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TheStreet Open House

The New Face of Toy Success

Companies like Mattel and Hasbro (HAS) have a lot of capital backing them and the ability to infiltrate the media and get huge shelf space in stores.

"Those are all the things they automatically have and we have to fight for," Gunther Shugeman said. "We don't have the same kind of capital and leverage with the buyers, but I will say we've been fortunate. Every retailer we met with recognized how special they are. "

"They love the fact that there is a whole entertainment behind it. Kids today need to be engaged on multiple levels to get emotionally attached to a brand," she said.

Prettie Girls! launched in October 2013 to combat the lack of multicultural dolls in the market.

Trent Daniel, founder of TheOne World Doll Project, a subsidiary of One World Holdings, is taking a more focused approach to marketing and distributing his new multi-cultural doll line, The Prettie Girls!

Daniel saw an opportunity in the marketplace to create the ethnically diverse dolls, because he said there is a lack of quality-made multi-cultural dolls.

"The first thing was the quality," Daniel said. "We needed people to know this was a quality doll -- especially in the collectors market, but also in the retail market place."

One World Doll Project partnered with designer Stacey McBride-Irby, who formerly designed for Barbie for 15 years to create the concepts.

The line will eventually feature five ethnically diverse dolls and one collector's specific doll, the Cynthia Bailey Prettie Girls Collector Doll, inspired from the reality-TV star on Bravo Network's Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Its first doll, Lema, of African-American ethnicity, launched in October. Next up will be Valencia, who is Latina. The rest of the dolls, including Kimani, who is African, Dahlia, who is South Asian, and Alexie (Caucasian), will launch in early 2014.

"We really wanted to make sure there was an underlying message of empowerment for young girls but we didn't want the message to be the overshadowing factor. We wanted the dolls to be fun toys that little girls want to play with," Daniel said.

One World Doll Project has partnered with Doll Genie and two other collector's Web sites to sell the dolls. It also plans to sell the dolls on Amazon. But so far the company isn't selling them in the mass market.

"There has been a shift in the last several years towards online retail, especially when you talk about non-white dolls. The availability [in stores] just hasn't been there. We're finding that a lot of people are going online and looking for these dolls," Daniel said. "Within the first seven days of launching, [we picked up] three [online] distribution deals because the demand is there."

"We've been getting amazing reviews from the collectors' market. Kids are pretty simple to please: Is it fun? Does it look good? Parents' really love the positive message behind each one of our dolls. We really wanted all of our dolls to have depth and character," Daniel said.

The brand will be supporting the distribution with marketing and advertising in core market-specific areas followed only then by more mainstream marketing.

"We know our core markets and it is women of color," he said. "We are very selective and focused on our brand. We're not just running out and looking to throw our dolls on whatever Web site there is. It's not all about just getting on TV or the radio or this Web site."

So far sales are going better than expected. Daniel expects the initial inventory to be sold out by Dec. 15. The plan then is to ramp up production of all the dolls and "make them a hot sell for Christmas 2014," he said.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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