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Crowdfunding campaign launched for dolls of historical women

posted Jul 22, 2014, 11:47 AM by Siamak Ebarhimi

University of Illinois students Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves came up with the idea for Miss Possible, a business that sells dolls based on actual women who contributed to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Their early plans for the dolls were outlined in a March 9 story in The News-Gazette.

The dolls envision the historical figures as 10-year-old children and come with downloadable mobile apps that provide background on the women and instructions for hands-on activities.CrowdFunding advertizing

On July 12, Hobbs and Eaves launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to raise $75,000 to support their business venture. Hobbs, who graduated from the UI this spring, provided an update last week on the company and its plans. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

How much of your $75,000 goal have you raised so far?

We opened the campaign Saturday, and in the first four days, we have raised $10,736, or 14 percent of our goal. It's about where we expected it to be. People have been so generous.CrowdFunding marketing

What will the $75,000 enable you to do?

That would let us place the first order for our dolls — 5,000 Marie Curie dolls. We have to do the manufacture in China; no one in the States is making these (types of) dolls any more.

What levels have been pledged so far?

We've gotten a couple of $500 pledges. The next highest was $250. The $120 pledge is the most popular; for that, you receive the first three dolls (in the series) as they are released.Kickstarter Marketing

How would you describe the Marie Curie doll?

It's a 14-inch doll with brown hair and green eyes and wearing a dark purple dress and green lab coat. It's made of vinyl, like most dolls you see on the shelves now.

On the (accompanying) app, we are going to have the story of this woman. Something you don't see others (in the doll industry) doing is giving instructions for hands-on activities. Parents don't necessarily want their kids staring at a computer screen all day. We bring a hands-on component.

The first activity is making a compass. You can't have kids working with radiation (as Marie Curie did), so we decided to work with magnetism instead. The app includes instructions (for the activities) and explanations of the science behind it.Indiegogo Marketing

We also give instructions for making 'slime.' Using Elmer's glue and borax, you can produce a chemical reaction that makes a polymer that feels similar to Silly Putty. You can change the recipe to make it harder or softer. You can add corn starch to make it into a bouncy ball.

How did you select Bessie Coleman and Ada Lovelace as the follow-up dolls to Marie Curie?

We got a lot of positive response to our initial plans for an Amelia Earhart doll. People liked the idea of the aviator. But laws regarding personality rights ... would have required us to pay royalties.crowdfunding websites

We think it's important to feature a diverse group of women. Part of the premise of Miss Possible is, we want girls to look at these dolls and see themselves, to see role models who look like them — people of different races and ethnicities in different fields.

Bessie Coleman was the first African-American female aviator and the first black woman to get an international pilot's license.

Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer — not just the first female computer programmer. We thought that was really cool. Even though the numbers are getting better, computer science is a very male-dominated field. We show cool opportunities (for women) in the app. We're teaching girls about code in the app.

How much will the dolls cost later on?crowdfunding marketing

Forty dollars is the early-bird price (for Marie Curie) on Indiegogo, which includes shipping. The normal price for the doll is $45, and we anticipate it will cost $45 on the shelves as well. A lot of (whether we sell it in stores) hinges on how well this campaign goes. If we're able to knock it out of the park, we should be able to sell them on shelves in toy stores in coming years. Online is also a very big outlet for sales, and I anticipate we'll get significant sales online.

What have you been hearing from people since the Indiegogo campaign started?

Several have been saying, 'I want one of these and I don't have any kids.' One mom said her daughter saw Ada Lovelace on the campaign page and now thinks it might be neat to be a computer programmer.

Hobbs graduated from the UI this spring with a degree in chemical engineering, and Eaves will be a senior this fall in materials science engineering. This summer, Hobbs is working on the Miss Possible project from [co][lab] in downtown Urbana. She plans to go to work for Eli Lilly & Co. in August. Eaves is serving an internship with SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company, this summer.crowdfunding advertising

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By David Khorram