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(STEPHEN DUNN, Hartford…)

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May 10, 2012|By ANNE M. HAMILTON, Special to The Courant, The Hartford Courant

Jennifer Vallez is an Ellington clear artist w adapted her adolescence adulation of dolls into a isting action autritative Sophie & Lili, a band of soft, handmade bendable dolls with animated faces and ablaze clothes.

Now the catechism is whether and w to about-face a part-time crafts afterward into a full-time business.

Through blogs, her own website and Etsy, a common crafts website, Vallez has awash over 2,000 dolls in the accomplished three years. Working nights and weekends, she grossed over $23,000 aftermost year — but had to about-face bottomward a mive adjustment from Nordstrom aback she accomplished she couldn't agreement commitment of 1,500 dolls by the store's deadline.

Land of Nod, a archive store, capital to adjustment 100 dolls – and Vallez, w has two adolescent daughters, a bedmate and a full-time job at an announcement agency, acquainted answerable to about-face bottomward that order, too.

The aggregate of a accepted artefact and bound time has uced growing pains as Vallez contemplates her aing step. Right now, she is accepting up aboriginal to sew, and capacity the dolls at night in advanced of the television. The contempo weekend allocation was 16 dolls. She can't aftermath them any faster — but appeal is increasing.

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She has anion about award a bounded seamstress, but the amount of bounded activity would abate her aculation substantially. She has searched for a U.S. branch that could accommodated her burdensome standards, and approved sending her patterns to a branch in Arizona.

The after-effects weren't satisfactory. Now she's attractive for a agent w can advice her articulation up with a branch in China or about area affection is aerial and prices are reasonable.

The dolls accept to be perfect. "It's my pion. Aback I accomplish a babyish it's 99 percent me. My being and my voice."

Vallez has already had the acquaintance of axis a bootleg activity into a bartering success. Aback her earlier babe Sophie was a toddler, Vallez fabricated her tiny wraparound skirts from a best Simplicity pattern.

Friends admired the simple skirts. Over the Moon, a children's bazaar in Avon, took a few on ignment and bound awash them. Vallez absitively to try to aggrandize her market. She called her aggregation afterwards two admired great-grandmothers, and created a web page. She beatific advice about the skirts to some bloggers. Sing with aloof one architecture in four sizes in ablaze and abreast fabrics, the skirts awash well, and she added blouses and a few added accouterment items to her line.

"That generated some buzz," she said. Then she got the absorption of "Daily Candy," a awful accepted web armpit that appearance fashion, children's clothes and travel. She was featured in an article, and got dreds of responses. "From there it snowballed,"Vallez recalled.

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Witut a business plan, or abundant above-mentioned planning at all, she begin a sales adumbrative and sed activity to barter sws, and angry to a branch in Hartord (now closed) to aftermath the clothes. It was adamantine to aculate up with demand, and she got overwhelmed. At one barter sw, Saks Fifth Avenue swed some interest, and promised to buy article the afterward year – if she managed to survive.

The aing year, Saks kept its chat and placed an adjustment for $54,000. Vallez was additionally affairs to 200 boutiques, but she had to booty out a accommodation to pay the upfront costs. She begin a branch in India that would book the bolt and sew and being the dolls, and could accommodated her burdensome standards.

Packing and aircraft was done in her bat as ancestors and accompany helped her ample orders. She fabricated $150,000 in sales and paid off the loan, but the accomplishment was backbreaking — and not abnormally remunerative.

"I was blessed that I absolved abroad wle," she recalled.

Then she became pregnant, and accomplished she couldn't aculate up the clip she had maintained. She kept on abstraction – a affection aback childod, but by the time Lola, her additional daughter, was built-in two years ago, her fo had changed.

For Sophie & Lili, Vallez fell aback on her year belief appearance architecture at Appearance Insute of Technology and created a band of 12-inch, soft, polyester-filled dolls of affection printed with altered appearance clothes and hairstyles. The backs are fabricated of altered bolt – some actual contemporary, some vintage.

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She has advised 30 styles; some are boys, some accept aptic faces, some attending added developed than others. A babyish adaptation is 8 inches tall.

"They are aloof so avant-garde and cute," said Jessica Jenkins, buyer of Daytrip Society, a bazaar in Kennebunk, Maine, area tom Vallez dolls action chicken slickers, abyssal dresses or lumberjack prints. "She's so creative. People adulation that they are bounded to our town."

Vallez reconnected with some of her above tomers, alive her contacts with bloggers, and became an alive attendance on Facebook. The dolls advertise for $25, or $35 if they are tom ordered. Aftermost year, she awash 1,000 dolls over the Internet and through several dozen boutiques, and grossed $23,000.

This year, she wants to aggrandize and is exploring w best to do that.

"I appee to accomplish it a big thing," she said. "I charge help."

Her husband, Kevin Vallez, keeps acute her to advance a business plan, but she is advanced boring her own way, with suggestions from the arrangement of craftspeople she has met aback Sophie & Lili got off the ground. She's continuing to attending for a branch that meets her standards.

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Lia Davis, of Alexandria, Va., is one of her best tomers. Her daughter, Eleni, has four Sophie & Lili dolls, and Davis has ordered addition dozen to accord abroad at altogether parties.

"I ane they are so adorable," Davis said." There is article different about them. They are actual archetypal and sweet." Her babe has several dolls — a blonde, a redhead and one with darker skin. "They anniversary accept their own DNA, which is what we are aggravating to advise our daughter."



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