Mother Of Invention: Lisa James White Brings Music To The Masses With WOON iDolls

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Who she is: Lisa James White, founder of WOON iDolls and mom of three.

Why we love her: Because she makes it easy for moms on the go to enjoy music with their kids – all thanks to a groovy little doll that has a hidden compartment for your iPod or MP3 player.

In her own words…

What exactly is a WOON iDoll?

WOON iDolls have a built-speaker and an iPod/MP3 port tucked inside the doll, so parents can plug in their iPod, iPhone, Blackberry or any MP3 device and enjoy music with their kids. The dolls attach onto strollers, cribs, school bags, purses and so on – and are perfect for strolls, playtime and for helping kids fall asleep at night (or for nap time). They help families have music everywhere they go.

How did you come up with the concept?
I used to take my son out for walks when he was a baby and I longed to listen to my iPod. But I didn’t want to pop my headphones on and be the ‘bad mom’ that tunes out her child. I came home one day after a long, monotonous walk and told my husband I had to find a way to enjoy music with our son – and thus the WOON iDolls were conceived.

And the name?
The name WOON means live in the Afrikaans language. It not only describes our mission but also our spirit – WOON is all about fun. It is a world of happiness and we want to inspire free-spirited people who really live life.

Your background is in fashion editorial. How’d you make the shift from magazine to business owner and mom of three?
While I was on mat leave with my second child I had every intention of going back to my job at a fashion magazine. I love the fashion industry! But then I had this crazy idea to design, create and develop the iDolls, and everything changed. My hubby, who is one of the most practical people I know, told me he thought the idea was brilliant and he has been so incredibly supportive. I went to several high-end boutiques and ran the idea and designs by them. They all told me that the WOON iDolls were going to be a game changer! One store owner told me that I was about to revolutionize children’s musical toys and to do it quickly, which I thought was pretty rad.

What were some of the biggest challenges along the way?
I guess my biggest challenge with starting up my own company was that I was working from home with three kiddies under the age of five at home with me! Oh, and that was sans nanny, sitter or daycare – and with a lack of income. Sometimes I really thought I should have contacted some sort of reality-show producers and get a crew into my home. I realized very early on that during the day, it is really my kids’ time – and any work I got to do during ‘normal’ work hours was on ‘borrowed time.’ I had to figure out how to steal chunks of time to make up a full business day. But because I am working at an international level – my flexibility and random work hours were very well suited. I get most of my work done super early in the morning before anyone wakes up, during nap time and after the kids go to bed. But sometimes it has to be done amidst the chaos of a house with three little kids and a noisy dog. There were many late-night calls overseas, a lot of deals made via internet well before the sun rose… I was quickly schooled in how to juggle it all gracefully. I get to be the mom who makes fresh pancakes with the kids before school in the morning, take them to their schools, do pickup, play at the park, come home and cook dinner together. Plus activities and homework – all the stuff any parent does. And I get to be the owner of a fantastic new brand with international recognition. My kids are just little people and they deserve 100 percent of me. As does my company. Balancing it all has definitely been my biggest challenge – but it is also where I perform my best magic act.

The dolls themselves, ‘Pax‘ and ‘Lulu,’ are a unique combination of modern, edgy and traditional. How did you come up with the two designs?
That’s where my background in the fashion industry came in handy. I literally developed the dolls from pencil to paper. It was really funny because after I drew my first illustration of Pax, I cut him out to get a better idea of what the doll would look like. My daughter loved Pax so much that she slept with the paper-doll cutout at night. I knew then and there I was onto something, design-wise. I also knew I had found the ultimate ‘creative consultant’ and have since run each and every step by my precocious little 5-year-old. Fabric selection was huge for me and took forever. Very picky parker. Definitely the fashion snob in me. But my big goal for the design of the doll was to have something that the parents love just as much as the kids. It had to be something that I would want to put onto my stroller or designer purse. The fashion set seem to be loving the design, which makes me blissfully happy.

What role does music play in your life personally?
Music makes everything better. And it is amazing what throwing music on does for kids. Instantly any fussing, fighting or tantrums are tamed. Put on some great tunes and the kids instantly light up and march and dance and clap and flap their feet. It is the ultimate mommy secret!

How do you balance motherhood with starting a new business?
With a good sense of humor! But I think any parent is always trying desperately trying to find balance. And really, the definition of balance is different for every person. For me and my family we are living in an idyllic bliss. I get to be with my kids and start up my own company on my own terms and take this crazy idea all over the world. My kids are very involved in what I do – just because of the nature of my work – and they love it. They are such creative little beings. They have been on some amazing photo shoots, learning photography from some of the most elite fashion shooters. They’ve been schooled in fabrics, design, shipping. They have helped design my website, from font to color. They are very hands-on and feel such a sense of pride every time they see someone with a Lulu or Pax on the street. And they truly have such a deep appreciation for music. Which I think totally rocks. To me, it all about raising happy kids with super-happy spirits. And that is echoed in WOON. Music makes people happy. Bottom line. And if we can raise happy children – anything is possible!

What’s the best piece of advice for other moms with a new business idea?
Everything starts off as someone’s daydream. But you have to be able to back that up with a ton of nerve and perhaps be just a tad bit mad.