Smiles are nice, but a Henrico entrepreneur is betting frowns make for a better business plan.
Last month, Rebecca Floyd launched Frowny Faces, a company that makes and sells frowning dolls.
While shopping in toy stores for her nephew, Floyd noticed the abundance of dolls smiling at her from the shelves.
“We just realized that toys are really freaky,” said Floyd, a former photographer and book designer. “When you’re not having a good day, you don’t want to stare at a Barbie doll with a big smile on its face.”
Floyd’s idea to bring a little more realism to the world of children’s toys has led to the production of 500 unique Frowny Faces dolls made by hand at a studio in her Henrico home.
She’s sold 100 so far and said she’s gotten a good response from children in focus groups for the discontented dolls.
“They haven’t seen sad dolls before,” Floyd said. “The children will hug them and say they want to make the doll happy or, ‘I know how he feels.’”
Floyd said a sad doll can act as a source of empathy for kids going through a tough time. Or Floyd put it on the Frowny Faces website, “While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being happy, I wanted my child to know that it’s okay to feel sad too.”
The despondent playthings are made from men’s grey socks Floyd buys in bulk. It takes about an hour for her to cut and stitch the socks into frowning figurines. The dolls can come with coats or in dresses and each one has a hat.
Frowny Faces dolls sell for $25 each. All sales are online for now through the company’s website, but Floyd hopes to get on local store shelves and eventually open a storefront of her own.
Floyd said it has cost about $1,000 to launch what she hopes will be a “Frowny Faces empire.” She is working on writing a Frowny Faces-themed children’s book and greeting cards are in the works.
Floyd said her sister, Martin Agency creative director Anne Marie Hite, as well as Katherine Wintsch of the Mom Complex are helping her market Frowny Faces.
And Floyd said it isn’t just the kids that can use the sympathies of a Frowny Face doll. She said one woman sent her a picture of a Frowny Face doll with an arm draped around an empty wine glass lamenting, “My wine just ran out.”
“The grownups and the moms we show them to really relate to them,” Floyd said.