Sticking up for your values is tough. Cultivating an environment where your children are allowed to be children is tough. Finding girls toys that allow them to freely play and pretend can be tough. Starting your own company for the sake of your daughters, her spiritual and social well-being, and the bolstering of your values is really tough. But that’s exactly what Emily at Faith Friends Co. did.
Emily saw a void in the girls’ toys market. There weren’t dolls that explicitly stood for Christian values and encouraged girls’ natural feminine natures. Emily wanted this for her own daughter, and American Girl Doll wasn’t quite cutting it (especially under the threat of modern social movement demands). So Emily created her own company, designed her own doll, and is ready to offer conservative and Christian mothers and daughters an alternative that serves their values.
We were so excited for the chance to chat with Emily, hear her story, and learn her “why” for taking this amazing step forward.
- Starting a doll company is no small feat. Was there a specific moment that made you say “I NEED to do this”?
Three years ago I searched for a Christian alternative before purchasing an American Girl (AG) Doll for my daughter, but I couldn’t find one that checked all the boxes of our shared values and faith without compromising quality or style. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I realize the seed was planted. Fast forward a few years later to last December when AG released a book about body image for girls—and it’s packed with lies about who God made them to be. I went to Google and searched the market again because I knew there had to be a better option. Still nothing. That was my “I NEED to do this” moment. I considered potential partnerships with other doll companies but ultimately, I felt called to start from scratch to create the type of doll brand I dreamed of for my daughters and girls everywhere.
- We know this is a complicated and controversial topic, but gender ideology has really gripped the world. In what ways do you think your line of dolls will help combat that? Is that part of your mission?
I believe we combat it first by sharing the truth about who God is and how He created us. We can do our part by supporting companies that honor these truths instead of those crumbling at the altar of radical gender ideology. For Faith Friends, it is built right into our brand and mission. Our waitlist website doesn’t have a lot of information but it openly shares our values and I think that is what has resonated with thousands of moms so far. We don’t shy away from our beliefs. It’s stated on our site:
“In a culture that increasingly promotes the opposite, Faith Friends encourages girls to embrace the gift of femininity, to celebrate the beauty in themselves and others, and to boldly be the girls God created them to be!”
- We love that you are focusing on faith. How will the dolls display and encourage that part of life for young girls?
Each doll comes with a special journal with activities and readings to help them to grow in faith, virtues, prayer, traditional handcrafts, and more. My daughter also had the idea that the doll would come with a “little book of verses” and so they will! We hope to create that spark and interest that makes them want to open their Bibles, to look up a verse, and to create conversations with siblings and friends. All of our accessories and future products will have an element of faith too, although it may not be noticeable at first glance. Whether it is the little verse stitched into the Faith Friends Club patch, or the simple birthday prayer card that comes with our handmade birthday crowns, or the dolls’ Biblically inspired names and wholesome clothing—the goal is to always point girls back to what is good, true, and beautiful.
- What do you think modern toys and child entertainment is missing? What about it should parents be wary of?
The toy and doll market is saturated with junky, plastic toys and short-lived entertainment. A lot of it lacks meaningful stories or characters. I think there can be a time and place for cheap and short-lived novelties, but I also think what our children play with, read, and enjoy matters. The toys, books, technology, clothes that we let into our children’s lives have an impact. The quality and safety matters—both in materials and content. I want Faith Friends to be a brand that offers thoughtful toys that inspire beauty, play, and creativity that become keepsakes and get passed down.
We’ve had to lose many beloved authors, brands, toys and shows that have gone awry in their messages, storylines, quality, or values. It’s been disheartening at times but as parents, we are the guardians of our children’s innocence. If Faith Friends can play a small part in helping families today to preserve and celebrate the sweetness of childhood, I’ll be really happy.
- Will your dolls have stories (similar to American Girl Doll)? What will their stories be like?
We hope to add this in the future! My daughters and I have loved reading the Little House series. I’ve developed a love for “living books” and Charlotte Mason-style literature, so future stories would probably have many of those attributes.
- Why are baby dolls, or any type of doll, important to the development of young girls? Do you think dolls help shape femininity at a young age? Do they help beautify motherhood? Or are they just fun to have?
When my daughters were little, I learned about the wool dolls the Waldorf and Montessori education models use to encourage imaginative play. At first I thought it was strange how they lacked many (or any) facial features. But then I learned how children will be more creative and can imagine all kinds of emotions and responses from their doll if it isn’t already painted on for them. The simplicity actually supports their ability to connect and grow through play! I loved that concept and wanted to bring an element of that into the 18-inch doll space for big girls.
The beauty and benefits of doll play that we see with younger children seems to be lost for older girls. Instead the dolls are all about trendy, plastic accessories, wild hair colors, and modern styles and storylines. I believe even older girls benefit from playing with dolls and it can help them express their natural feminine inclination toward empathy, nurturing, and friendship. This is more likely to happen when the doll isn’t making rude sound effects while oozing blue-dye tears with spiky purple hair in a mermicon costume. Yes, that can be fun, and my girls do get a kick out of those toys, too. But we’re always trying to balance out the things that are novelty and “just fun to have” with ones that can be truly meaningful childhood toys.
- We are all about American-made here, so we’re so happy to see that’s part of your mission. What does American-made mean to you? What made that a priority for you?
As the “Made in the USA” label has become increasingly rare, it has become even more important to me. I almost didn’t pursue this path because currently, the only vinyl doll manufacturers are all overseas. But then I realized that it doesn’t seem to stop people from buying from the brand that uses our country’s name on it. So why not create a better option, even if it’s not perfect? Michael Seifert, the CEO of Public Square, told me that even if my only option is to manufacture in China for now, to do it anyway because the market needs a doll that will speak truths to girls and encourage them to be all God created them to be. So for now, that is what we are doing while also supporting small, American makers and brands to create special, small-batch runs of accessories like girl & doll birthday crowns, dresses, and more. It’s all a bit of a test right now to find that sweet spot that combines what is ideal with what is possible, and what the market can sustain. I’m hopeful that parents care enough about the shared values and supporting our small shop that we may be able to grow and move more production to our shores.
- Finally, I know you said there are the usual growing pains with getting everything up and running, but when can we expect the release? Where should people go to place their orders? And when (rough estimate) can they expect to receive their dolls?
Presale orders are open! If you’re interested in getting one of our first dolls, join the waitlist email at faithfriendsco.com to get all the updates. We’re hopeful for Christmas arrival but we also know better than to make promises with the way shipping and manufacturing delays have been the past year. As things go wrong or deadlines are missed, I remind myself how this whole project has been a big practice of surrender and faith.
We announced Faith Friends in May after I received my first doll sample and a few months after my fourth child was born. The prototype doll arrived and I let my daughters play with her to put her through the ultimate test, while I sat with the idea for a few weeks just praying, crunching numbers, doing more research, tinkering with designs and ideas. Then I finally ripped the band-aid and announced it on Instagram to gauge a response. It worked… and I quickly gained a couple thousand accountability partners (the moms on the waitlist) to keep me motivated! It’s August [Beginning of September] and we’re a few weeks out from opening presale. The whole process took a couple months longer than I expected but I think each roadblock and setback was by design. The final product is much improved thanks to this extra time and the talents, as well as the support & encouragement from other moms I’ve connected with along the way. I’m grateful the Lord has put them in my path and for this opportunity to shine His light with these sweet dolls.