My father owned a toy company with offices in South Korea and New York, so I grew up understanding the importance of play (and toys!) in a full life and I wanted every kid to enjoy the same.
When I was 8 years old, I recruited my whole class to make and sell Christmas cards outside my school so we could donate the proceeds to a nearby orphanage. Instead of giving up when it started to snow on the day of our sales, I stood at the door of my older brother’s school while their class was dismissed and made sure all his friends paid for the wet cards! The entrepreneurial spirit must run in the family, because selling wet cards in a winter storm did not dissuade me from pursuing business.
After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, I managed the Toy Category at Disney Consumer Products and worked for Jakks Pacific as a boys toy manager before becoming Co-President of Hosung NY, Inc., a toy manufacturer and importer. Then my own adventures in parenthood inspired the birth of Greenpoint Brands in 2011, where My Natural eco-friendly toys and accessories offer safe, healthier alternatives to playthings for infants and toddlers.
My family continues to inspire my social enterprising spirit. After several conversations with my daughter last year, I wanted to create a line of toys that empower and inspire girls through imaginative play, regardless of place or privilege. As I was developing EmpowerGirl, my father retired after 45 years of toymaking and started a global foundation that helps underserved areas by building self-sustainable businesses.
So, I have my daughter to thank for the EmpowerGirl idea, and my father to thank for the idea of using a for-profit business model to do good.
Though I have been working in the toy industry for over 20 years, two conversations I had with my daughter inspired a new business concept and the reason for this loan application.
When I called my 4-year-old daughter a princess, she said, “I could never be a princess, Mom. I don’t look like one!” I was shocked; she could not see herself in the fairy tales prominently displayed in children’s literature, entertainment, and toys.
In the same year, my daughter asked that I turn off the radio because “the news is scary and sad.” As a parent, I struggled to find balance between helping my daughter understand real, painful stories and protecting her from feeling helpless about tragedy.
With my background in toys, I believed we could create a doll that would celebrate my daughter’s uniqueness while empowering her to engage with a world of painful stories.
After extensive research, I developed EmpowerGirl dolls with the hope that young girls will engage in imaginative play and conversation that celebrates every girl’s uniqueness, educates girls about their self-worth, and advocates for justice by helping girls empower others.
The EmpowerGirl dolls are soft, fabric dolls with an average body type, a variety of multi-ethnic skin shades and fun hair colors. For each purchase, a donation doll will be given in an area where girls are underserved or a portion of the proceeds of the sale will go toward partnerships with nonprofit organizations like CASA, Homes for Hope, and Mercy Village International.
While I have generated a lot of interest from retailers like Target.com and WholeFoods Market, there are a few more steps before EmpowerGirl is ready to hit the shelves. This loan will allow me to develop the website and marketing materials, pay for a booth at the NY Toy Fair Trade Show, and update/finalize the product video.
This loan will help establish a strong presence at the NY Toy Fair Trade Show, where we hope to get firm commitments from key retailers so that we can start production. My family has sacrificed time and resources for this new business venture, so this loan would also ease the personal stress and financial burden.