From her living room in Vancouver twelve years ago, to her studio in the Cowichan Valley today, Christina Platt has built her business, Bamboletta Dolls, by putting community at the centre of it.
“I’ve led my business using my heart, my intuition and by what felt like the right thing to do – not about chasing the money,” says Christina.
Bamboletta Dolls produces hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind dolls for children of all ages. Using all-natural materials and high construction standards, Bamboletta Dolls seeks to create dolls that children will cherish and that are meant for a lifetime of play.
A Labour of Love
Christina was inspired to start Bamboletta Dolls while reading about a particular type of doll-making that emphasized two basic tenants. The first tenant is that dolls should be made of all-natural materials because they provide a more tactile experience for children compared to plastic. Second, a doll’s facial expression should be neutral to encourage more open-ended play.
She searched high and low to try to locate such a doll to buy for her niece, but wasn’t satisfied with what she found on the market. Eventually, Christina ended up finding a German doll-making book on eBay, and with the help of a friend translated the pattern and assembled her first doll using her husband’s old t-shirt and the remnants of wool rug.
“Then I made another one, and another, and another and here I am,” says Christina. “I just knew that if I was looking for something like this – a mix of hip and traditional and natural – then there had to be other moms that wanted the same.”
From its humble beginnings, all of Bamboletta’s dolls are still lovingly hand-crafted today and with the same care and attention as the doll Christina initially created for her niece.
“When something is made by hand with this sort of attention it absolutely translates into our products,” says Christina. “I also care deeply about my customers and have formed some incredible relationships with them throughout the years.”
Building Her Business Her Way
For Christina, entrepreneurship always seemed like the only option.
“Even as a young child I was creating things and selling them,” she says. And when she started her business, it happened very naturally: “I seemed to have met the right people and had the right opportunities present themselves as I need them.”
While some have rejected Christina’s desire to grow her business without focusing on financial gains as her main priority, she knew she had to do it her way. When she was ready to scale up her doll production by employing women in her local community, she managed to do it without any outside investment – just a credit card and a lot of hard work.
And her hard work has paid off. Over the past few years, she has focused on creating her “work utopia” at her studio on Vancouver Island and she now employs over thirty women.
“We drink tea, have good chats, listen to great music and create beautiful dolls that are loved worldwide,” says Christina.
Local Roots Have Worldwide Reach
Bamboletta Dolls is all about community and Christina sees the success of her business as tied directly to the positive local impact it creates. Others have taken notice of this impact too – Bamboletta Dolls was the recipient of the Best Community Impact Award at the Small Business BC Awards in February.
But Christina has always been focused on expanding her business’ reach outside of her immediate community too, and was an early adopter of blogging and photo-sharing from almost the start of her doll-making career.
Through Bamboletta Dolls’ online presence, she’s been able to develop a solid rapport with her customers. And as a result, she’s been able to rally Bamboletta’s Dolls online fans to make a difference in her local community.
“My first online auction was a proud moment,” she says. “We raised $25,000 for a local Victoria family going through a hard time – it was amazing for me because I was able to reach out to my online community to help someone locally.”
Bamboletta Dolls also donates hundreds of it’s “booboo” dolls – dolls used for training staff that have small imperfections – to places like B.C. Children’s Hospital, Jeneece Place, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Canuck Place.
Christina has spent the last twelve years building Bamboletta Dolls exactly as she envisioned it, and is quite content with the state of her business is right now. It’s an event when new dolls are posted for sale on the Bamboletta website, and they sell out almost instantly.
“I am toying with the idea of opening up a retail location in Vancouver with the same sort of studio set up as I have now,” she says. “And maybe travelling around to do doll-making workshops.”
When asked what her closing piece of advice was for aspiring small business owners, Christina re-emphasized the importance of embracing your community, both online and off.
“We live in a fairly rural area, but growth can be limitless if you create a strong community on the internet.”