Margarita's Playful Families and the Amamanta anatomical Dolls Story
|Colombian "Paisa" Anatomically Detailed Stuffed Dolls 4-m. family (Baby still inside pregnant mom)|
Written by Elli Villegas
I first met Margarita last spring in the midst of a cluttered Bronx, NYC apartment as she was sorting through her collection of ‘little families’ of hand made dolls. She had just arrived from Colombia and was staying at a friend’s home while she prepared to promote these little families.
I had never seen dolls like this when I was growing up. Margarita’s dolls are not only unique because they come in multicultural family sets but they are also anatomically relevant. The ‘pregnant’ mother doll has breasts to demonstrate breastfeeding and the baby comes out through a birth canal. The father comes complete with a penis and testicles. Underarm and pubic hair included! The girl doll has an anus and vagina and the boy doll includes a penis... Scandalous? Not really, but I have to admit I was a bit shocked at first. Then I realized how silly my reaction was towards dolls that simply resemble the human body.
I wanted to learn more about Margarita’s motivation for creating these special cuddly dolls that she named Amamanta – a Spanish word that means love, protection and breastfeeding.
Margarita had a clear vision from the
beginning. “These are not
just toys. I envision parents
role-playing with their kids at bedtime and educating them about sex in a
relaxed manner. Teaching them proper names for body parts an appropriate
versus inappropriate touching, helping them adjust to the arrival of a new
sibling, instilling family values, and sorting out emotional needs and
concerns through playful self-expression.”
Margarita moved gingerly about as she made sure her traveling companions
were in good shape and in her child-like voice told me how excited she was to
bring these dolls to America. “I’m
so happy to have the opportunity to introduce Amamanta to the U.S. marketplace,
it’s taken many years of hard work and dedication to finally make my dolls
available here, and I so love my little ‘muńecas’ (dolls).”
|Originally an Industrial Designer by trade, Margarita decided to create a home-based business about 5 years ago to have more time with her two toddlers. Her journey began when she observed the incredibly close bond her sister-in-law (Maria) had with her infant as she breastfed for nearly a year. A year later Margarita became pregnant with her first child and decided she wanted to have that same experience. Maria invited her to a Leche League Conference in Colombia and soon Margarita was hooked on the natural concepts of mothering that the League fostered. She became a designated leader who helped other women embrace the benefits of breastfeeding in motherhood.||
See full collection of Anatomically Correct Amamanta Dolls
By the time Margarita’s daughter Veronica was three years
old, Margarita became pregnant with her son David. She wanted to better explain the arrival of a new family
member to her precocious little girl and felt the process would be easier with
some visual aids. Grabbing a
plastic doll she proceeded to explain some of the basics of conception,
pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Veronica
grew more enthusiastic about being a big sister and one day she asked, “Mom,
can you make me a little brother for my mother doll?”
So, with an aim to please attitude, Margarita applied her design
expertise to the creation of the doll and soon thereafter, at the pleading
requests of her daughter, she created a father doll and a girl doll resembling
Veronica. The idea for Amamanta had
arrived! Margarita explains that
her business idea was born out of seemingly ordinary circumstances that evolved
into a passion for creating dolls that depict the beauty of the human body and
It took some time convincing her husband Carlos that making and selling dolls could be the ideal home business to generate an additional income stream. After all, it would require some significant financial risks. Unlike Margarita, Carlos an architect, preferred more conventional types of work and lower thresholds of risk and his highly rational mind often conflicted with her idealism. He also wasn’t keen on the idea of her traveling outside Colombia several times a year in search of market opportunities. In addition, as a young couple they were already beginning to form a nest egg and to have that money used on an uncertain business venture made them question their priorities.
Mother and baby special connection demonstrated with Amamanta Family dolls
But Margarita had the strong conviction that this was no
pie-in-the-sky business scheme and that they would find creative ways to make
|Margarita enrolled in a class to learn how to develop a business and as she told a few of her classmates about her doll creation idea she got encouraging support. With some strategic ideas in mind she was convinced that public relations would be her initial main focus for getting her business off the ground. The Leche League was holding a conference in Chicago in less than a year and she made it her goal to participate at one of the product booths promoting Amamanta.|
On impulse, she reserved her spot and started work on the dolls immediately. She didn’t tell Carlos. How would she pay for the expenses? Would she come out of this one unscathed?
Through trial and error she sewed dolls day after day, night after night until
she realized that she needed more hands in the development process.
Putting her pride aside she realized she would need help.
By way of her affiliation with a charitable organization she recruited a
few women to hand make the dolls. Many of these women were on the verge of
homelessness and by training them on the doll making process they were able to
learn a new skill and earn some money to improve their financial situation.
She resolved to work with the relatively unskilled women because she
wanted to help her community and for practical purposes she couldn’t afford to
hire professional seamstresses. She
borrowed money from some family members and after a lot of legwork was awarded a
government sponsored loan to help launch the business.
Buying a few sewing machines she put the ladies to work on creating the
facial features and clothing.
At the Chicago event Amamanta stole the
show. Parents, teachers and
therapists loved them. She took careful notes on product modifications for
improvements that would make her product gain more mass appeal.
Back in Colombia the dolls were selling incredibly well at artesian fairs. Within a year she had 42 working mothers who were like her extended family and she felt a stronger obligation to develop sales since they depended on her for their income. She couldn’t turn her back on them now.
Amamanta anatomical dolls come in family sets.
Customize yours so that it looks like your own family!
“I didn’t come from a rich family or married into money, I am simply a middle class woman trying to build a business with a product that will bring good things to the families it touches. It was no easy task dealing with the loan officers in my country and even an aunt of mine charges me steep interest on the amount she lent me.” With no income flowing in from her business, Margarita had to pay her staff from her own pocket for nearly a year.
By networking with people at trade organizations and
spreading the word about her business to everyone she’d meet, Margarita soon
got a business lead for a wholesale international gift fair taking place in New
York City. She managed to reserve a
space in the nick of time by negotiating to share a booth with a group
exhibiting Andean artesian. It was
at the gift fair that she met a fellow South American who would later become her
U.S. based distributor. He really understood the educational value of my
anatomical dolls from the very beginning. I learned to listen closely to my
distributor because business is conducted differently here than in Colombia. One
of the first things we did was to sell the dolls directly to parents via the
Internet. Since then we’ve added undergarments for the whole family and have
been selling the dolls at specialty shops as well.”
As I continue to speak with Margarita I notice that we are
surrounded by a united nations of dolls. “This
collection is a significant improvement from the prototype of a few years back.
I’ve certainly learned to be more patient with the whole marketing process.
My wish is that more and more women seek out projects that truly interest
them and pursue them as passionately as they take care of their families. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to actualize a personal
business goal, what is important is to be tenacious while doing something that
brings you joy.”
Amamanta Family dolls can be found at www.amamantafamily.com
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