Imagine browsing the store for toys with your 9-year-old daughter, and she picks up a doll wearing a half shirt, belly ring and eye shadow.
"Mommy, is this doll for me to play with?" she asks.
That's what happened to Jodi Norgaard, and it inspired her to create the Go! Go! Sports Girls doll collection.
"I measured my daughter and her friends every time they came in the door, and the seamstress had five daughters that we measured," Norgaard said of creating prototypes for the line. "I wanted the dresses to be in proportion to how girls really are built."
After she teamed up with a manufacturer, "Tennis Girl" debuted at the U.S. Open in August 2008.
"They ordered 500 dolls from me, and they sold out within six days," said Norgaard. "To see little girls carrying my dolls around at the U.S. Open — that was very powerful."
A mother of three kids — Peter, 17; Grace, now 14; and Ben, 11 — Norgaard runs her successful Dream Big Toy Co. out of her home in Glen Ellyn. All 11 of her Sports Girls are available in stores across the country.
"I get notes from parents all the time telling me they are so happy their daughter feels a connection to a doll that isn't a sex symbol," she said. "It's important for young girls today to know that we care and want to know what makes them happy. Dolls are not the only influence young girls have out there, but the more positive influences the girls can have, the better."
Q: What is your greatest attribute and greatest fault?
A: My attribute is that I always have a positive attitude. Fault would be that I can be a little disorganized at times and that may be because I spread myself too thin.
Q: What's your greatest possession?
A: The love of my children and my husband.
Q: What is the best lesson you ever received from your father/mother?
A: From my father — he has always treated everyone fairly. He was a college professor, and I would go to school with him, and he would treat the president the same way he would treat the janitor at night. He may be the kindest person I know. From my mother, she taught me and my sister to be strong on the inside and always told us, "Don't ever expect a man to take care of you!"
Q: Who is your living hero?
A: Billie Jean King. A friend of mine used to work for Billie. I've met her a few times. She's just incredible. She changed how the world viewed women's sports and changed the lives of many, many women. When she went out and beat Bobby Riggs in tennis, that was just groundbreaking. She's an amazing woman.
Q: What's the one secret to success?
A: Don't let fear stop you. The first time you have a job and have to take that flight by yourself — or even filling up the gas tank by yourself — every time you conquer that fear, the fear of failure diminishes a little more each time. I think this is a huge problem right now with kids, especially kids in sports, because none of the parents want their kids to fail. But it's OK if they do. It's what makes them a stronger person the next time. It should not stop you from what you really want to do.
Q: What's your biggest mistake?
A: I've made many little ones and am hopeful there's no big one coming. However, I did have my sons ask me, "Mom, why didn't you design a Go! Go! Sports Boy?" because they didn't have a doll.
Q: Which side gets cheated more often — personal or professional?
A: Professional. I love what I do. I truly love it. I could work at it happily 15 hours a day. I really have to put work aside sometimes because being a mother, I know how fast it goes. I don't want to miss one sporting event or one thing at the grade school. Eighteen years is a short part of a person's life, so I try to be with my kids as much as I can.
Q: If I only knew then …
A: Stay calm. When I was 26 and I was first married, I had my own business where I filled baskets with baked goods. One holiday season I had so many orders, and my husband was staying up until 2 a.m. with me. I just broke down and cried — and he took me by the shoulders and said, "Buck up. Stay calm, and get to work," and it worked.
Q: What my mother/father never told me:
A: It's a big world out there. When I was growing up, our world was so small, and we didn't travel much. I moved to Chicago, and you learn fast that it's big out there and you have to put on your suit of armor and be tough. I always tell my children that they need to live in a major city at least once in your life. It's so important.
Q: What did you want to be at age 13?
A: A professional tennis player. But when I turned 14 it sort of set in that this wasn't going to happen.
Q: What's your professional mantra, in 10 words or less fewer?
A: Dream big, and go for it!