Donegal Business lost in SPACE
In 2014 Donegal Diaspora covered Ian Harkin’s business journey with Lottie Dolls and his return to Donegal to create a base for Lottie in the Co Lab, Letterkenny. The move for CEO, and MD of the award winning an innovative doll brand, Ian Harkin, has been successful thus far - Lottie is now for sale in over 3000 stores worldwide, in over 30 countries and has been the recipient of 27 international awards, including a recent Gold Loved By Parents Award in the UK.
‘We’ve recently doubled our office space in the Co Lab, Lottie Dolls now employ eight full time staff’, rapidly moving towards Ian’s goal outlined last year, of having ten people within three years. Two of the staff members were employed from internships, one is under an initiative run by Inter Trade Ireland and two are former students of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Lottie Dolls have taken on their own distribution in the UK and Ireland and most of Europe - as of Summer 2015, and have employed two sales people in-house and a network of agents to cover the various territories, this is an in effort to get closer to the independent retailers and have a direct relationship with retailers to further circulate the Lottie Doll brand message.
In 2015, Lottie brought six new dolls and accessories to market, two were Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths inspired and have received significant reviews and coverage applauding the company’s efforts to highlight STEM subjects and encourage girls to explore non-typical play themes. The dolls were covered on Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Business, Forbes.com, The Guardian UK, The Irish Times, The Irish Herald, UTV, RTE, Al Jazeera and BBC Radio 4.
As of December 2015, our Stargazer Lottie became the first doll in space. Six year old Abigail from B.C Canada designed the Stargazer Lottie doll, who then travelled to the International Space Station with British European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake.
The Special Edition ‘Gold Collection ‘Stargazer’ Lottie doll is a collaboration with the European Space Agency, and was the winner of the space.com ‘Little Scientist’ Space Age Award at the New York Toy Fair 2015.
“The key difference with Lottie is that she is a kid where all other brands have adult characters, we are now using kids design from our Club Lottie members to develop our new products, key to this is growth of our Club Lottie membership, its free to join and the benefits are extra content, monthly competitions and being part of the Lottie community.”
“We’d like to thank the people of Donegal for helping get the word out on Lottie, everything we have done to date has been based on word of mouth, our next goal is to employ up to 50 people in Donegal within the next 5 years, so we’ll be asking everyone to continue help spreading the word!”
Five of the Lottie Dolls to date have been inspired by real girls from the UK, USA and Canada – through the free Club Lottie members club on Lottie.com. Ian would encourage Irish children to pitch their ideas via the website, and perhaps see them created in doll form in 2016! See Abigail and Lottie’s video here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3I0ChExz-w