Girl Power: Creating a New Kind of Doll Line

By Jodi Norgaard
March 19, 2015
Three young girls of different ages are sitting cross-legged in grassy front yard playing each playing with their soft Go Go Sports Dolls.

Eight years ago, I stood dumbfounded in a toy store aisle. My then 10-year-old daughter Gracie was shopping for a new doll, and selected one from the shelves. With heavy makeup, a bare midriff and high heels, this doll was far from what I envisioned as an ideal role model for my child. What’s more, I truly wanted my daughter and other young girls to be inspired to live healthy lives, exercise and enjoy sports — which also didn’t appear to be reflected in the options I saw in the toy aisle. I went home and almost immediately began sketching out ideas for a new doll that would foster these ideals in an age-appropriate manner.

Using Gracie and her friends as inspiration, I created a toy that I would be proud for girls to carry with them and hired a seamstress to make a prototype. The result was Go! Go! Sports Girls’ first doll, “Gracie” — a tennis player named after my daughter. I felt the new cloth doll was both age and size appropriate, and encouraged self-appreciation, healthy habits, exercise and self-esteem—all just as I had hoped.

Once the prototype was finished, it was time to see if there was a market. I contacted the 2008 U.S. Open, who bought 500 “Gracie” dolls. That year I went to the U.S. Open with a few friends, and I was amazed to see little girls carrying the dolls I had made! It was unbelievable, and I truly knew that I had something special here.

However, shortly thereafter the economy went into a downturn and the seemingly instant success of the line seemed to level off. It wasn’t until 2013 when Go! Go! Sports Girls got our big break with a national retailer. I was at a toy fair, and happened to see a Walmart buyer talking onstage. I literally ran into him in the hall and quickly pitched my product.

The buyers loved my idea and even suggested adding a book, which I already had in mind thanks to an author who was interested in helping with the dolls’ mission. Six “Read & Play” doll and book sets, each featuring a different Go! Go! Sports Girls character, were born out of the idea. The books all feature good, normal kid stuff. They also have tips for healthy living, which hearkens back to my original mission, too.  

After an initial test in 50 Walmart stores, my line was selected to be carried in 180 stores across the nation. They are also available at Walmart.com. For me, changing the way young girls play and interact with the world around them is part of a bigger mission to help raise future generations of strong, independent and healthy women. I think of this mission as being a big soup, and I’m just one of the ingredients.

Go! Go! Sports Girls products feature the “Women Owned” logo, which is available exclusively to businesses certified through Women’s Business Enterprise National Council or WEConnect International.