Wednesday, March 25, 2015

To Open or Not to Open a Shop:
March 25th, 2015;

As we talked about here: 

At the end of the 2014 summer we asked shopkeepers 
to submit posts to us about opening/operating their own doll-related online shop.

We got so busy that we decided to hold on 
to the posts until 2015.

So we are going to start uploading the shopkeepers 
posts now as part of the standard "New Year's Resolution" idea!

The Second Entry in this discussion is from Renee....

My Business Links:





Hello all!

My business has been the best thing that could have happened for my family. I am doing something that I love which also feeds the creative aspect of my personality, and which in turn spreads joy to others (which is the cherry on top).

I love to make people smile. Inspiring playtime and a love of history are vital elements that Pleasant Company established with American Girl. Independent seamstresses and crafters who continue in that inspired vein keep that avenue open by offering items that augment a simply wonderful product.

The original Dress Patterns that were offered in the catalog in the 1990s created many wonderful hours of cherished sharing and gifting. For those that could not afford the completed outfits, or those who wanted to give a grandchild something handmade because that very grandparent enjoyed similar items as a child the patterns offered a chance to share a special magic. Those outfits were very treasured and hearkened to tradition.

Most little girls in American history learned to sew at an early age. Whether mending like Felicity, lacing buckskin hides into protective clothing as Kaya would do, making homespun outfits like the Larsons, preparing for special occasions like Josefina, helping a parent like Addy, or refashioning something like Kit and Molly did from necessity were a part of most girls’ skill set.

The current generation thankfully has experienced a new sewing boom with Project Runway. Young girls are now able to see the thrill of designing. Isabelle and Chrissa both enjoy making something new.

Dollhouse Designs began as a warm, fuzzy memory of sewing and designing for my daughter back in the 90s. I taught myself to sew as a necessity, since I could not afford the types of clothing and playthings that I wanted her to have. Soon, I began to modify patterns to suit my vision of an outfit. I loved details, and the more intricate and close to the original inspiration, the better.

I happily sewed beautiful dresses and costumes for her and historic dresses for her dolls. When her friends came over, I would hear all manner of happy shrieking and giggling as they all tried on the costumes and dressed her dolls. Very good times! I even occasionally whipped up an occasional fabric accessory for my son – a hat or cape for a Bionicle figure… but boy’s toys are just not the same!

Whilst looking at American Girl dolls on eBay one evening in 2008, I found some beautiful custom outfits by Keepers Dolly Duds. I loved the historical fashions and it was similar to the ones I used to make, but more tailored. That evening I was inspired! I had not thought of it as a business before. I didn’t begin sewing right away. I would have to dust off my old machine! As my kids aged, they didn’t care for homemade clothes anymore and only wanted the occasional Halloween costume.
I dug out the old doll patterns and went to work. I didn’t have much time for it because of a divorce, sudden financial strains, and family health issues. Sigh! 

I was working as a photographer part time and then in a call center. My hours were long, and my schedules very undesirable, and constantly changing with the seasons. I began to cast about for something that I could do at home. My kids needed me close. They had learning disabilities and needed a lot of help with school and other things, and I was just not available as much as I wished. The stress began to affect my health a lot.

Finally, I began to list a few doll outfits I made and recondition TLC American Girl dolls to make some extra money. I began to receive requests for my patterns. I always made a paper copy of anything I created so that I could duplicate it later but I didn’t have a clue how to generate computer drawn patterns. I did have some experience with Photoshop from my photography skills and used that to fumble my way through the process. I always loved writing in school, and am a huge history buff. Historical Fashion became a new passion. I studied the eras and invested countless hours poring over images and old sewing guides.

So I put my talents together with my big lovely camera and finally released my first pattern. It was so flattering when someone would actually buy it. I added a few more and in time, it grew into a full time business. Factoring in revisions to my earlier patterns as I create new ones keeps me very busy, but I am able to be home for my family.  I have some challenges like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which affect both elements of my business –sewing as well as computer work. It can really throw a monkey wrench in my schedule when it flares up… but the work is enjoyable. My kids inherited their ADHD from me, and it really is something that has to be managed. People with ADHD are often very artistic and perform better with occupations a little more outside the box.

Originally I sold outfits on eBay but the fees and randomness of sales caused me to look elsewhere. Etsy was an exciting artisan and antique based atmosphere, and I opened my shop in 2009. I love the friendly community on Etsy.

Dollhouse Designs (DHD) is still very small, but I am always busy designing and sewing custom orders. I am also excited to partner with Pixie Faire for some of my designs. I continue to keep my own Etsy shop open, and enjoy social media as a way to interact with like minded people (many smiles) via Pinterest and Facebook. Since becoming involved with American Girl, I have met so many delightful people. Lots of common interests I suppose, but I can’t help but think that people who are involved with dolls are just a little bit happier!

One thing that has been very challenging is publicity. It is possible to purchase advertising, but that can get very expensive very quickly. Most small businesses do not have a budget that allows for much.  I have built visibility for my brand very slowly. I think being visible online in social media helps quite a bit, which is largely free.  Most businesses today are active online.
It is also hard to know if you are doing things “the right way." Asking friends to look at your products and your online shop is helpful. There are many tutorials and YouTube videos that can help. So much can be found online with a simple Google search. 

I absolutely adore being an indie designer. Starting an online shop is so easy nowadays once you have your items that you want to sell. Fees are usually nominal compared to most startup business costs. Storefront sites have step by step plans to get a new seller going quickly.

With PDF pattern downloads, a customer can shop, purchase, receive an automatic download, print, and begin working in less time than it takes to go out and shop for a pattern. If they have some fabric at home already, then it is even faster.

Online sellers can also respond quickly to customers. I have my phone with me and check it often. I can receive a question and answer it quickly. I do feel like my business is a success. It feels almost portable, and in a sense it is.

I feel so very blessed to have been able to overcome difficulties and provide for my family. I still have plans to expand and offer new things. While continuing my current style of patterns and the occasional outfit, I am planning to add a couple of new doll styles and children’s patterns. Since 2000, I have had a particular type of dollhouse I have wanted to create and market – something customizable and special. The interior decorator and woodworker in me are calling. :-)

So there is always more to come.

-Renee Adams
Dollhouse Designs

Thank you for your Guest Post Renee!

We really appreciate your help!


If you own an online shop and you want to participate in this discussion,
please send in your posts to!

You can sell doll clothing, accessories, foods, furniture, patterns, etc.
Whatever doll-related thing you sell!

If you want to sign up, you literally only have to write one post for us, haha.

And you just write it in an email, and we post it here.

The post should contain this info:

1) Background of your shop
Why you started it, and brief overview of how you started it.

Where is shop located?
Ebay? Etsy? Separate website?
Why did you chose this location?

How many years have you run your shop?

How successful do you think it has been?

2) The Cons of Opening and Operating an Online Shop

3) The Pros of Opening and Operating an Online Shop

This series is designed to discuss opening and operating an online presence.

Many of us struggle with the idea of having our own store.

We might want to do it.
We might dream of doing it.
But yet, we don't do it.
We are even among those chickens, haha.

So we wanted to have a rational discussion of this topic.
With thoughts and opinions from people who have an online shop.

So please, send your posts to us
and we will load them up here for discussion purposes!

Send them to

There is no such thing as a right or wrong answer to these things.
We are looking for personal reactions to these pros and cons topics.

So you don't have to be scared of other people
not agreeing with you or thinking the same way.

Odds are, we will understand where you are coming from!

Often this topic gets discussed on boards, or chat rooms, or private threads.
We wanted a source that was a little bit more public.

So remember, anyone can read these!

But don't let that discourage you.

The fact that anyone can read these posts
and get an idea of the experience of owning and operating
an online presence is a good thing!

If you wish to remain anonymous but still give us your pros and cons opinions,
you can also certainly do that!
Just email us and we can work that out. :-)

Any questions?
Please feel free to comment below with questions
or email us at

If you want to include pictures, please send those as well.
They are welcome.

If you just want to do quick answers to our inquiry,
you can feel free to add them below in the comment box!

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