The Donegal man behind the latest range of child-like dolls to hit the children’s market says he’s planning to move his company to Letterkenny and hopes to create at least ten jobs.
Ballybofey-man Ian Harkin has been hitting the headlines across the UK recently after launching a new range of ‘Lottie’ dolls.
The product which hit the market only six months ago, has already won three international awards and Ian hopes it will be selling in the US by the end of this month.
In the meantime, Ian is also planning to relocate his ‘Arklu’ business from London to Letterkenny and says he could create ten new jobs in the town over the next three years.
“We are actually a client of Enterprise Irelands HIPSU division at present and are looking at relocating the business to Letterkenny where we hope to create at least 10 jobs within the next three years,” he said. “We will be looking for sales people, finance support and design based skills. We are completely focused on our latest brand aimed at girls aged 3 to 9 called Lottie.”
The success of Lottie is the latest chapter in success story that really took off back in 2010 with the creation of a Kate Middleton doll.
Ian had set up Arlku with a friend who worked in marketing and PR and had close contacts with Cheryl Cole. “We initially considered to do a doll of Cheryl but instead chose to do a Kate Middleton doll,” Ian explained.
“The Kate doll led us to doing a limited edition Royal Wedding doll set which featured on the Late Late Toy Show last year. The dolls completely sold out with huge interest coming from the US market.”
It was while working with the Royal Wedding Dolls that Ian and his colleagues considered relaunching the Sindy brand. “But after long negotiations we decided instead to focus on building our own brand,” he explained.
“We took the opportunity to start from scratch and research the market completely. We spoke with retailers, mums, academics, kids, anyone who had an opinion on the subject. From the focus groups, three really key points arose, namely parents were worried their daughters were growing old too fast, that products, whether clothes or dolls appeared too sexual and that girls at a very young age were concerned about body image.
“Given we had time on our hands we also allowed ourselves to develop the character, ‘Lottie loves outdoors’. She has her pet dog called Biscuit and her horse called Black Beauty, she uses her imagination and loves going on adventures. The doll’s body has been sculpted based on scientific data on the average measurements of a nine year old child. She is therefore doing the activities of a nine year old as opposed to being a pop star or shopping or nighclubbing.”
And so 13 years after Ian left Donegal to spend a year in Australia before settling in London, his newest product is back in his home town of Ballybofey where it’s on sale in Foys.
“We only launched Lottie last month and we are gradually getting her out to stores. Foys of Ballybofey and Heneghans in Letterkenny amongst others are stocking her at present.
“We have six more dolls in development and a number of accessory sets and the horse coming to stores in the new year. We have recently won three international awards for Lottie and she will be selling in the US by the end of this month.
“We are looking forward to the move to Letterkenny. The people there have been really supportive and we will hopefully bring highly skilled jobs to the county in the near future.”
Lottie dolls are selling for 19.99 euro, see www.lottie.com for more details.