In 2009, when Ally Mollo was 8 years-old, she started drawing pictures of guardian angels, inspired by her own guardian angel, her grandfather.
Ally revealed: "My mom always said my grandpa was looking over me so I drew lots of angels representing my family and friends."
Her mother loved her drawings and suggested that they should do something more with them. Ally decided to transform them into soft dolls, because she wanted them to give "kids comfort and also be fun to play with and bring along."
She created the Guardian Angel Rainbow Division (G.A.R.D.), an "elite task force of angels" created with "talents, special skills and gave each one an emotional strength that helped them to earn their wings."
The G.A.R.D is made up of seven plush dolls with different ethnic backgrounds and stories about how they got their wings. They are all part of the Custard ‘n Jelly doll collection, a name inspired by Ally’s Italian roots. "We discovered that ‘guardian angel’ in Italian is ‘custodi angeli.’ Custard ‘n Jelly was born!"
The dolls, which are produced in China, are sold online and by 19 separate retailers throughout the United States. Ally’s favorite doll is Laney, a red-headed Scot whose specializes in "making wishes."
Ally was not satisfied with just being an entrepreneur, she wanted to be a "socialprenuer." She decided that a portion of the doll sales should go to one of three charities that help children, which she carefully chose herself: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation, Child Find of America, and Children Incorporated.
Each doll carries a registration code, which allows the customer buying the dolls to chose the charity to which the portion of the sale shall be given. Ally considers her business to be "a great learning experience and it’s been wonderful hearing from other little girls around the U.S. that write me about how great the angels are and how they have helped them." She nevertheless admits that there were challenges along the way. She reveals: "My biggest obstacle was that I didn’t know all of the things that it took to start a business. I had to learn the process and a lot of words that I didn’t even know, like ‘intellectual property’!" She was also surprised to discover that it takes time "to get things going and patience." In terms of costs, Ally was fortunate to have the support of her parents, who helped her pay the prototypes for each doll and the materials needed to make them.
The dolls have so far been greatly successful. In 2011, they were selected by Time as one of the top 15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses.
Right now, Ally is working on making an animated show for the dolls.
When giving advises other child entrepreneurs, Ally emphasizes the importance of patience. She adds: "You have to be realistic that things don’t happen overnight, and you have to give your product time to become a flower instead of a weed. My mom and dad said that you can’t be afraid to take chances. And you have to keep going and going and you don’t give up."
If you want to find out more about Ally and her dolls, visit her website: www.custardnjelly.com, Facebook page: Facebook.com/custardnjelly, Twitter: @custardnjelly.