News / Story of Mandy's Moon
In the beginning, Mandy's Moon was focused exclusively on items for families who had adopted internationally. We started with Vietnam, China, Korea and Cambodia but soon expanded to Guatemala as well as many other countries. It seemed every day orders were pouring in from proud parents wanting to send out announcements welcoming their precious new arrival. Adoptions from China were huge! In those days the wait for a child was 9 months to a year and a half. How we loved receiving photos of those angelic children to print on announcements, thank you cards and favor bags.
We realized that all these little girls coming home would need dolls to hold and love and wouldn't it be nice if they could have an Asian doll that resembled them. We weren't the only ones thinking that way. Precious Moments, Beringer, Green tree and several other doll companies jumped on the band wagon. Suddenly there was a large selection of Asian dolls to be had as well as African American and Hispanic dolls. Not only did we enjoy selling them and making little girls happy, we loved to play with the dolls before they were shipped!
With the arrival of ethnic doll shipments came the dilemma of where to store all those boxes! In those early years we worked from our home. Quickly every nook and cranny was filled with dolls, plaques and stationary! We erected a shed in the back yard, but soon that was filled to capacity. Laurie had her heat press in the garage and alternately froze in the winter and sweltered in the summer. My husband, unable to find his tool bench under boxes of dolls, had finally had enough. The search for an office space began!
It was Mandy's first Christmas and Laurie kept eeying the Caucasian blond-haired blue-eyed angel that had majestically topped our tree for many years. Somehow it just looked wrong. She hit the web and began searching for an Asian tree top angel. She found a handful of African American angels, even a dachshund tree top angel, but not a single Asian tree topper. I need to regress for a moment with a short description of my daughter as a child, then a teenager. Laurie was stubborn! She drove me absolutely insane! She was shy, she was smart, she was kind, but when she made up her mind to do something, or more often NOT to do something, she would not back down. To be honest, there were times I didn't think I would survive those years. I wish I could have known then what I know now – that stubborn streak became the foundation for a successful business woman, amazing mother and a daughter who turned into a best friend.
Back to the Asian tree top angels. Laurie drew up some designs and contracted with Precious Moments to produce three Asian treetoppers – a Chinese angel wearing a cheongsam, a Korean angel dressed in a traditional hanbok, and finally a Vietnamese treetop angel wearing an Ao Dai. Adoptive families were delighted to find tree top angels representative of their precious daughters. Sadly we finally sold out our Chinese tree top angels but we still have good supplies of Vietnamese tree toppers and Korean treetop angels.
Laurie’s hand made ornaments were so successful that she soon found it difficult to keep up with the demand. She decided to send off a handful of her Asian Christmas ornaments to a manufacturer in China to have prototypes made. We waited, anxious to receive the first samples and see how the company would duplicate her work. At last the wait was over. The samples arrived. They were beautiful! A Vietnamese girl dressed in the traditional Ao Dai, a Chinese girl wearing a colorful Cheongsam and holding a fan, a Korean girl in a Hanbok, a Cambodian cutie – there was no end to Laurie’s creativity. Wow – these ornaments were great! Laurie immediately placed an order for 5,000 Christmas ornaments.
I expect at this point readers may be sensing impending doom. How right you are! The shipment arrived. 5,000 ornaments carefully wrapped in bubble wrap. Our family gathered around the table and began slitting tape and unrolling bubble wrap. Mmmmmm….this one doesn’t look like the sample. Uh oh…..this one doesn’t look ANYTHING like the sample! As each ornament was revealed, we were horrified by display after display of sloppy paint jobs, crooked eyes, skin-colored paint that wound up on the outfits and vice versa. It was obvious that their best painters had done the samples and that complete beginners were assigned to complete the big order.
Several frantic emails passed between Laurie and the manufacturer. “Oh yes, no worries. We will replace the entire 5,000 ornaments. In the meantime we thought we would salvage what we had. Hour after hour, we extracted deformed ornaments from bubble wrap and separated them into good ornaments, ornaments that would be ok with the paint touched up, and the rest that would have to be tossed in the trash (which turned out to be the great majority). We laboriously touched up the paint by hand on the “best” ornaments. I even strong-armed my 85-year-old mother into the unwrapping and sorting process! We had already reached the point of exhaustion when the second batch of 5,000 ornaments arrived from China. We had tossed approximately 75% of the first shipment. Imagine our dismay when we discovered that of the new, improved batch we still had to throw out about 50%!
So ends the first sad saga of the early days at Mandy’s Moon. It quickly became evident that we would need to move in different directions and develop products where we would be in charge of quality control.
People often ask my daughter, Laurie, what inspired her to start her personalized gift business nearly 15 years ago. Her inspiration: a 22” high, 17 lb toddler with huge brown eyes! Mandy, adopted from Vietnam at age 22 months, immediately became the treasured heart of our family and the namesake of Mandy’s Moon personalized gifts. Mandy was fascinated with the moon so Laurie gifted her precious daughter the moon by naming the business after her.
Now, back to those tiny people baked in the oven. Laurie’s first creations for her business were Christmas ornaments, figures of Asian kids wearing native costumes that were fashioned from polymer clay. Laurie would painstakingly roll, cut, dress her clay blobs, add hair, eyes, and all kinds of amazing details. She would carefully lay them out on a baking tray and place them in a preheated oven. You can imagine our shock when we saw tiny toddler Mandy laying her Fisher Price people out on the miniature cookie sheet from her baking set, opening her toy oven and placing the people inside. My first thought: what kind of a sick game is this? And then the light bulb inside my head nearly exploded with the realization that Mandy was copying her mother! We laughed for a long time over the “baked people” episode. Today, Mandy is nearly 18 and a college engineering student as well as an extremely talented digital designer for Mandy’s Moon! She has also developed her own web site, Amanda Lynn Art, showcasing her wildlife designs. Definitely no more tiny people baked at 325 degrees until done!
From Laurie: Since I’ve been averaging one post about every 3-6 months on our blog, we’ve decided it’s time to add a new author! My Mom is going to be writing a series of posts about how we came to start Mandy’s Moon, how the business has grown and evolved, and and some fun ideas for ways to use some of our products. I’ll still be posting sometimes too, but I think you’ll find her to be a much better and more interesting writer than I am! I’m happy to introduce you to my best friend, indispensable business partner, and all around awesome…MOM!
For anyone who might actually READ this blog, my name is Nancy. I’m “Mom” to Laurie (creator and owner of Mandy’s Moon Personalized Gifts) and “Ba” (grandma) to Mandy, namesake of Mandy’s Moon, and 3 other beautiful grandchildren. My husband and I were fortunate enough to live in Pakistan, Ireland, Nigeria, Kenya and Eritrea. Our lives were not always pleasant, but I can honestly say there was never a dull moment! Now in my so called “golden” years I stay busy helping with the grandkids and acting as chief packer and data entry person for Mandy’s Moon. I’ve always enjoyed writing and finally caved in to Laurie’s request for blog entries. Hopefully someone out there will enjoy my ramblings.