Ruby Ruth Dolls
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How I Took a Leap of Faith And Secured an International Business Deal

I read an article recently that said to be an entrepreneur you need to have ‘faith’. I’m not talking about being religious, I’m talking about faith in the belief that there will always be a solution or that a miracle will occur to get to your goal. It’s not something that I recognised in myself until recently after a very testing and truly transformative year running my business. If you’ve been following my Instagram and Facebook posts over the last month you might already be familiar with the recent developments here at Ruby Ruth Dolls but if not read on.

Jenny in front of a window in China wearing a panda head band

An unexpected message…

I’ll start with a quick recap of the extraordinary set of events that led me to take a leap of faith and travel over 4000 miles across the world to meet a Ruby Ruth fan. A journey that resulted in both a deal which has propelled my business on the path to becoming an international brand and a new signature look, the tiny panda head headband.

Last summer (2018) Ruby Ruth Dolls was in its ninth year of trading. The business was growing, I was managing a team and I had a huge studio space to upkeep with all the responsibilities that went along with that. The creative part of my business, which I love, was ebbing away and being replaced by a role that wasn’t making me happy. Although I was very proud of what I had achieved I didn’t think that it was sustainable for me so I made the difficult decision to step back, close the studio, take a breathe and work out what to do next. I didn’t feel like it was the end for the business though as there was so much I wanted to develop with the characters but I knew it needed to be done in a different way. I just didn’t know how yet. I’m so happy I made that decision and gave myself some head space because that’s when something truly extraordinarily thing happened……

Barry from China smiling holding Ruby Ruth Dolls Barry on his shoulder

Three weeks after moving out of my studio and closing my online shop I received an email from a man in China called Barry (his English name) with a very unexpected message. Barry had been studying in Brighton and whilst shopping in the North Lanes he had come across my dolls at our Brighton stockist, Pussy Home Boutique. If you’re not familiar with the dolls they each have a name and a short backstory on their label. Barry was particularly drawn to a creature with a star patterned body and lilac eyes. When he turned the label over to find out his name he was very surprised to see that he was also called Barry!

Label displaying handwritten story attached to a Ruby Ruth Doll, reads ‘Barry loves sleeping under the stars’

Kindred Spirits….

The label expressed that mini Barry loved sleeping under the stars. He said he instantly felt connected to him and that it was their destiny to meet! After returning to China Barry got in touch expressing how he and his family had become huge fans of Ruby Ruth Dolls. He saw great potential in what I had created and had a business proposal….

Barry’s email was the sign I needed to realise the possibilities for Ruby Ruth Dolls, the business I had worked so hard to build. Without getting too cosmic it seemed that somehow the universe was sending me a message that I needed to continue.

Trusting in my business….

So that’s how I ended up last October about to board a plane to China. A place where I didn’t know anyone apart from Barry who I’d only ever spoken to via email and who had got in touch three months earlier with a big vision to launch Ruby Ruth Dolls over there.

My mum took this photo just before she waved me goodbye and wished me good luck. I’ve always been a natural in front of the camera as you can tell from my closed eyes.

Jenny at Heathrow airport about to check in. Procreate digital drawing of Malcolm and Jasper with me. Malcolm has his arm around my shoulder, Jasper is waving

I can remember feeling a mixture of anxiety and excitement. I definitely felt confident that I was making the right decision to go and I felt like that confidence came from the characters I had created, like Malcolm and Jasper.

I like to think they were there with me. I know that sounds strange but since designing them they have created connections and opportunities that I never imagined over the last 10 years so I felt I could trust in this unexpected adventure because of them.

I’ve not gone completely mad I promise!

Jenny and Barry at The Bund in Shanghai. Procreate digital drawing of Malcolm and Jasper either side of us waving

Shanghai and meeting Barry….

After arriving in Shanghai airport and finally meeting Barry face to face we headed into the city already discussing details about how he planned to launch Ruby Ruth Dolls there. It was great to be able to chat in person and be in China!

In one of our earlier email exchanges we had talked about our interests besides our businesses. I had mentioned how much I love art and going to exhibitions as I originally studied painting and worked as an assistant for Damien Hirst before I set up my business. So when Barry suggested going to a gallery that evening I was thrilled. The exhibition was called 'New Spring' and featured mist filled blossoms which fell from a tree like sculpture, I loved it!

The next day we headed two hours west to Hangzhou. It’s a beautiful city especially the area around the stunning West Lake which we took a boat out on.

Jenny on a boat on West Lake Hangzhou China. Procreate digital drawing of Jasper sitting next to her

An overwhelming opportunity…

The lake is surrounded by hills and home to numerous temples, pagodas and gardens. It’s inspired poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century.

I can remember feeling quite overwhelmed at this point! Having travelled thousands of miles and not had much sleep over the previous couple of days, I think the sheer scale of what Barry had in mind for Ruby Ruth Dolls was starting to sink in!

Over the course of next week Barry organised lots of sightseeing along with lots of business meetings. One of the most beautiful places we visited was Lingyin Temple (Temple of Soul’s Retreat) in Hangzhou. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in the country and provided a very peaceful and relaxing atmosphere to continue getting to know Barry and discuss the finer points of the business plan.

Jenny lighting incense at Lingyin Temple Hangzhou China. Procreate digital drawing of Malcolm also lighting incense

A fascinating place for a business meeting…

The scenery around the temple is incredibly beautiful- mountains, huge trees, some of which are thousands of years old, and delicate rock carvings. Inside the temples there were gigantic sculptures, the largest being 33.6 m high! It’s definitely the most fascinating place I’ve ever had a business meeting.

There’s so much more that I could include in this post about my trip and my experience of negotiating the deal in my final days of the trip but I think that will need a whole separate blog post.

So instead I’m going to fast forward to my final pic I took. A few days after I had shook hands on a deal that meant Ruby Ruth Dolls was on the path to becoming an international brand.

View of clouds from aeroplane window. Procreate digital drawing of Malcolm and Jasper sitting on the wing

The benefits of taking a leap of faith in business…

Posting together this blogpost and explaining how my business is expanding has got me reflecting on my experience as a business woman over the last 10 years.

I have experienced some interesting attitudes towards what I do, varying from wonderful and supportive to plain rude and dismissive and I think I’m guilty of both!

I love what I do and I think I’m really good at it but that positive feeling sometimes has to battle with a fear or feeling of inadequacy that tells me I’m an imposter masquerading as a business woman and will get found out at any moment as a fraud!! But something has shifted recently and I’ve realised that those negative attitudes are not actually rooted in reality as what I have created over the last ten years is down to my talents and abilities. I’ve come to realise that You decide who you are, no one else and I can choose to ignore the negative self talk.

I’m an artist and an international business woman, that still feels weird but it’s a work in progress and I’m going to keep saying it until it feels normal!

I’ve also come to realise that even when everything feels like it could fall apart you never know what possibilities are around the corner. I’m so excited about the future of Ruby Ruth Dolls.

If you would like to come and celebrate Ruby Ruth Dolls 10th birthday and Chinese expansion book your tickets here I’d love you to be there!

Jenny

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