When I started the Talking Jesus Doll, I could not have imagined that we would go from idea to #1 Christian toy in our first year. I also could not have predicted the topsy-turvy path that God laid out for us. From prototype, to a customs crisis, to cancelled to broke to national TV to #1. I am thrilled to share the crazy story of our launch that is filled with good news and has God's fingerprints all over it.
Our Crazy 2022 Story
We had an idea and started this operation with zero toy experience in 2021. We came up with a design and contacted about 20 manufacturers. Most blew us off because we had no customers. Some built prototypes of our design that were not to the standard we needed. This is Jesus, so it has to be perfect. Thankfully, we found the one who was easy to work with and nailed the prototype - which was exactly what we had in mind - and the product you see today.
With a lot of faith, we placed an order for thousands of dolls in December 2021. All our eggs (and money) were in the basket of a manufacturer who we never met and a shipping company we couldn't pronounce. Easter was coming and we had production lead times and ocean shipping estimates that would get our dolls here by June! So, we air mailed the dolls at great expense to ensure they would be here in time for Easter. Good thing we did because even with air, we had US customs asking a lot of questions, doing tests and significantly delaying our dolls. We barely got the dolls in time.
Meanwhile, with our focus on making the doll, we had no plan to sell these dolls. We were either very dumb or very faithful - the jury is still out on that one. Since everyone else does Kickstarter, we thought that would work. Well, we launched on Kickstarter, got to 70% to our goal and were cancelled 4 days into it. They didn't like us saying toys from Hasbro and Mattel were woke and that LGBT indoctrination is bad for kids. The orders we had on Kickstarter were cancelled too. We hoped people would find our website. Only a few did. With our dolls finally arriving, we had less than than 50 orders.
Now all our money was in the dolls. We had no money or know-how to advertise. With less than a month to Easter, it was looking like our fiends and family would be getting Talking Jesus Dolls for Christmas for the next 25 years.
Cancel culture was a big deal in 2021 and 2022. Conservatives were getting cancelled everywhere for anything and news outlets were covering it relentlessly because it is a red meat story for conservative audiences. I had a sort of revelation that Kickstarter cancelling us was maybe the best thing that could have happened us. I reached out to every media outlet I could find and told them what happened to us - Jesus was cancelled by Big Tech!
PJ Media was the first to publish our story and we started to get orders for 2 days straight. Holy smokes, people are fired up about the story and are buying our product! A few days later, Newsmax had me on at 6:41AM CST on their Saturday morning show. I thought it would be good experience - but nobody is up that early. By the time I hung up the Skype line, my phone was dinging relentlessly with order notifications from our website. We were blown away with how many people were visiting our site - and buying our doll. Our conversion rate was off the charts. This continued for a few days. Our sales problem became a fulfillment problem - but that was a great problem to have.
We managed to get on with David Brody, Dan Ball, the Victory Channel News (a small Christian outlet). The best part was that these were all shows/hosts that I like so it was really exciting to be on with them. We sold out of our inventory in early summer!! Remember what I said about God's fingerprints.
We now had some media credibility and managed to get hundreds of product reviews on our website from customers which help establish credibility of our company and product. This was huge for people to trust us.
Just after Easter, we made a totally uncalculated move and placed a 6X bigger order for Christmas. This included a new product, the Shoebox Jesus doll - a non-talking, small version of our doll made for mission trips. Fortunately, we had just enough room in our barn for 12 pallets of dolls.
Rinse and repeat, we really didn't have a great plan for sales. We did make a shoestring budget commercial using a cell phone and a 3 dollar video editing app starring my daughter Allie. She did a great job and is a way better pitch person than me. But we had almost no money to advertise because it was sitting in dolls in the barn. We bought some airtime with Newsmax to beta test national TV advertising.
Our ad was about making Christmas Christian again. I think its sad that Christmas has been diminished to 'opening presents'. I thought the Talking Jesus Doll was the perfect present because it is the subject of the holiday. And, parents could put their stamp on Christmas to say - this is what its about.
I reached out Pete Hegseth, the main host on the Fox and Friends weekend show on Fox News. I knew he was a devout Christian and had done several Jesus and Bible related specials so maybe he would get this. I told him we were putting Christ back in Christmas. He sent the idea to his producers and a week later, our dolls were on the Fox & Friends set with the weekend team for a 2 minute segment.
Boom! Orders like we couldn't believe. It was Newsmax on steroids. We were blown away!! I think God was laughing at our amazement of his plan. It was an unreal response from customers and we managed to sell through a big chunk of our inventory. My entire family worked for a week straight morning to midnight in a freezing barn (during the deep freeze of 2022) filling boxes to make them in time for Christmas. The image featured in this post is our barn packed with boxes ready to be delivered to UPS.
The best part of December for us was knowing that thousands of kids would be waking up on Christmas morning and opening Talking Jesus Dolls as their presents. They would learn Bible verses and share with their friends. Our hope for this project was becoming realized. Now, we only have about a billion more kids to reach!
And because of that, we donated 1000 Shoebox Jesus dolls to Operation Christmas Child. OCC distributes toys (including plush toys) to 10-11 million kids each year. We believe that these children should be getting Jesus dolls instead of a stuffed duck or bear.
We finished 2022 as the #1 Christian toy in its category and #1 on Amazon. 2022 proved that God is using us to glorify Him. It proved that God can and will clear the path if you follow him. It proved that Christian parents and grandparents will do whatever it takes to introduce their kids to Jesus. It proved The Talking Jesus doll is a real thing that people love. It proved that our doll has missionary value. It proved that we should double down (or 6x down) and do all we can to introducing kids to Christ. That's a blessing and an honor. And your support was instrumental in this story. For 2022, we are so grateful.
First, we are taking every dollar we make and are reinvesting it into the business. In 2023 we will
- Release 2 new products. One is for you that you will love. One is for people in some other place you will never meet. (We can't tell you about these yet because we have a big bullseye on our back now and have to be careful. But you will be the first to know when they launch.
- Move fulfillment out of our barn. 😁 We will move to pro warehouses and fulfillment services to make sure orders get out pronto.
- Donate 100,000 Shoebox Jesus Dolls to Operation Christmas Child. Yes, 100K. Right now, we have no plan, no means and no dolls. But, we have God and with Him, all things are possible.
Thank you for being an early investor our company. Without you, we would not be writing about our 2022. There is still so much work to do so please tell your friends about us. And be sure to read our future emails to find out how the heck all this is going to happen. We will always be committed to sharing God's love with as many kids as we can. Thanks again and Happy New Year!!!
Talking Jesus Doll