I interviewed Sue Cloutman, aged 72, who owns Emma’s Doll Shop based in Gilmanton, NH USA.
Sue makes clothes for 18-inch dolls like American Girl and Madame Alexander.
Here is my interview with Sue…
When did you start your business?
I started Emma’s Doll Shop in 2012.
What made you decide to set up your business?
My Granddaughters loved the clothes I had made for their dolls including baby dolls and Barbies. When they got American Girl Dolls for Christmas of 2011 I was off and running! I loved doing it so decided to set up a shop.
What do you do and what products do you sell?
I make everything from dresses and skirts to coats and hats, shorts and slacks, shoes (lots of shoes!) and socks, leggings and leg warmers. All for 18 inch dolls. I buy the shoes and socks and embellish them with bows.
What products seem to be your best sellers?
The shoes for sure!
Who are your biggest competitors?
There are zillions of people who make doll clothes but my biggest competition is people who advertise their items as “American Girl Doll” clothes which is Trademark Infringement and a real no-no but they do it anyway. Of course, they take lots of business away from those of us trying to follow the rules. I’ve heard of people getting sued and in lots of trouble for this.
How do you advertise your business?
Through Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, craft fairs, Facebook community groups.
How would you recommend your business to potential customers?
All my items are made of the best fabric I can find, seams are finished and they are very sturdy to withstand the rough use kids can give their toys.
Did you have any problems when starting your business? If so, how did you overcome them?
Starting a business and setting up a site is always time-consuming. The hardest part was learning all the rules of Etsy, learning my way around the buttons and manoeuvres to get where I wanted to be. Just took a lot of practice. I also had to find my niche which I did with the shoes.
How do you decide on your designs?
Most of my designs are from Pixie Faire. Very little is my own.
What has been your favourite piece to work on?
I love making dresses. They sell in person but unfortunately, not as much online.
What has the experience of owning a business been like for you?
I’ve been fortunate enough to own a few businesses over the years so this was nothing new except it was all online. My husband and I have been running a cottage rental business (www.crystalacresnh.com) for 40 years and I ran my own alterations and tailoring business for over 30 years. I also invented and developed a line of toys which I sold at fairs and toys stores for about 15 years. An Etsy store has been very relaxing compared to those.
Where do you see your business in the future? What dreams do you have for your business?
To be very honest I’m not looking to do anything dramatic. I’m supposed to be retired (ha!). I like playing with new designs and just sewing!
Below are the store and social media links for Emma’s Doll Shop.
Thank you for answering my questions, Sue. It has been a pleasure interviewing and getting to know you. I wish you well in your business venture.