By Laurie Peterson | January 11, 2013
“Success isn’t in the concept. It’s in the execution.”- Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl dolls
Several years ago I was asked to speak at my high school’s 75-year anniversary as an “amazing alumni” for my achievements in the toy industry including winning the coveted industry awards “Best Educational Toy of the Year”, “Most Innovative Toy of the Year”, and “Best Toy of the Year”. It was an honor being grouped with accomplished alumni such as the Executive Producer of the Amazing Race, and a world class rock climber. My talk focused on the path that lead me from Fountain Valley School to my position as a toy producer for LeapFrog, and how I thought we could be making even better toys by employing my high school’s educational values.
Sitting in the front row was an incredibly vocal audience member who challenged me to rethink LeapFrog’s distribution strategy. She had interesting ideas, but I openly disagreed with her viewpoint. Afterwards, a man approached me and said, “You know who that is right?” He gestured toward the vocal audience member. “That’s Pleasant Rowland, the creator of American Girl!” I was stunned. I deeply admired her products and knew of her legendary status for having built half the buildings on campus.
I spent the next hour with Pleasant; hearing about her own career path and challenges, and getting advice on how to make the most out of mine. She was strong, determined, and smart-she instantly became my role model. My favorite quote comes from the first time Pleasant shared her American Girl concept with a focus group. The moderator explained that the dolls teach history through period clothing and an accompanying book. All the mothers thought it was a horrible idea. Their little girls wouldn’t be interested in period pieces! Pleasant’s heart sank as she imagined a year’s worth or work being thrown out. Then, the moderator brought out the prototype and the focus group flipped. They loved the doll! That’s why Pleasant said, “Success isn’t in the concept. It’s in the execution.” It’s a motto I try to apply to all my work.