THE ONLY HEARTS CLUB DOLL BRAND CELEBRATES WHOLESOMENESS FOR ‘TWEEN GIRLS IN A MARKET SATURATED WITH SEXY DOLLS
May 07, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Media NewsNew York, NY - May 7, 2007 - Only Hearts Club - Seasoned inventor Rouben Terzian wasn't surprised by the new, alarming trend in sexy dolls — full makeup, risqué clothing, and sexualized faces and bodies — and the controversy surrounding it. Terzian, a toymaker for over 35 years, was aware of how societal forces were eliminating girlhood prematurely. Bucking this trend, the savvy toymaker decided to create a timeless line of dolls celebrating girlhood. As a result, Terzian started the Only Hearts Club which includes a line of dolls that look and dress like real girls.
The Only Hearts Club is a content-based brand featuring six highly poseable, named dolls; a series of books; and a miniature plush pet line. The dolls – six “girlfriends” – form a close-knit, caring, diverse (different races and interests) community. Each girl has her own personality, hobbies, a named pet, realistic fashions, furniture, play sets, and books with integrated storylines. The Only Hearts Club books, intentionally developed alongside the dolls, focus on dilemmas that will feel familiar to today’s girls. The message of the Only Hearts Club stories is simple and unique: Listen to your heart and do the right thing.
“I wanted to create my own brand,” says Terzian, who was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 1998. “Our concept works because it’s wholesome. It preserves girlhood. Our toys are age-appropriate: no belly shirts, no tattoos, no piercings, none of that. Our doll and pet lines are extremely detailed and they are unique. The dolls look and dress like real girls. They feel more real because they celebrate real life, real things that little girls do every day. And, it’s been a huge success. Consumers, young and old, tell us that they love our products and are so thankful for toys that provide girls with a positive image and message. The passion they have for Only Hearts Club is amazing.”
The toy industry agreed, awarding The Only Hearts Club the prestigious Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, an unusual honor, especially for a startup company. Relieved and admiring parents and grandparents flood the Only Hearts Club website daily with emails praising the dolls, books, and pets. Most importantly adoring girls – including such ‘tween celebrities as Elle Fanning – have made Only Hearts Club toys one of the most popular fashion doll brands.
The Brand – One-of-a-Kind: Unique Design, Affordable, Quality-driven
While The Only Hearts Club doll and book lines target school-aged girls, and the pets appeal to girls, boys, and collectors of all ages, every line in the brand is a product of the same meticulous attention to detail, innovative design, and the highest quality materials – all of which sell at a reasonable price and inspire a positive play experience.
The dolls – Taylor Angelique, animal lover; Olivia Hope, fledgling horsewoman; Karina Grace, music and dance aficionado; Briana Joy, athlete and natural leader; Lily Rose, outdoorswoman/nature girl; and Anna Sophia, culinary wizard – sport long, combable, rooted hair; extremely poseable, soft bodies (soft enough to sleep with); rare, life-like glass eyes; and natural skin tones with details such as freckles. Each “girl” has a different face shape and is dressed in authentic, trendy, yet age-appropriate fashions made of real materials (denims, knits, etc.) Accessories for the line include outfits and play sets that suit each girl’s interest, as well as “dress-up” costumes.
Illustrated with rich color photographs of the dolls in action, the accompanying books have charming yet suspenseful plotlines, complete with full character development; realistic dilemmas faced by real girls every day; story climaxes; and instructive, edifying resolutions highlighting the value of teamwork, friendship, and social ethics. In each story, an Only Hearts Girl struggles with a difficult decision and ultimately decides for herself to “listen to her heart and do the right thing.”
Only Hearts Club’s separate pets line — irresistibly adorable animals including frogs, cats, dogs, pigs, monkeys, cows, giraffes, elephants, hippos, rabbits, and many more — garners the attention and kudos of both girls and boys, ‘tweens, teens, and even adults. Unique in size and shape, as well as their incredible detail and Velcro paws, the pets’ cuteness and “collectability” makes them hard for merchants to keep on store shelves. The apparent “hipness” factor of the pets among boys and teens was a surprise even to the Only Hearts Club toymakers.
“We’ve found that their small size gives them a cuteness that appeals to everyone,” says Only Hearts Club President Len Simonian. “Fourth and fifth grade boys want them, though they’ll choose the more ’masculine’ colors. Teenagers clip them to their cell phones. Moms use them for kids’ party favors, and even as luggage tags for themselves.”
The Toymakers – A Modern-day Gipetto Creates a Successful Family Business
“I didn’t create The Only Hearts Club in a vacuum,” says Terzian, who owned his own independent toy inventing company in Chicago for nearly four decades, specializing in creating and designing baby dolls and doll brands, including new versions of Barbie dolls. “We licensed our dolls to companies like Mattel and Hasbro.”
In retirement, Terzian had enough time to look closely at the trashy trend in fashion dolls and took the opportunity to create a new and different doll brand from scratch, an evergreen product that he could build on through the years. “Barbie has been very good to me, but I wanted to create something of my own, a legacy. Many companies come up with a doll, then the content. Often, a doll will stay on the market for a year or so before the next version hits the shelves. I wanted to create a content-based doll line where the books and the dolls would be developed together, something that I could expand upon and enrich over time. My retirement lasted about ten days,” says Terzian.
As soon as he started Only Hearts Club, he called upon his family members to help. Son-in-law and former investment banker and Harvard Law graduate, Len Simonian handles the business side as President of Only Hearts Club. Daughter and marketing-advertising guru Kristy and his retail executive wife, Nina, cover brand development and management. His granddaughter, Taylor Angelique, for whom one of the Only Hearts Club dolls is named and modeled, lends her own particular expertise to the venture by weighing in on the authentic look of the fashions and by testing the waters for Only Hearts Club products with her school chums.
“Taylor helps in developing the fashions. They do use some of the stuff she comes up with,” confirms her father, Len, who, with Kristy, also has two sons, Trevor and Trent. “I also gave my daughter some of the pets to take to school. First she asked for three or four more for her best friends. Then, all of sudden, the next day she said she needed 63 more! When I gave her some more to take to school, her classmates literally knocked her out of the way to get to the pets.”
Taylor’s success at school wasn’t an isolated incident. “After three years, we’re in a situation that’s enviable and unusual,” says Simonian. “We have a startup company that has a track record. I use the term “startup” guardedly because Rouben is a highly respected toy industry veteran, but it is true that the company is young and growing. No one does you any favors in this business — you have to earn it. Only Hearts Club got a highly coveted, main-aisle endcap location in every Target store because our product has performed well.”
The Process – Quality By Design: What Little Girl Dolls are Made of
Terzian attributes Only Hearts Club’s success to its devotion to quality and attention to detail. The authentic, distinct look of its dolls and pets comes from painstaking research, development, testing, and manufacturer training in a labor-intensive process. Only Hearts Club dolls look more real because they have real proportions and the crafting is meticulous and fine: Glass eyes that have depth (with irises and pupils), freckles around the eyes and cheeks, dimples, fingernails, soft “skin” and bodies, real fabrics and stitching for clothes, a fine wire superstructure, and a different skin tone and head sculpt for each “girl.” The dolls are indeed unique. No other fashion doll combines a fine, detailed face with a soft and fully poseable body.
Getting it right wasn’t easy. “I don’t think there’s a toy company that can spend the time (or would spend the money) we did to reject the initial sculpts,” says Terzian. “I had the luxury of time, money, and patience. If it’s not good, I’m not going to ship it.”
“To get that level of quality is fairly difficult, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get our factories up to speed. Our tiny pets are sewn inside out, using tweezers, because they’re so small. It took two years to develop the dolls’ heads. The reward is that there are no other dolls out there like these.”
The Future – Only Hearts Club Business Forecasts and Launches
This year, Only Hearts Club looks forward to introducing two new members: An Asian doll, named Hannah Faith, and a second African-American doll, named Kayla Ray. The company recently inked a deal with Scholastic to produce their books, which will be introduced in January 2008. Only Hearts Club’s pet line, which is currently sold in specialty toy and gift stores, Target stores, and selected Hallmark stores nationwide, will also soon introduce six to eight new animals.