At first glance, Bamboletta Dolls doesn’t meet the stereotypical image of a business, let alone an award-winning business.
Natural light streams through enormous windows of the workshop at Whippletree Junction, while women sit around on comfy chairs and couches, sewing and stuffing dolls, adding brightly coloured yarn for hair, chatting casually like the good friends they are.
That’s the secret to Bamboletta’s success, however.
Honoured at the Small Business BC Awards last Friday for Best Community Impact, Bamboletta has found an international market for its all-natural, one-ofa-kind dolls, while remaining true to its roots.
"It was a nice nod of recognition for the choices I’ve made in running the business this way," owner Christina Platt said. "It felt nice to be recognized."
Platt started making dolls in her basement 12 years ago. She wanted to buy a Waldorf doll for her newborn niece, but couldn’t find the right one, so she bought a book – in German – and cut up her Ikea rug for materials to make the first one.
Six years ago, she turned it into a business.
Now Platt has 34 local employees, mostly stay-at-home moms who work out of their homes, allowing them to earn money and stay with their kids.
"It’s so surprising that something I did in my living room is supporting so many women," Platt said.
"I really love these ladies." The business has grown organically, allowing Platt and her employees to move along comfortably, which is reflected in the product.
"I really think – and this is going to sound cheesy, but I really believe it – because of the way I’ve chosen to grow my business, we’ve really infused the product with love," Platt said. "It’s something that can’t be bought."
Platt isn’t the only person at Bamboletta who feels that way.
"We put a lot of effort and time into the dolls, a lot of love into them," said production manager Brandi Teufel, who got to know Platt when she worked at the post office, then started working part-time at Bamboletta, moving gradually to full-time.
"We hug them and gush over them."
Nothing at Bamboletta is outsourced or done overseas, but the company still turns out 70 to 80 dolls a week, selling 98 per cent of them online and 90 per cent to customers outside Canada.
Eighty per cent are snapped up within 10 minutes of being posted to Bamboletta’s website.
Not all of the dolls are sold, however. Every year, Bamboletta donates hundreds of dolls to Ronald McDonald House, BC Children’s Hospital, Canuck Place and Jeneece Place, as well as to local individuals.
The ladies who sew the dolls have mixed feelings about parting ways with something they have put so much effort and love into.
"You do fall in love," said Shauna Devlin, who has worked for Bamboletta for four years. "I do shipping sometimes, and there are some dolls that you’re like, ‘I just want to keep you.’ It never ceases to amaze me."
The fact that someone else will love the dolls makes parting with them easier, though.
"We know most of them will be played with by a child," Teufel said. "It’s great seeing them come in here, so excited to get a doll. It’s super cute."