Winnie Mak, Founder of One Dear World multi-cultural dolls

One Dear World is a company that makes multicultural dolls for children. They believe it’s important for every child to be represented in the toy industry, offering them a secure sense of self-image and a healthy sense of diversity.

What inspired you to start your company and how did you set about doing this?

I’m originally from Hong Kong and I come from a traditional Chinese background. I then furthered my studies in the UK in 2010 and met my half-French-half-Greek husband. Now we have got a 2.5 years old son.

Inspired by my multicultural family and parenting experience, I started a business called One Dear World when my son was 1.5 years, with a mission to nurture future world citizens. I believe that each child should have a doll that represents them so they can have a secure self image, as well as dolls that look different from them so they can learn about the diversity of the real world.

Had you had any business experience before this?

I had another business which provides Mandarin Chinese classes for schools, playgroups and businesses in London. After the child birth, I found that it’s really difficult to run classes with a baby, so I took a break and wanted to work on another business that allows me to work from home.

How big is your team at the moment?

It’s mainly myself, my husband would help me here and there during the weekend when he has time, after his full time job.

How did your fundraise for the business (if applicable)?

At the beginning, I used mainly my own money and had some help from my family. I then launched a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo from March to May this year and successfully raised over £18,000, which allows me to purchase the dolls at minimum order quantity.

winniw
Winnie Mak

How do you promote and PR your business?

I already need to pay for nursery for my son while I work, so I try to keep the overhead as small as possible. I do promotion (mainly through social media) and PR myself, including researching my own media links, sending pitches to them and releasing press booklets.

What are the challenges with running a company like ODW?

To keep the cost low, I have to do almost everything (PR, marketing, doll design, sourcing, writing the book, video editing, business development). The biggest challenge is to prioritise and stay productive, so I can accomplish as much as possible.

Since we’re still a small family business, the other challenge is to establish distribution and partnerships with other established companies, a lot of them have already have their own sourcing channels.

What are the rewards?

The reward is doing something I’m truly passionate about and I can feel that I am reaching my full potential and constantly learning something new.

Do you have any other entrepreneurs in your family?

Not in my immediate family.

What future plans do you have for expanding your vision?

Continue writing stories of the Adventures in One Dear World and build more educational products around the stories.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

When I wake up at 6ish, I make my daily plan to complete 1-3 key tasks. When my son wakes up at 7ish, I need to dress him and send him to nursery. I continue my day working on the key tasks and doing some housework in between. At 6pm, I go and pick up my son and start preparing dinner.

On the days my son is not in nursery (usually 1-2 days a week), I go out with him and conduct some market research, visiting toy stores and bookstores and sending my pitches across.

How does running your own business compare to your previous career?

I used to work in a MNC (multi national) as a district sales manager in account management. I was responsible for only part of the business and had very little idea about the rest. I could see career prospects in the company but it wasn’t fully under my control. On the plus side, I had a good relationship with my ex-colleagues so working in team is something I miss after running my business. Not to mention the financial stability. On the other hand, running my business pushes me to learn so many things and step out of my comfort zone, so it’s great for personal growth and flexibility.

What’s been your biggest achievement in life thus far?

It’s hard to pinpoint my biggest achievement, but I’d say either raising my son or publishing my first children’s storybook: “London Hat Hunting Mission”.

And biggest failure?

I made a lot of mistakes along the way but I didn’t recall one as the biggest failure. It’s probably because I tend to move on and take it as a lesson learnt than something to feel regret for.

What’s been the funniest moment of your career?

Back in April during the crowdfunding campaign, I tried to make a video of my dolls travelling around in London (which you can watch here), so I was pushing them in an empty pushchair and shooting them from behind. I guess I must have looked like a crazy woman back then.

What do you think the advantages and setbacks are for a female founder in the startup space?

Being a female ethnic minority founder, I think the advantage is that I get to stand out from the crowd and the setback is that it’s still difficult to break into establishment.

Who were your role models growing up?

When I was a teenager, I used to admire a female explorer from Hong Kong called Rebecca Lee Lok Sze, she was the first female from HK to visit the North and South Pole. She was also an environmental activist.

Did you have a mentor or people you asked for advice?

I normally discuss things with my husband and we try to find a solution together.

How has what you do, changed you as a person?

I never imagined I’d ever publish a book in my life but having been through the crowdfunding and publishing journey this year, I have more confidence in myself and what I do.

How do you like to take time out for yourself and stay healthy and active?

When I’m by myself, I’d enjoy a good movie. However, I haven’t been as active as I should, so I’d like to better prioritise my tasks and do more exercises.

What are the top 5 books and blogs on your reading list?

  • Sapiens
  • The Alchemist
  • Fictional novels of the Wuxia genre written by Chinese novelist Jin Yong

If you could do any other job, aside from what you do now, what would it be?

I would love to be a KonMari Certified Consultant

Do you have any unconventional words of advice?

Trust your gut feeling

What is your motto?

You only live once, live a life without regret.

If money and time were no object, what would be on your to-do and to-see list?

To do: yoga, learn salsa, learn how to play piano and start a charitable project

To see: Travel around the world and make stories about different cities.


One Dear World Socials:

Website | Instagram | Facebook

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3 Comments

  1. NiaFaraway

    Winnie I was emailed this comment in response to your article and am posting it here for you <3:

    Hello there, I have just read your story on bbc news. I wanted to say how impressed I am with you making your doll to look like your son.

    My daughter is 12 and when she was younger I had terrible problems finding a doll with ginger hair. I did eventually track one down, my daughter still has her. All her life I tell her how beautiful she is, how lovely her hair is, but the majority of dolls have blond hair, some with brown or black very rare for ginger.

    Well done to you, I wish you every success

    Kind regards and thank you from all the happy children with your dolls

    Ann

    Like

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