Browsing the toy aisle with her 9-year-old daughter, Jodi Norgaard came across a doll so offensive to her that she felt compelled to design and market her own line of dolls that promote a positive message for young girls. With their focus on physical, mental, and emotional health, the Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls and books are garnering attention. Last fall, they won three Oppenheim Toy Portfolio awards. Earlier this year, they were featured on the “TODAY” show in a segment about women revolutionizing toys.
Norgaard spoke to Real Woman about her experience.
Real Woman | What prompted the launch of the Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls?
Jodi Norgaard | There are so many cool toys marketed to boys. But for girls, it’s all about appearance: a nail-painting kit or a kit to make ribbons for your hair. I was tired of it, and I told my husband, “I think I can do something about it.”
RW | What makes Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls different?
JN | Our entire family is into sports. There are so many physical and mental benefits that come from physical activity. So I researched online to see if there were any sports-related dolls out there. Nothing. Everything was fashion. So I started designing, sketching, and measuring my daughter and all her friends to design a doll that is in proportion to a little girl’s body. Little girls should play with dolls that look like little girls. That’s my belief. It took 2 years from the rough draft to the actual debut of the first doll—Tennis Girl—at the U.S. Open in New York in 2008. We now have 13 dolls.
RW | There is also a Go! Go! Sports Girls book series. What issues do they address?
JN | Kara Douglass Thom, the author, called me out of the blue one day and said she wanted to write books for me. I told her I didn’t have the finances to pay her, and she was fine with that. She just wanted to be part of the project. After she wrote the first book, I pitched it to Walmart. They asked me to write five more books and package them with the dolls, and then they would test them in 50 stores.
The books are awesome because they deal with typical kid issues in a super-engaging, super-fun way. Things like, What if you’re playing in a soccer league and your best friend is on the other team?
Or Gymnastics Girl has a fear of going into the basement by herself because it’s dark, and she doesn’t like it. There are no diva issues or boy issues. Just normal issues that girls face. By the way, the Walmart test was a success. They’ve since rolled out the doll-and-book sets at 180 stores nationwide.
RW | Any plans to expand the line to address areas other than sports, such as academic or musical interests?
JN | Absolutely. I chose the name Dream Big Toy Company as an umbrella because I’d love to add a Go! Go! Sports Boy, a Go! Go! Music Girl, a Go! Go! Reading Girl. I totally believe in encouraging a child to do what they are good at, whether their strength is in reading or science or whatever. You will be successful and a more content person if you do something you enjoy. Unfortunately, expanding the line is on hold until I can make enough money to do so.
RW | Your Go! Go! Sports Girls line won several industry awards in 2014. Do you think that the days might be numbered for big-haired, high-heeled, make-up-clad dolls?
JN | Gosh, I hope so. Barbie sales have been down for the last 3 years, which is an interesting sign. I am just asking the stores to offer my dolls next to Barbie, Monster High, the Bratz dolls, to give consumers a choice. I do think that the time is right. I would love for this grassroots movement to just explode.