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Meet Payal Thomas of Every Girl Dolls

Today we’d like to introduce you to Payal Thomas. She and her partner share their story with us below:

Our story starts with Payal Thomas, a busy mom of two great kids in Northern Virginia. In the summer of 2020, she went shopping for a doll for her 4-year-old daughter but struggled to find one that looked like her.

Her daughter was really into imaginative play, and Payal thought a doll would be perfect. Through her research, Payal found that dolls hadn’t really diversified much since she was a kid.

Payal’s kids are blindian, and Payal wanted to give her daughter a gift that could celebrate her South-Asian identity. Most of what she found looked all wrong – or was outrageously expensive. None of the dolls she found fit what she wanted: A brown doll that celebrated her daughter’s ethnic heritage, that she could play with, learn from, and share with her friends.

While Payal was busy looking for a doll for her daughter, Snehali was looking for a doll for her sassy little god-daughter.

Snehali is a mom and godmother living in New Jersey. She had always told her goddaughter’s parents that she wanted to be the one to buy her a doll. While there were plenty of pretty dolls on the market, none celebrated South-Asian culture or looked remotely close to their skin tones.

Snehali looked for almost 2 years, before settling for something that wasn’t what she was looking for. Now with a daughter of her own, Snehali is determined to create something that represents her heritage that all kids will love. Payal and Snehali met when Payal who was trying to conduct market research posted in a Facebook group they both were members of. Snehali immediately reached out.

Payal and Snehali decided to join forces in the Winter of 2020 to create dolls for every girl – and Every Girl Dolls was the result. The goal is to make dolls that represent your child, so they can see themselves in their play, celebrate their uniqueness, and share their culture with family, friends, and classmates.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We started our business in December of 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic, so we did run into obstacles. One was that we didn’t feel comfortable meeting in person. Snehali and Payal connected online and worked together for several months via Zoom and Facetime before finally getting together in person.

Starting a business virtually is exciting but has its share of setbacks. We were looking for vendors and collaborators through internet searches and social media. All meetings were held virtually, but some in-person would have been nice and helpful for forming better relationships.

Because our relationship with our manufacturer was 100% virtual and English isn’t their main language, some things got lost in translation. The images they sent us weren’t always 100% clear, so understanding the progress was sometimes difficult.

Being first-time entrepreneurs we didn’t feel like we had a clear roadmap. We are both moms and have full-time jobs outside of Every Girl dolls, so time and money were also an obstacle.

We are very passionate about creating dolls and other products for South Asian kids, so we manage to work whenever we have availability, even if that means late nights. There are many things we feel that we can do on our own, but in the end lack the time, so finding a balance between what we can do versus the services we pay for has been challenging.

We’ve been impressed with Every Girl Dolls, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our goal at Every Girl Dolls is to create dolls for under-represented minorities that help celebrate your child’s uniqueness and culture. As we are South Asian, our focus is to create a South Asian doll and in the future explore dolls from other backgrounds and cultures.

In creating a South Asian doll, we want our kids to be able to see themselves and feel a connection to their culture, whether it be through the clothing/accessories the doll wears, a story that connects to them, or through role-play and practicing the language with their dolls. We want to create a product that kids will be proud to share with friends and can help to teach themselves and others about different cultures.

We have created an 18″ soft vinyl doll with custom features, and a custom 3-piece lengha (traditional South Asian outfit). We are currently researching other product offerings that can help to diversify the toy box and provide value for all kids.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
If you are just starting out, take the step to start, even if it’s small. When I had the idea, I just started telling people. I didn’t know if the idea would go anywhere, but my family and friends were very encouraging. I decided to then create a survey to do some market research.

I got help from a friend and using google forms, put out a survey. I started using skills I hadn’t used since college. I made a very mediocre logo using CANVA. Then I closed my eyes and shared my survey on a public platform. It was probably one of the scariest things I had done at that point. So my main advice would be just to take a step forward. Another step might be to find a partner.

When Snehali and I decided to work on this business together, it was a little relieving because it helped me believe in our mission even more. Having a partner also keeps you accountable and I attribute all our successes to our partnership because we are both very passionate and want to succeed.

Pricing:

  • Laila Doll – 97.99
  • Doll Bangle – 14.00
  • Child Bangle – 16.00
  • Doll and Bangle Bundle – 120.99

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Nachi Sheel https://www.nachisheel.com/

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