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Join us in this episode of the Bright Minds of eCommerce podcast as we hear from Emma Egel, the founder of Forever Dolls. Emma discusses her entrepreneurial journey, shares valuable insights, and provides practical takeaways for success. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain inspiration from her experiences and learn how to focus on the right marketing channels, plan for long-term growth, prioritise profit, manage finances effectively, leverage subscription models, promote body positivity, engage with customers, implement strategic planning, and explore valuable resources. Whether you’re a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, this episode offers valuable guidance to navigate the challenges of business growth and create a flourishing enterprise.

In today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • The importance of incorporating long-term planning to align business goals and strategies
  • How implementing the Profit First system prioritises profit and manages cash flow effectively
  • To be mindful of financial challenges and carefully manage debt and expenses
  • How utilising subscription models can increase average order value and establish consistent revenue streams
  • The impact in fostering personalised customer experiences through platforms like Facebook and email marketing


[00:00:00] Emma Egel: I dabble in a lot of things. I dabbled in Pinterest, I dabble in Instagram reels and things like that. Absolutely hated that. TikTok dabbled in that. Despised TikTok and I just thought I’m a one woman show. There is just me. I’m building this brand completely by myself. I have limited time to spend on this type of stuff. I’m gonna funnel it to one channel that I know works for us and I’m gonna do it really, really well. And I think that has got us far better returns than me trying to do all of the various channels.

[00:00:32] Dahna Borg: Hi, and welcome to the Bright Minds of eCommerce podcast.

[00:00:35] I’m Dahna founder of Bright Red Marketing and after helping so many businesses in the e-commerce space over the years, I wanted to bring you the best advice from Australia and experts in e-commerce and e-commerce store owners. If you want to relatable stories and actionable advice and the latest Facebook advertising strategies, you’re in the right place.

[00:00:52] One help with your Facebook and Instagram ads. Remember you can always book in a free strategy session at [00:01:00] forward slash free dash strategy dash session will run through your ads. See what’s working and what’s not. And no sales pitch. I promise.

[00:01:09] So let’s get into today’s episode. Today we’re here with Emma from Forever Dolls. Welcome, Emma.

[00:01:14] Emma Egel: Thank you. Thank you for having me on board.

[00:01:15] Dahna Borg: It’s so exciting to have you. So for those who don’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started?

[00:01:22] Emma Egel: Sure. So I design and create 18 inch vinyl dolls, which is a relatively new product sort of genre in Australia, but it’s quite well known in the American markets and things like that. So they’re about 45 centimeters and they’re just an older version of a baby doll. So they’re in that sort of older age bracket, and we have been going for about seven years now, and I’ve created it when my oldest was six and she wanted an American girl doll, but it was far too expensive to bring one into Australia.

[00:01:53] So at that time, I needed an out from my corporate job. And thought, why not just give dolls a go? Very [00:02:00] naively just jumped straight into it and seven years later I’ve got a blooming doll business.

[00:02:06] Dahna Borg: Amazing. So we were talking before we started the recording, around the journey you’ve had with profits for the business. Can you share some of your lessons around. This and what you do differently if you were starting again.

[00:02:16] Emma Egel: Yeah, definitely. It’s been a real rollercoaster financially run this type of business. I was completely unaware when I dived into it that vinyl casting. Is an incredibly expensive industry. So the dolls are made from a metal cast, which is poured with vinyl. It’s a very labor intensive process.

[00:02:40] And there’s a reason there’s not a lot of small businesses, well, there’s zero small businesses aside from me doing this sort of stuff is cuz it’s very, very expensive. And if something goes wrong, like if there’s a fault with your manufacturing, it’s really a big impact to the business. So I wasn’t aware of that when I first started [00:03:00] out and I really.

[00:03:02] I was just caught up in the excitement of making sales because I didn’t get my first sale in my business for nine months. I didn’t sell a single dole for nine months. So when I finally did starting selling dolls, when I put rainbow hair on them I was like, yay, selling dolls. I’m just gonna keep going and going.

[00:03:19] But I really wasn’t factoring in my time. True cost of materials, like the actual real cost of materials. It was kind of a bit of a guessing game and There was also a point in the market like a cost barrier, but I really tried to, when I tried to push my pricing up, I really did hit the ceiling of that, I realized, so then I had to go back and try and push the cost of my manufacturing down, which was incredibly hard because we make a very high quality product. So I really do wish that I had the foresight to think about where I wanted the business to be in, say, 3, 5, 10 years. And plan for that a little bit more when I was setting it up. Cuz now [00:04:00] I’m having to go back seven years in and basically start from scratch, go back to my manufacturers, redo all of those things, get all my costings in place because we plan to move into the US market next year.

[00:04:13] So I’m. Almost starting over again.

[00:04:16] Dahna Borg: Oh man. Was there any sort of turning point or a strategy that really helped you nail that? Cuz I know that that sort of profit margins part is something that a lot of businesses struggle with. Even clients of ours that come in and they’re like, oh, this is my margin, and then three years in they work out, they’re like, actually that wasn’t quite right and we’re actually not making enough money.

[00:04:34] Was there anything that sort of really changed that for you?

[00:04:38] Emma Egel: I think it was probably five years into the business, we’d started to see some real growth. Like I’d quit my corporate job, I’d left my corporate job, and I was fully into the doll business and. Sales were ramping up like we did, very, very close to a million dollars one year, and I did my accounting the year after my tax and realized we had made maybe [00:05:00] $30,000 profit off a million dollar a year.

[00:05:02] Dahna Borg: Oh man.

[00:05:05] Emma Egel: Had to funnel that all back into buying more materials for the next round of stock. That really made me stop and think, yeah, we’ve had some amazing growth. We’ve got. Like over 20, 30,000 dolls out there into the market. Like Little girls are absolutely loving them, which is amazing, but this is a business I need to pay myself at some point.

[00:05:28] So that was a huge eyeopener for me cuz I’d just been chasing revenue. Everything was like revenue, revenue, revenue. And then I was like, well actually I really need to start thinking about profit. So then I read the Profit First book.

[00:05:43] Dahna Borg: I love that book so much.

[00:05:44] Emma Egel: Yes, it was a huge eyeopener for me, but I’ll be super honest in saying it took me a long time to actually get into putting it in place.

[00:05:56] And I’m only really now just getting into my rhythm with it because [00:06:00] I had a lot of catching up to do, like the business had acquired quite a bit of debt operating like that. So I had to like dig myself out of that. And now I’ve gone back to almost startup phases where I’m buying my stock in much smaller quantities so I don’t have to put myself in debt to buy those huge, huge quantities.

[00:06:22] So we’re gonna ramp up small, which is what I probably should have done in the first place, but I was so focused on getting all that revenue in.

[00:06:30] Dahna Borg: I think I was 10 years in when I read Profit First and I’m convinced I wouldn’t have survived Covid without it, like that covid pandemic time.

[00:06:38] Emma Egel: I think it should be a mandatory thing they send out to small business owners. When you register your business, you should be given a copy of profit.

[00:06:47] Dahna Borg: It’s like, what is it in Norway or something? When you have a baby, they send you a baby box. It needs to be like a business box. It’s got Profit First.

[00:06:51] Emma Egel: Need business. Yeah. There’s a business idea actually.

[00:06:56] Dahna Borg: I mean, people talk about it. Anyone listening, you can start that. If you’re like, oh, we’ll take it, we’ll [00:07:00] work it out.

[00:07:01] You talked about going into some debt. If you don’t mind, can you tell us a little bit about that financing journey? Cuz it’s not something a lot of people freely speak about.

[00:07:10] Emma Egel: Yeah, and when I say debt, it was debt to my, our ourselves personally. So, We, we were very fortunate in that we were able to fund such an expensive business. I think this is another reason why there’s no one else in this market. It cost around like around $350,000 for a single order of stock. For us, that’s not, that’s a lot of money.

[00:07:34] But I had to pay. That money back to our family within 12 months. So cashflow wise, paying back a loan of that size within 12 months was crippling, absolutely crippling. And then I just got into this spiral of doing that over and over, and that’s where I was just getting nowhere. I could get no traction because I was always battling my [00:08:00] cashflow.

[00:08:00] Then I started doing the PayPal loans. The, yeah, which have got a huge interest rate on them. Then I got a business credit card just to help ease the burden and that just crept up and up and up. So once I. Realized I was just digging a bigger and bigger hole each year. I really had to put a stop to that.

[00:08:22] And we’ve pretty much paid off all of our director’s loan, that’s what they call it when you borrow from your own finances to pay for the business stuff. Pretty much paid my director’s loan now, which I’m very, very happy about in full, every single dollar. My PayPal loans are paid off, and I’ve still got my credit card, but I’ve reduced it significantly down and it’s just gonna be an everyday card now.

[00:08:45] I’ve got my clean slate after seven years so I can start fresh, which feels amazing, I must say.

[00:08:50] Dahna Borg: That’s amazing. Knowing now that you’re on the other side of it, what would you have done differently in terms of needing that money and needing that extra cla cashflow?

[00:08:59] Emma Egel: So one [00:09:00] of the things that I thought was, I will make my profit when I can buy in bigger volumes. That’s what I thought , cuz then the cost of my materials goes down. But the equations were all out. That actually didn’t stack up for me at all because I was having to pay back those loans to ourselves so quickly because none of the banks would touch me at that point.

[00:09:21] Like there was not a single bank in the world that wanted to have a even a conversation with me about it. And the grants were just so hit and miss. So, I would order in smaller quantities and I would gradually build up that little stockpile of money to buy the stock and without having that big, looming debt hanging over me.

[00:09:44] Dahna Borg: Something that I’ve been really impressed with what you guys do is the subscriptions. Obviously increasing your average order value and the lifetime value of a customer is something that a lot of people sort of struggle with it’s one of those things that’s really important to focus on.

[00:09:56] I think your subscription box is such a wonderful way to [00:10:00] do that, and it really makes sense with your product. Can you tell us about how they came about? How they’ve worked out for you?

[00:10:05] Emma Egel: Yeah, so I’m a podcast enthusiast. I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m in my workshop packing dolls. And I was listening to a podcast once and they mentioned subscription box services which aren’t very widely known here in Australia, in the US they’re huge.

[00:10:22] They reckon in the US market, a single person has between four and six subscriptions

[00:10:27] Dahna Borg: That’s insane.

[00:10:29] Emma Egel: Whereas in Australia here it’s a very rare occurrence. So I thought that’s a really interesting concept cuz I had a lot of dolls accessories at the time but they moved in waves.

[00:10:40] And I thought for me, buying a single outfit for each month was much better than me buying 10 outfits and putting them on the website cuz I got a better price for the single outfit. So I thought I’ll just give it a go. And in our very first month we signed up, I think it was 150 subscribers off [00:11:00] my current double buyers.

[00:11:02] So that was really good. And I’ve kind of kept it at around the 150 to 200 mark. Over the space of the last three years, we’ve been running the subscription service and we’ve had people stay with us for that full three years, which is amazing. And it just gives, I just know at the start of every month, I’m gonna get a nice.

[00:11:21] Big chunk of money coming in, which will pay my business basics. So all of my services, everything that I need to pay my business comes in at the start of the month. So then after that, it’s all just stock and profit, which is amazing.

[00:11:37] Dahna Borg: That’s incredible. I imagine the kids love it too.

[00:11:40] Emma Egel: They do. They absolutely love it . We get a lot of feedback that it’s kids love getting mail, but they very, very rarely do these days. So they put their children’s name on the subscription so it’s posted to them and they get this little parcel in the mail and they love it cuz it’s for their little bestie doll.

[00:11:58] Dahna Borg: I love it so much.[00:12:00]
[00:12:00] Talking about the actual dolls and the children I love the positive, the body positive angle of your dolls. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that all works, those decisions, those sorts of things?

[00:12:11] Emma Egel: Yeah when we were researching dolls in the very early days, there was a lot of the brats dolls and the LOL dolls, and there was that controversy about some of the hidden body markings on the L o L dolls. I’m not sure if anyone’s aware of that. Just Google it. It’s horrifying.

[00:12:31] And my daughter was at a very susceptible age, like six. She was sort of just getting into an awareness of all of that stuff. So I really wanted a doll that was modern and trendy, but still not sexualized in any way. So they were very. Beautiful to look at, but still very much a little girl, so not an adult doll.

[00:12:55] And we found that a lot of the dolls that we were getting, they would have a very tapered waist, so they’d have [00:13:00] an hourglass figure.

[00:13:01] Dahna Borg: the Six year olds don’t have hourglass figures.

[00:13:06] Emma Egel: A little up and down. So you’ll, if you get one of our dolls, they are straight up and down. They are not the super, super skinny dolls.

[00:13:15] They’re a thicker doll, a normal realistic size compared to the head and the limbs. They’ve got a little bum because a lot of the dolls don’t have any sort of features into it. So we try to make them as realistic as possible.

[00:13:31] Dahna Borg: Yeah, I love that. And I imagine that’s probably a big. Part of your success, although apparently also the rainbow hair was a big driver of that.

[00:13:39] Emma Egel: Rainbow hair was the key. So, our first order was 300 dolls and I had these for nine months without selling a single doll. They were in my cupboard and I was getting quite desperate to sell these dolls. Cause I thought, I’ve done the wrong thing, I’ve picked the wrong product. I need to just get rid of ’em now.

[00:13:55] And I saw in the US there was a huge. Movement for people[00:14:00] upgrading their American girl dolls, which is the major doll brand over there. So they were buying these rainbow wigs to put on that doll to use them up. I thought, I’m gonna get a few of these wigs and see if that helps me. So I brought a few of them and I sold all of my dolls in a matter of weeks.

[00:14:17] Just that one small pivot of rainbow hair. The doll was exactly the same. Quality was exactly the same. It was just the hair that changed.

[00:14:24] Dahna Borg: It’s amazing how in business some of those small decisions make the biggest difference. Like you would never have known that starting buying your first $300 and then all of a sudden rainbow head, ta-da. You’re successful.

[00:14:36] Emma Egel: Yeah, that’s it. And also I had the age bracket completely wrong. I was aiming for three to five or six when it’s actually five or six to 10 and older that love our dolls. It’s the older girls, which makes me really happy that older girls are still playing with dolls. Like, they’re still little they still wanna play.

[00:14:55] Dahna Borg: We haven’t really talked much about your marketing other than changing from,[00:15:00] normal colored hair to rainbow hair what was your marketing like in the early days versus now?

[00:15:06] Emma Egel: Facebook has been a huge driver behind our marketing. We got started on Facebook straightaway and we gathered a good following almost instantly, and these women have stuck with us over the years. It’s been great. So predominantly all we’ve done is.

[00:15:24] Mainly Facebook orientated stuff. But then we’ve also probably about four years ago, really got into the email marketing cuz it’s just a really good place to have a conversation. It’s a very visual product, so it could do really well on Instagram. I just don’t love the platform so it doesn’t resonate with me.

[00:15:43] Dahna Borg: that’s fair.

[00:15:43] Emma Egel: I don’t use it that much, but Facebook I feel comfortable in and I have good conversations with our customers in there. They give us feedback from there and it’s really good.

[00:15:54] Dahna Borg: I think that’s so important. I think everyone is so, oh, what’s the new social platform? What’s new? What’s [00:16:00] exciting? And it comes down to who’s your customer? Like the reason Instagram is really popular is because the millennial. Gen Z are really into Instagram and they’re moving into TikTok and Snapchat and those sorts of things.

[00:16:13] But I’d say that your demographic of moms probably is still really on Facebook.

[00:16:17] Emma Egel: Yeah, absolutely are.

[00:16:19] I did dabble in a lot of things. I dabbled in Pinterest, I did dabble in Instagram reels and things like that. Absolutely hated that. TikTok dabbled in that. Despised TikTok and I just thought I’m a one woman show. There is just me. I’m building this brand completely by myself.

[00:16:37] I have limited time to spend on this type of stuff. I’m gonna funnel it to one channel that I know works for us and I’m gonna do it really, really well. And I think that has got us far better returns than me trying to do all of the various channels.

[00:16:52] Dahna Borg: A hundred percent agree. I think everyone just gets real caught up on trying to be trendy rather than staying in the place that works for you and your customers.[00:17:00]
[00:17:00] Emma Egel: Yeah, that’s it. We just, honestly, it’s Facebook and email marketing. They’re the two, two things we do.

[00:17:06] Dahna Borg: Pick a couple, do them well, and that’s it.

[00:17:08] Do you think there’s anything that we’ve missed? We’ve obviously covered quite a lot. We’d like to keep them short and sweet, but is there anything else that you think is something that you’ve got that would be really good value for our listeners?

[00:17:18] Emma Egel: I just think we’re stepping back at the minute because we are going through a whole major breakdown of our business behind the scenes because we’re planning to move into the US and we are moving into the US with our subscription box because the 18 inch doll industry in America is really popular and widely known, and I know our boxes will do amazing over there.

[00:17:39] So that part of our business is going over to the US and it’s actually being, it’s like a little rebirthing behind the scenes of the business new websites, we’ve brought domain, we’re doing all of these sorts of things, and it’s really fun to be able to do that again, but have all the knowledge that I’ve built up over the years to be able to do it [00:18:00] right this time.

[00:18:01] Dahna Borg: Exciting.

[00:18:02] I’m excited for you. We might have to do a another little catch up chat once you finish launching into the US and see how it all went for you.

[00:18:09] Emma Egel: We’re definitely on track to launch in 2024 with a subscription box.

[00:18:13] Dahna Borg: I’m excited for you.

[00:18:14] We’ll just get into the last couple of questions we ask everyone. Do you have any strategies or habits that you follow each day to help you stay on track?

[00:18:20] Emma Egel: I am a big pen and paper girl with all of my, I plan my month out on paper and then I plan my week out and then I plan my day out. And I find that having that long planning in place helps me to get the momentum I need to get stuff done. Cuz as I said, I’m doing it all. So there’s a lot of things to juggle.

[00:18:39] Dahna Borg: Do you have a favorite business book?

[00:18:41] Emma Egel: I do profit first.

[00:18:42] Dahna Borg: Yep. Fantastic. Thought that was gonna be your answer.

[00:18:44] And you said you listen to a lot of podcasts, so I’m excited to hear your favorite podcast. You can have a top three if you need a top three.

[00:18:50] Emma Egel: Yes, so I listen to Denise Duffel Thomas. She’s a money mindset coach, so that’s been a big one for us. I [00:19:00] also listen to subscription box resources. I think that’s a big focus for us at the moment. So if anyone is thinking about adding a subscription box to their business, there are some amazing podcasts out there for that one and I listen to you.

[00:19:14] Dahna Borg: Thank you.

[00:19:15] And if people wanna find out more about your dolls, they wanna buy one, what’s the best way for them to visit you?

[00:19:19] Emma Egel: They can jump over online and visit us at

[00:19:24] Dahna Borg: Thank You so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show.

[00:19:26] Emma Egel: Thank you.

[00:19:28] Dahna Borg: Thank you for listening to the bright minds of e-commerce podcast. As always, you can find the show forward slash episode 45 Thanks for listening.

Dahna Borg

Author Dahna Borg

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