Entrepreneurship is a SnapDoll for Casey County woman

ctruman@herald-leader.comMay 4, 2014 

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    For more information on SnapDolls, visit Snapdolls.com or call (606) 787-0085.

LIBERTY — As a child, Stacey Hoskins Beeler loved paper dolls, and her parents loved keeping the family busy.

Both those loves have paid off for Beeler in SnapDolls, a business poised to keep adding products to its line, and to pick up sewing business from other companies around the country.

Her family's habits were evident in her father, Garland Hoskins, who stayed busy with his political career, becoming the Casey County judge-executive and mayor of Liberty while operating a Top Dollar store. Beeler's mother Dale, a school teacher and librarian, also kept a few side projects going, such as decorating.

In the Hoskins household aiming high was encouraged .

As a child, "If I'd have said, I'm going to ride a rocket to the moon, my mom would have said 'OK,'" Beeler said.

Flash forward a few years, and Stacy Beeler was teaching entrepreneurship for Casey County students when she met Dean Harvey, executive director of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship at UK. Harvey would later prove key to helping Beeler establish valuable contacts and investment.

She later became senior executive officer of the Monticello Banking Company's Liberty branch.

In 2009, Beeler won the Whirlpool Mother of Invention award for an idea she had when her son Spencer, 11, got a high fever. Her fever-monitoring device would alert parents and caregivers when a child's temperature crossed a certain threshold.

Her idea won her a washer, dryer, dishwasher, $7,000 and a trip to an entrepreneur camp, where she met Julie Clark, who invented Baby Einstein, a line of multimedia products and toys that specialize in interactive activities for preschoolers.

While fiddling with ideas for the Casey County Apple Festival, she remembered her childhood love of paper dolls, and SnapDolls was born. The festival's SnapDoll booth was a success.

The company has 11 employees and Beeler received two patents on her designs in 2011. SnapDolls are available online and in 65 stores across the country and have been featured on the Zulily "flash sale" website.

The business — an all-in-one showroom and manufacturing plant — is located just opposite the Casey County courthouse.

To describe SnapDolls is to briefly immerse yourself in the mind of a 3-to-10-year-old girl, and more importantly, in the mind of her mother, or perhaps her grandparents — those with the credit card, who adore those little girls.

SnapDoll Kate has a full wardrobe of snap-on outfits. They are cute in an approachable way that does not break the budget. For example, the short-sleeved tees, available in flutter and puff sleeves, are $29.95; the long-sleeved puff T-shirt is $32.95. Messenger bags are $29.95 and individual dolls $15.95. "Outfits" for the Kate doll on the shirt are $9.95.

But then there are the snaps and the outfits that can be attached to them, and that's where the brand takes off: University of Kentucky fans can snap on a royal blue cheerleader uniform, University of Louisville fans a bright red one. There's a soccer uniform, a "Panda Playtime" print, "Derby Day" with a big yellow hat with flower and a full line of holiday outfits, from Trick or Treat to Hanukkah to Santa.

SnapDolls is expanding into new products: tiny tiered skirts with snaps onto which accessories such as flowers can be snapped and snapped purses for adults. The snap purse covers operate like the button-off purse covers that were the rage in the 1970s and '80s.

Dean Harvey, director of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Kentucky, linked up Beeler's company with Lexington-based entrepreneur Seth McBee, who needed help producing his You Saw Me light-up visibility vests, which provided Beeler's team with more work.

The SnapDolls seamstresses have become fond of McBee and proudly show off the vests they've sewn for him.

Beeler is also seeking sewing business for her workers from a bedding company in North Carolina and a leather company in Wisconsin.

"It's amazing that people are going out of the state when we've got people who can sew," Beeler said. "I knew they were good seamstresses, but I had no idea. It's amazing, what they can do."

Part of Beeler's plan for business success is the gospel of the Rolodex: She keeps track of, and in touch with, virtually everyone she meets. Her philosophy is that a business person can never have enough contacts, and you can never tell where a contact may lead in terms of business expansion, investment or customer base.

Harvey of the entrepreneurship center agreed with Beeler: "Networking is critical. ... You never know who knows somebody else, and who may help your business. If you're not out doing that networking, you're never going to find out. It's so critical that you build a team."

Harvey said that Beeler met one of her investors, former Brown-Forman chief financial officer and executive vice president Phoebe Wood, at a Lexington Venture Club meeting.

"I just introduced Stacy to Phoebe, because they were at the same meeting, and that has led to some investment in Stacy's company," Harvey said.

SnapDolls are easy to become attached to — once you understand how they work and how easy it is to change up the look. That's why Beeler is considering SnapDoll "trunk shows," where customers would be introduced to the product line and see how it works.

"We know people love them, but they've got to be shown what they are," Beeler said.

The entrepreneur gene has carried forward to Beeler's son Spencer, who last year won an entrepreneur contest with his two Lexington cousins. The trio won $15,000 for their idea for the "Grow Your Own Business Challenge," a national entrepreneur competition sponsored by Warren Buffett's animated series Secret Millionaires Club.

Their idea was "Kidtrepreneur Kids," a subscription service that each month shared information on how to make money.

Stacy Beeler likes nothing better than to work on her products, often in the small hours of the morning. Her husband Brian gets up, "at 3 or 4 in the morning to find me with these dresses fanned out around me," she said.

Beeler worries that entrepreneurs frequently think too small and don't seek out avenues to broaden their businesses.

"When I started doing this, I thought it was very small," she said. "But there are thousands of ideas that people never expand, and there's help to do it."

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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