Imagine having a wild dream one night and then waking up to find it’s your new career path. For Jacquelynn Stanley and her father, Bob Stanley, such a dream is what sparked their creation of Bobbi-Toads shoe company.
“I had this vision in the middle of the night. It was all laid out in the dream: what the name of the shoes were, how the shoes would look, going about getting a patent, all the way down to what charity we were going to help,” Bob Stanley recalled.
Bobbi-Toads designs shoes for children with toes made into the shoes that children can paint however they want.
Jacquelynn Stanley was only 12 – now age 24 and a graduate of the University of Miami with a degree in marketing, finance and anthropology – at the time when her father applied for the patent on these unique shoes, and she had no idea how this simple dream would affect her future.
“I was pretty young when it happened, but we found a patent attorney in Chicago and we worked with them over a year or two and then we got the patent,” she said.
The Stanley Family originally wanted to license the idea off to a bigger company because Bob Stanley was working for his own family company. However, it became apparent that if they did that, they would not be able to give as much to the charities as they had planned.
“Upon investigation into [licensing the idea off] and meeting a chairman of a very large shoe company, he told me what the royalties would be, and I didn’t think it would be enough. And he said that it would be too hard to do on your own, and I love challenges, so I was like oh no, I can do this, so that’s when I decided to go that path. The thing is we give away such a large percent of our profits and envisioned giving such a large percent to charity that with what they would have given us in royalties, it would not have been enough” Bob Stanley said.
When it came to funding, they were lucky to have such good support from their family.
“[Funding] is one of the areas that I feel most fortunate about because I know a lot of young entrepreneurs have to do a lot of card funding and venture capitalist. However, ours were right in our family. We are a very close family,” Jacquelynn Stanley said.
She cautioned, however, that running a business has not always been an easy process, even with family-backing. “We showed our family and friends [the product] and they all said they loved it. However, we know that they might just like it because we’re the ones doing it, so we had to get outside opinions as well, and the opinions we got we’re really great, but our biggest struggle was just letting people know that something like this existed,” Jacquelynn Stanley added.
As a small family business, they had to figure out the best marketing strategies while not having the huge marketing budgets other companies have at their disposal. One of their methods is having all of their customers fill out surveys to see where their cliental base is and what type of people are buying their product. From there, it was easier to reach out to a more specific audience.
“Another thing we tried was advertising in magazines. However, those are very expensive, and even just a very small square in a prominent magazine is getting it out in front of people, which I think it great, but I think people need to see it more direct, which is a more expensive route,” Jacquelynn Stanley said.
The other major contributor was social media, which was one of the advantages of Jacquelynn Stanley’s youth, according to her father.
“I needed her youth, her enthusiasm, her knowledge of social media, you know things that a 56-year-old guy isn’t that familiar with, so it’s been so great having someone so young. Jacquelynn’s definitely the face of the business, and she has been a great inspiration for me,” Bob Stanley said.
Though the original Bobbi-Toads were Bob Stanley’s idea, the new line is completely his daughter’s. She designed a new set of shoes where instead of being able to paint the toes, the toes light up, which were launched in November 2014 as “Bobbi-Toads by Jacquelynn Rae.”
“It is a similar product but also offers something different for kids who don’t want to paint the shoes or for moms who don’t want their kids to paint the shoes. It’s really exciting because I was the one who designed them. With this new line, we’ve been able to grow and I can do the designs myself,” Jacquelynn Stanley said.
The Stanleys hope to expand the brand into bigger department stores, while also adding new products.
“I am very into philanthropy and helping other people, so I want to grow this brand outside of just a product and keep it standing a product but build the brand, so that we can build a loyal customer base and make more products for different customers. Then, we can give back to charities,” Jacquelynn Stanley said.
“We have a lot of other reasons that we are doing [this business]. Of course, while money is one, the money is so that we can give it back to charity. My dad has vowed to give half of his profits back to charity,” she added.
Jacquelynn Stanley was quick to note that her youth and gender have not slowed her down one bit in the business world.
“I always find [the topic of being a young female entrepreneur] very interesting. Society would make it seem like I have the short end of the stick, being a girl in business and also being young in business. But ever since I was a kid, I was taught that I could do whatever I wanted to do as long as I worked my hardest and stayed focus,” she said.
If anything, she uses her youth and femininity to her advantage.
“I’ve been getting positives about [my gender and youth] since a young age and so, I think it is great [being a young, female entrepreneur] because I love sports but I am also a big girly girl so I love being able to do all these different cute little kid designs. I think my youth is a good thing too because I’ve got that energy still and I would much rather be the underdog,” she added.
Kaylene Hersey is an intern at Lioness and is currently a senior creative writing major at Western New England University. She is from Colchester, Conn. Besides writing, she has a passion for baking and dancing, and she hopes one day to work in the Editing and Publishing world. If that fails, she plans to open up her own bakery.