I am pleased to introduce Farzana, founder of Desi Doll Company as today’s Saturday Spotlight feature. If you are looking for fun, educational toys then read further to learn a bit more about her, her company and products!
Please do introduce yourself. A little bit of background about yourself, family and anything you are willing to share so my readers can get to know you.
My name is Farzana. I graduated in Maths and Statistics from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. I went on to pursue a career in banking for almost 15 years. I returned to work quickly after I had my daughter, but after the birth of my twin boys I realised I didn’t want to return to full time work in the City, and decided to do my own thing.
After ‘toying’ (excuse the pun!) with various ideas, I decided to make a doll that would help my children learn the basics of Islam.
And now please introduce your company.
I formed The Desi Doll Company. My company, designs, manufactures and distributes quality toys, that make learning fun. I firmly believe that children learn best through play, and I wanted to make learning about Islam fun for children.#
What inspired you to start Desi Doll and what was your first ever product?
My children were at an age where I was teaching them short surahs, and I thought wouldn’t it be great to have a doll that recited Surahs and so my first products, Aamina and Yousuf were born.
How did the whole business start? What was the first step you took to get the ball rolling?
I started sketching on paper first – I’m not a good drawer. But a friend of mine made it look better on paper! She had A’level Art!
I got in touch with some manufacturers in China and asked them to make a sample for me. The first samples looked hideous! I went to China and visited some manufacturers. I settled with the one I liked best and tweaked the doll until I was happy.
How long did it take you create your first product and get it out to the public to buy?
From concept to market was about 9 months – which I think is pretty quick.
Did you come across any obstacles in starting the business? If so what were they and how did you overcome them?
Yes there were a few obstacles – mostly because of the technical aspect because the doll needed to have a sound module inside. This proved to be the most challenging.
What are the products that are currently available?
We have a range of 19 products (wow! I think that’s the first time I counted them!): Our famous and pioneering talking Aamina and Yousuf, which are now available in Turkish, French, Malay, and Arabic language! The second product I designed was My Arabic Alphabet sound puzzle, which says the name of the letters. Then came my story sound book Don’t forget to say Bismillah, a super cute story encouraging children to use Islamic phrases. Then came the additional cartridges for the dolls – which was a real technical breakthrough for us, as it meant that the children could go on to learn an additional 5 Surahs, by simply inserting the new sound cartridge into the back of the doll! Parents kept saying that they wanted the dolls to teach their children more, so we listened to that feedback and produced cartridge 2. Then came the Fun Dough Buckets with Arabic letter cutters. And after that came the ipray Salah pads which teach children (and adults) how to perform Salah. In between all of the above, I also designed 2 English Phonics sound puzzles which are a great way for children to learn the phonics sounds of the alphabet.
If you had to choose, what would you say is your most favourite product in your range?
It’s really very difficult for me to choose – I see the unique educational benefits that all of my toys provide , and they all have their place in a child’s learning.
Of course the dolls are very dear to me, as that is where my journey began, but I must say, I love the Salah pads – I feel very blessed to be able to have a tool that teaches how to perform Wudu and Salah and that has helped so many children, adults, and reverts. I also love the the Fun Dough buckets, as children can really show their creativity with the cutters and the tools. And I’m also very proud of My first phonics sound puzzle and My 2nd phonics sound puzzle as these are a great introduction to letter sounds for little ones – I told you it was difficult for me to choose!
Are you currently working on any more products to add to your range?
I’m always working on adding to the range – Baby Aamina and Baby Yousuf (sshhhhh – don’t tell anyone), are on the horizon, but not sure exactly when they will launch.
Your vision for the future of your business?
I don’t tend to plan too far ahead, but at the moment we are in the process of taking our brand global, and making the dolls available throughout the Middle East region.
Any advice/tips for someone who may be thinking to start their own business?
Be patient, do your research, and make sure you have a good idea that will stand the test of time. Running your own business is very difficult, and there are plenty of ups and downs and sleepless nights.