means a young marsupial (kangaroo, koala, wallaby, etc.), and we gave her this sweet name as a slight nod to my home, Australia.
“Joey” is also informally known as a baby or a young child. Since I wanted our dolls to be young companions for so many kids around the world, I thought the name Joey was fitting.
How Big Is Your Team Currently?
We are currently a team of 3, with 2 local doll makers in Toronto. We are a growing company and are always looking to expand when the time is right.
What Made You Choose This Type of Business?
I honestly never imagined that I would be in the toy industry! I think it’s natural as a mother to notice potential gaps in the market and try to address them. For me personally, I just wanted a doll for my own daughter to play with and thought that other children might like them too!
I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial drive in me. When I was younger, I started my own eBay business selling clothes. When I worked in an office, I realized that type of work wasn’t for me. I needed to be doing something with more meaning. I wanted to truly make a difference.
When I left the financial industry to pursue wedding photography, it was incredibly meaningful to capture the special memories of couples. I did that for seven years and loved it. I put my whole heart into everything I did.
It was only when I had my daughter that I realized I wanted to be home with her more and needed a change. Somehow, my inner drive to return to some sort of retail work was calling me. But I didn’t want to just sell something for the sake of selling something. It had to mean something.
When I came up with the idea of making these dolls for young children, I knew it would make a difference in their lives. I truly believe that building self-confidence from a young age is crucial, and every child should feel valued and loved.
It has been a lot of fun building this company from the ground up. I have loved driving the design process, working with manufacturing, getting the dolls into production, learning about toy safety, and handling the overall logistics of having an online retail store. I’m excited to see how our company grows over the years and the impact our dolls can make in society.
Does Your Company Help the Community?
Yes, absolutely! We strongly believe in helping the community. My husband was personally part of the Big Brothers program for over ten years. He stayed with the same “Little Brother” for that entire time and felt that he made a difference not only in the child’s life but also in his own. He served as a mentor and a friend. He became so close with his “Little Brother” that he became a part of their family.
I think it’s really important for children to feel supported as they navigate the difficulties of life. We continue to support the Big Brothers & Sisters organization, with a portion of the proceeds from each doll going to them.
If You Had One Piece of Advice for Someone Just Starting Out, What Would It Be?
Create your own future and follow your heart. I don’t think life is about finding one thing and sticking to it for the rest of your life. I believe that life can be filled with many passions and different journeys. I always ask myself, “How can I make a difference in this world where I am today?” It’s all about making an impact wherever you can.
I have always truly believed that we should seek to create and be part of something bigger than ourselves. And if you want something, you have to work hard to achieve your dreams. Your dreams won’t come to you on their own.
I’ve always been a dreamer. I think it’s important to keep on dreaming, no matter where you are in life. There’s always more you can do to make the world a better place.