Inspiration from a Baby Abuelita Doll (Giveaway)
Contest Closed. Tati, you’re the Winner. Thank you all for commenting, reading, Tweeting and sharing.
There is a guayabera-wearing Abuelito Pancho doll in my daughter’s room. When she was barely 2, she wheeled him around in a toy stroller and pressed his hands until he sung Los Pollitos Dicen, her favorite nursery rhyme.
He was a gift from my mother. So anxious was my mom to deliver the Abuelo to Maria that she tracked down one of the women who founded the doll company, Baby Abuelita Productions, drove to her house, and purchased the doll when she couldn’t find one on a Miami store shelf.
And right there is a clear example of the passion people have for these 17-inch plush dolls that sing traditional Latin lullabies. My mom wasn’t going to stop searching for the doll for her nieta — even if she had to drive to a busy stranger’s house to get it.
These days, as Maria prepares to turn 7, our Abuelo Pancho doesn’t see much action. He lives on a shelf, where my Cuban mom says he is “exiliado.’’ But, he is no less beloved and a true part of my daughter’s childhood memories of muñecos and music.
So, it is with great delight I got to interview Hilda Argilagos-Jimenez, the 43-year-old Cuban-American Miami resident who dreamed up these Spanish singing dolls, and who, together with partner Carol Fenster, worked tirelessly to research, create and bring them to market in in 2005.
The idea was born when Hilda, then the mother of a 6-month-old could not remember the lyrics to the sweet songs her parents used to sing to her. She thought of writing a songbook to preserve Hispanic cultural songs. Carol suggested a singing doll instead. And off they went.
They juggled careers and families to do research, conduct focus groups, find investors, talk to toy industry experts, and deal with factories before launching Baby Abuelita five years ago. Today, they’re sold online and all over the country at select Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and CVS stores. They started with Abuelito Pancho and Abuelita Rosa, and have since created four more dolls, with the latest, Javier, a toddler boy doll and newly launched for the holidays. (See below for a Javier giveaway.)
The dolls sing everything from El Barquito Chiquitito, Duermete, mi niña, Arroz con Leche, Tortillitas and Arrurru. They’re all traditional Latin lullabies, which Hilda meticulously researched, finding the most common and popular versions from around Latin America and the Caribbean. They also have song books, DVDs and slippers.
The Baby Abuelita story is one that surely inspires anyone with an idea and a dream, so we spoke to Hilda specifically on business and we bring you today’s “del alma’’ post to inspire you and propel you toward your own dreams.
Listen clearly to her message: “If you want it, you can do it.”
Here is how she did.
For those who are considering starting a business, what’s the first step?
“The first jump is to surround yourself with positive people.There are a lot of negative people, naysayers, for whatever reason, but look for positive people And, find people that are already in the industry that you know will be willing to give a helping hand. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to give a helping hand. However, there are a handful of people who want to help Somebody helped us, and now we’re willing to help.”
What do you tell people who ask you about starting a business?
“This is the time to do it. Right now. The way technology is, you can do a whole business online and never leave your home. The first thing out of my mouth is eBay and Etsy.com. On Etsy, you find handmade things that cannot be duplicated and they are making full profit. The time to the seize the market is right now. Plus, there are factories in Mexico, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic and if you want to do something, you can do it. No obstacle. If you don’t, then it wasn’t meant for you to do.”
What about start-up capital? The thought of raising money, or using your own, often stops people from launching a business.
“It doesn’t take so much money to start it up. If you don’t have it, you find a friend. We found partners, people we knew could separate the friendship from the business. And you borrow money, or invest your own money. To start up is not as costly as people think and like everything else, you start slow. You don’t need a million dollars. You want to make bibs, you make 20, take profit and then make 40.”
What about fear, which paralyzes so many of us?
“The biggest fear was failure, but there no longer is any fear. I accomplished what set out to accomplish and the wonderful thing to remember is that besides discovering yourself, you may discover another business. Most successful people don’t end up doing with they originally started. And that’s what has happened to me. I eventually want to launch something else.”
You have three children – two of whom were little when Baby Abuelita was launched. You also worked full-time as a teacher. What was it like launching a business and being a working mother?
“I had a full-time job. My daughter was 3 and my son was 7. It was very, very difficult. But, my husband is a paramedic firefighter and we would plan the meetings when my husband was off. One day, I had to be on TV, so my business partner took the kids and I would take her daughter when she had to work. Everybody was very supportive of us and you need to have great support. If you are a mother with small children, your friends and family need to be strong and that goes with surrounding yourself with positive, helpful people.
When did you know you hit on a product that was going to be popular?
Our first big wow experience was Cuba Nostaligia. In any other city or country that would be a cultural fair. We sold out and we were mobbed. We were literally tackled. I had to bring in people because we couldn’t keep up. There were people on the phone calling, saying ‘Come over here and look at this!’ They were buying. six, seven, eight of them, so we had to limit it and we gave out pieces of paper with information. That is when we knew that OK, this wasn’t just our dream.”
Why do you think Baby Abuelita is so loved?
“At the end of the day, everybody wants to hold on to their childhood and their roots. And, the common thread is music. Music is the universal language.”
What has launching Baby Abuelita done for you personally?
“I go to sleep everyday knowing that I believed in it so much, and so much came from my heart, that I was able to touch so many thousands of people. At least, on a personal note, that was the reward.
I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can do it. I learned that if want to do it, i can and I can do it to whatever degree I want to — moderate or full force. You are your own owner and keeper.”
One Tiki Tiki reader will win the newest Baby Abuelita Doll, Javier, who sings five songs, including: Debajo de un Boton, Un Elephante se Balanceaba and Campanitas. Retail price: $24.99.
Contest ends at midnight CST, Sunday, November 7.
Tell us on this post about your own Abuelita or Abuelito, or share something about what the nursery rhymes and lullabies sung by the Baby Abuelita dolls mean to you. You can see their product list here and find, and listen to, the songs on the doll pages.
For Extra Credit, choose one, or any, option below:
Note: You must come back and tell us you did it in a separate comment. If you fail to leave a separate comment it won’t count.
The winner will be selected at random and will have 72 hours to respond via email, or a new winner will be selected. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address.
Good luck and keep on celebrating la cultura!