Today I am interviewing Jodi Norgaard, the founder of Go! Go! Sports Girls, a toy company dedicated to get Sporty Dolls and books into the hands of little girls. Jodi is the founding member of Brave Girls Alliance (www.bravegirlswant) pushing media and retail to do a better job portraying girls beyond stereotypes. Her current campaign is called Truth In Ads, http://www.bravegirlswant.com/truth-in-ads.html. She wants to make sure that all consumers, especially children, know when a human body has been altered in an ad. You can support Jodi's cause by signing the Truth in Ads petition.
What made you decide to start Go! Go! Sports Girls?
Two experiences led to my inspiration. For four years I coached ‘Girls on the Run’, in which my daughter participated. It is an amazing program which teaches girls confidence through running. I saw this positive program change the lives of not only the young girls participating, but mine too. My second experience wasn’t as uplifting. When my daughter was 9 years old we were browsing the store for toys and she picked up a doll wearing a half shirt, bellybutton ring, eye shadow and its name on the hang tag was 'Lovely Lola'. "Mommy, is this doll for me to play with?" she asked. This frustrated me and made me angry, but it also inspired me to create the Go! Go! Sports Girl doll collection. I designed the dolls to empower girls to be active, promote healthy life skills, and encourage creative play through sport over fashion and body image.
How did you come up with the ideas for the books?
Four years ago a woman from Minneapolis named Kara Douglass Thom called me out of the blue. She said she loved the Go! Go! Sports Girls and their positive message and that her three young daughters had collected all of them. She said she was an author and would like to write books to go along with the dolls. I told her that I would love to see her work, but I couldn’t pay her immediately. She said, “That’s okay, I just want to be a part of this project.” She started with Soccer Girl Cassie’s Story which was amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the funds to move forward with the books until last year when we got a big break. I had the opportunity to pitch the dolls to Wal-Mart buyers. They loved to book and doll idea and said if we could create five more books, they would test the product in select stores. I immediately called Kara and told her the good news and we started searching for an illustrator and an editor. Within a month we brought to our team illustrator Pam Seatter and editor Susie Rich Brooke. We make a great team and I am honored to work with such talented, hard working and kind women. The doll/book set is called ‘Read & Play’ and it will launch in Wal-Mart and other stores throughout the country in May.
Will there be any additional stories for each girl?
Yes. I work with Independent Publishers Group and we have discussed the possibilities of additional stories for each doll. My guess is that Basketball Girl Kate may be next on our list! I also like the idea of adding books for younger girls around the age of 4 and 5.
Do you have the same author for all of your books?
Yes! Kara is incredibly talented and smart. We work very well together.
Where do you see Go! Go! Sports Girls going in the future?
I would love to see the line expand to include additional books and dolls as well as a line of clothes for the dolls so Soccer Girl could have a swimsuit, pajamas, shorts, etc. I also work with a wonderful licensing company in NY and they recently pitched the Go! Go! Sports Girls as a children’s television program. We are Dreaming Big!
Please feel free to add anything else you think our readers should know about the dolls and your company. All six Read & Plays recently won the highest award in the toy industry, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award. I believe in my product and its message and so do others. I also believe something is wrong with the images we are showing our kids and how women are objectified and sexualized in the media. When you have Barbie appearing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and Hello Kitty teaming up with Playboy, you know something has gone terribly wrong with girls’ toys! My product is part of the solution.
To learn more about Go! Go! Sports Girls, visit their website. You can also watch a video made about their company at http://bluesky.chicagotribune.com/originals/chi-jodi-norgaard-of-dream-big-toy-company-20140318,0,0.premiumvideo