Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Series: My First Doll

As you know I have been working hard to come up with a variety of content for my blog, as well as my Facebook page.  I had an idea!  I thought it would be fun to share some personal stories about first dolls.  If you would like to be included in this series please email me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com.  I will let you know what I need you to send me.  To get the ball rolling, I am going to share with you my first doll.  I must admit to you this one was hard for me to write without tears...

As soon as I was able to choose my own toys, I was immediately smitten by Cabbage Patch Kids.  I remember being around 5 or 6 when my Mom put the Toys R' Us Christmas catalog into my hands and instructed me to look for Christmas ideas.  I surveyed the Cabbage Patch dolls carefully.  There was one that I thought was the cutest doll of the bunch.  Her name was Nessy.

One time my ex-boyfriend's Mom told me that my ex had a Cabbage Patch Doll when he was a little boy that looked like him.  I said my first doll was also a Cabbage Patch Kid.  She then asked "oh did your doll look like you?".  "No," I said.  "She was black."  

I remember people making comments about my doll when I was a kid.  I remember not really understanding what they were saying when I was a little girl, but I was aware enough to know that it wasn't nice.  As an adult I know exactly what they were saying.  I think it was pretty cool that my parents let me choose my own doll, as well as stand the negative comments and looks.  But there was probably another reason I chose the doll.

My first memories are of a sweet round face that looked down on me with the light of an angel.  Her name was Miss Vicky.  She had a small daycare in Anchorage, Alaska where my family lived at the time.  She lived simply, without any luxuries.  She poured her love into children, who often she cared for with no payment because their families couldn't pay.  She never turned any child away.  Once she told my Mom that if we did not pay her, she could not pay her rent or eat.  When we moved back to Oregon my Mom left her nearly everything we owned including our bed pillows.  

I could tell you so many stories about the things she taught me.  All of my earliest memories are of her, and I remember so much about her, especially her smile.  I think there are true saints that walk among us and that she was one of them.  A few years after we returned to Oregon one of my cousins moved to Anchorage and was also put in her care.  My cousin was touched in much the same way we were.

My brother and I with Miss Vicky approx. 1987.
Once back in Oregon, Miss Vicky would send us packages every year on our birthdays and Christmas.  The last package she sent me was a graduation present when I graduated high school.  It was a special edition Barbie dressed for graduation.  Miss Vicky died shortly after that.  I never had the chance to see her again.  It's something I will always regret.  Some day I want to visit Anchorage, find her grave, and bring her some beautiful poppies that she loved so much.  I want to thank her for everything she did for me.  I want to thank her for influencing my life in the beautiful way that she did.

Children are taught to hate or they are taught to love.  Children don't see color, they see kindness.

Nessy and I

I imagine my 5-year-old self being asked the same question "does your doll look like you?" to which I would answer "yes she does".

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Sell on Etsy

I have been an Etsy seller since 2007 when I began selling my BeBe Babies.  Before that I used Ebay, as it was the main online marketplace for art dolls.  I had become wary of Ebay for some time because their site's look was ugly in my opinion, and their fees were high.  However I remember feeling very nervous about switching to Etsy because I worried that no one would find my shop and my sales would decline.  Now 7 years later I highly recommend having your shop on Etsy and here's why.

Truly some of the first BeBes ever made.  This was the first doll show I did with the BeBes back in 2006.  I had just started making larger dolls.

The number one reason I recommend using Etsy is because of all the information they offer to help you become a better seller- FOR FREE.  There is a wealth of information for everyone, whether you are just starting out on Etsy, or are a long time member, and it is all free.  There are many people who sell this advice on Etsy.  A lot of new and old sellers fall into the trap of shelling out money for information that they can get for free.  I am highly against paying for information.  The internet is full of free resources and you should never have to pay for advice in my opinion.  This is one reason I changed the direction of my blog.  I want to offer everyone the information I have learned over the years from practice and a ton of reading.  It might take a little longer to find the resources but it will save you a lot of money in the long run.

These are some of the first BeBe Babies ever made!  I believe this is from Halloween 2007.  

The Esty newsletter has been the most valuable for me.  You can subscribe to it here.  The other day I received one of their emails and it contained a seller seminar.  This seminar is geared towards advanced sellers, but I would still recommend it for beginners, as it might get you ahead of the game faster.  You can find the seminar here.  Now, because I have been a long time seller there were many things that were not of use to me in the packet, but there were many other things that were.  Remember, not everything will be of value to you, but it's important to find the pieces that are, and apply them to your business.  I added about 5 new things to my to-do list from this seminar and that is what I want to talk about.  

There are three things I am focusing on right now in my business; photos, social networking and pitching to companies.  From the seminar I got these ideas:

1.  Take photos of your items in their natural habitat.  I never really thought about this but it makes sense.  I would love to have some professional pictures of my play dolls in a child's bedroom or in the arms of a child.  I have a lot of fan photos but I need some professional quality ones for promotional purposes.  Think magazine editorials.

If you are like me you are thinking "I can't afford to hire a professional photographer".  This is where you need to get creative.  I have a friend and customer, who has an adorable daughter and also happens to be a beautiful photographer.  I have sent her an email asking if she could do some photos for me in exchange for a couple free BeBes.  If you are a seller without the funds to invest much in your business you have to get creative.  Start thinking how you can get services free or at a discount by offering your work or something in exchange.  Now maybe my friend will decline, and if that happens I will offer the same pitch to other photographers until I can find one who says yes.

I have also been struggling with the sales of my miniatures, mainly because I haven't sold any lol.  Ok that's not true, I have sold about 20, but all to the same customer.  The problem is mainly that I don't have the time to photograph them in a very professional way with my Blythe doll.  So I have reached out to some Blythe collectors who take beautiful photographs.  I am offering them a free mini in exchange for photographs with their Blythe dolls.  I am excited to be working with someone at this time and will be making her miniatures this weekend.  I can't wait to see her photos and share them with you.  I am hoping this will create more sales for my minis.

This photo is by my dear customer Lane of Reallusion Photography.  Mini pig BeBe available to order here.

2.  Social networking is difficult.  It takes a lot of time and planning.  Don't think social networking is just about posting all willy nilly.  You must strike a balance in order to not alienate your followers, but you must also keep them engaged.  When I first started my BeBe Babies Facebook page I really didn't use it much.  Now that I have been using it significantly more I'm mad at myself for not doing it sooner.  After reading page 20 of the Etsy seminar I have a clearer understanding of the mistakes I am making.  If you don't read any other parts of the seminar, read the social networking part starting on page 18.

New design that I am working on and very excited about!

They give you an exercise to do which is to analyze your Facebook posts to see which ones are getting the most likes and shares.  This will help you determine what your audience is responding to.  What I realized from the exercise is that I am posting way too much about new listings in my shop.  The seminar advises creating a posting schedule that includes new items (product features), a behind the scenes look at your work (backstage pass), and expertise/inspiration you possess (be an expert or inspire).  So get ready because I am going to start posting photos of BeBe Babies in progress as well as other things I find inspirational or beneficial.

Special project coming soon.

3.  As you know I have been complaining, I mean working, really hard at trying to get my dolls into stores so I can eventually do BeBe Babies full time.  I've been writing a lot of emails to stores and online publications and I am still hearing crickets in my inbox.  I have began to wonder if my emails are not looking or sounding professional enough.  There is so much advice out there about pitching to companies it's hard to know whose advice to follow.  This article on Etsy is the advice I have been following except I was forgetting one little thing.  I have not been embedding small photos into the email.  Actually the more I look at the article there are a few little things I haven't been doing; like following up or expressing why BeBe Babies are so special.  I am going to polish my email pitching and try again with more shops and blogs.  Hopefully when I get some professional photos I can make the emails look even better.  

For more information head over to the Etsy blog and/or the Etsy Seller Handbook.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Debbie Aponte's Soft Sculptured Dolls

Well after my last post I decided to take my own advice and do something fun.  So why not a post about another doll artist?  Debbie is a customer of mine who is becoming a fast friend.  She has several BeBe Babies and takes the cutest pictures of them.  I noticed in her pictures that she was posing her BeBes with some adorable soft sculpture dolls.  I had no idea she made them!  Debbie is just starting out making her own dolls and I wanted to share them with my readers because I love them and think you will too.  Her shop is under the name Debbie's Dolly Fashions and Reborns so check it out.

BeBe Baby Alma with one of Debbie's kitty dolls.

1.  When did you begin making cloth dolls?

Just recently I started making full body cloth dolls. I used to make dolls, but they only consisted of the cloth head with blankets for the bodies. Something cute to cuddle with. I wanted to make something different so about 3 week's ago, I decided to have a try at making full body cloth dolls. Each time I made one, I would compare it to the last one I made to see what I needed to perfect or change. So far, so good.

2.  Have you only made cloth dolls or have you made any other types of dolls?

No...at first, I taught myself how to sew dresses and gowns for my dolls. Then when I discovered Reborns, I taught myself how to sew baby blankets w/ matching pillows. I also taught myself how to crochet clothes, toys, dolls and more.

3.  Do you have a background in art?

I do have a background in art. Not professionally, but self taught. As a young girl I loved to draw and sketch people. I also love to oil paint as well.

4.  How did you learn to sew and make dolls?

I picked up my first sewing needle back in 2005. It was the same time I taught myself how to use a sewing machine. I never took classes but I do remember watching my mom sew...how she used the bobbin, how she threaded the needle, etc. She would always try to get me to help her and show me how to sew but I would refuse and always sat there and watched her work. After she passed away in 2005, I brought her sewing machine home with me with all of her supplies and taught myself how to sew. It was stressful and aggravating at first, trying to remember everything my mom used to do. But I was determined to learn because I wanted my mom to be proud of me. 

5.  Do you have any advice for new doll makers?

Yes....for new doll makers, please be sure to do your research. The Internet is a great place to search for techniques, advise, etc. when it comes to making dolls. 

6.  Does anyone help you in the creation of your dolls?

I design and make my dolls by myself. I have no assistance at this time.

7.  Do you belong to any doll clubs/groups/forums?

I belong to a doll forum called Doll-Fan. It's a great place to share your stories about your doll collections and dolls that you make. The ladies there are so helpful and supportive.

8.  Where do you sell your dolls?  Where can people buy them?

I sell my creations on Doll-Fan and Etsy.

9.  Do you collect dolls yourself?

Oh yes....I only collect Bebe Babies. I am addicted to those cute little faces. 

10.  Who are your favorite doll artists?

LOL...Casie of course! I used to collect Fayzah Spanos dolls as well as Sheila Michael dolls. Now I collect Bebe Babies.

11.  Do you have a day job?  What do you do?

Yes....I work full time as an Assistant Project Manager at an accounts receivable company for medical/ hospital accounts.

12.  Anything else you want to share about your dolls?

I have to say, I find myself in a different place when I am creating. It's calming and so satisfying to have an idea come to life. Almost therapeutic.

I agree Debbie!

Thanks for reading everyone!  And as always if you are a doll or soft sculpture artist and would like to be featured on the BeBe Babies blog please send me a message.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Testing Testing is This Thing On?

I'm feeling discouraged.  I tried to do some Google research about discouragement and all I could immediately find were links to religious pages.  I'm not religious, so reading an article concluding that putting my faith in God is a logical solution does not help me to feel less discouraged.  I never knew God had the monopoly on discouragement.  I want studies.  I want methods.  I want concrete solutions.

I also realized that I am in an incredibly bad mood.  I have started and stopped writing this post so many times that I'm irritating myself.  Mostly I just want to spew obscenities.  I want to punch the wall and I want to hide from everyone.  Ok, so we all have these kinds of days, but like the methodical person I am, I am going to sit down and write out the reasons and try to find some solutions.

Lately I feel that every decision I have made in my life has been wrong.  I question everything.  I set goals for myself and when I achieve them they are not what I thought.  They don't make me happy.  I feel like George Costanza today.

When I took a look at the reasons I am discouraged I realized I'm caught in a catch-22.  I want to be able to do dolls full time and make it into a real business because I don't like working for other people making pennies (or pesos as it is).  The way to do this is simple; I need to be selling enough dolls to provide myself with a sustainable income.

It's so frustrating that the solution is simple but the application is so difficult.  I have spent countless hours researching and have sent about 20 emails so far to children's stores, toy stores, etc asking if they might be interested in carrying BeBe Babies.  I have received 0 responses.  It leads me to wonder if my emails are going through.  I must assume they are.  I think the emails are just arriving to uninterested parties.  Now that's ok, I'm not emotionally crushed by rejection.  It's not the rejection that is making me upset.

I'm upset because I want this so bad, and I want it now.  I cannot move forward in any way without orders from stores.  For example, I want to order special packaging for my dolls so that when they go to stores they are secure and professional.  Most suppliers require you to buy 1000-3000 units minimum.  I can't do that until I have orders.  I want to hire someone to help me sew and make my dolls.  I can't do that until I have the orders.  I want to hire someone to really give my website and branding a more professional appearance.  I can't do that until I have orders.  I want to hire legal services and testing services to take my BeBes to another level and I can't do that until I have orders.

I told you in the past I was thinking about looking into factory manufacturing and an agent to help me.  I cannot figure out how to find an agent.  A Google search results in representation that looks gimmicky and fake.  I'm afraid to go that route but I believe a professional could help me so much more with my goals.  I just don't know how to find them.

Many people have told me that stores and/or agents always come to them.  But those same people who gave me that information, are tight-lipped about their sources.  I have been surprised at the brick wall I have encountered when asking the Etsy community and other small artists for information.  This community always came off to me as a place to share and help one another.  How quickly that changes when people hit the big time.

So what is the solution when you lose your patience?  I believe it is to take a break.  Work on something fun and come back with the energy to continue plowing through...  And besides what choice do I have?  The alternative is even more discouraging...

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I am working on some new projects as well as a tutorial but I have been experiencing a new bout of tiredness.  Not sure if it is the anemia coming back or if I'm getting sick because I am experiencing a bit of a sore throat and headache.  Because of this I don't have any business advice for you today.  Instead I thought I would share a little bit about what I'm up to.

Another supply box from my Mom arrived today.  This time I took a taxi home from the post office instead of trying to carry the box on the bus like the near disaster that happened last time.  It was full of doll clothes, wigs, fabric and other supplies.  One big thing I was excited to receive was new business cards and hang tags.  I order my cards from Moo.com.  I really like Moo.  I like that I am able to basically design my cards myself.  They always come out so nice and I love the feel of them.  I think maybe they are a little expensive but I think they are worth it.

I think I mentioned at some point that I used to always send little gift packs along with my dolls.  I would include stickers, cards, pencils, pins, magnets, things like that.  You can see a customer review video with my packaging on Youtube here.  I've been feeling so insecure and bad about my packaging lately so I couldn't wait to order some gifts and things so I can start packaging my dolls the way I used to.  Recently I changed my website from bebe-babies.com to bebebabies.com so I needed to change the graphic for my buttons.  Unfortunately the lady I used to order from closed her shop so I was hesitant to find someone new.  I decided to give Rockerbye Buttons a try.  I was very very happy with their service so I highly recommend them.  They helped me change my graphic in a timely manner and didn't charge me extra.  

The other thing I have needed to get sorted out is tags.  I have always made my own tags for my dolls.  I print out the graphic onto iron on paper and then my Mom would iron them onto white bias tape.  I am now out of tags for my dolls but I have purchased a printer and am hoping to get some BeBe Babies tags made up soon.  

However I needed tags for the items I have been making for my other shop, Mexican Fabric and Fashion.  I decided to order these from Tagtopia.  I picked a special font and the proof I was sent looked good.  Now that I received the tags I don't know that I will order them again.  It's not because anything is wrong with them, or that they are totally not what I expected.  I just feel that I could make them myself.  I also don't like how the font turned out.  I wanted the letters to look a little rugged or damaged and they really just look like any regular bold font.  I don't think they have much character.  I also think they might not be heavy duty enough for clothing.  I think I would rather have woven tags.  I will give them a try though and see how they look on the items.

Recently I saw a post on the Etsy forum about packaging.  The woman was saying how she does not appreciate when she purchases something on Etsy and it comes packaged all pretty.  She doesn't like it because she feels like she is paying extra for packaging and the item and/or shipping would cost less without all the goodies.  Commenters were going back and forth.  Some were saying they like receiving items which are packaged up pretty, it's like receiving a present.  Others agreed with the poster that it is a waste of money.  I think it's an important argument because while I don't agree with the poster (I like pretty packages) I think her concern is valid.  

I think I will be adding to my shipping policies that my shipping prices include only the cost of shipping plus basic packaging materials (tape, box/envelope, and the cellophane bags).  Any extra goodies come out of my pocket and are just little gifts to make receiving a BeBe Baby and extra special experience.  How do you feel?  Do you like pretty packages with extra goodies?