Inspirefest snapshot: The dolls encouraging kids to be themselves

13 Jun 2018

Still from ‘Lottie’s Real Superhero – Meet Lily!’ Image: Lottie Dolls/YouTube

Lottie Dolls CEO Ian Harkin wants to inspire children through play and creativity.

Playing with dolls is an integral part of childhood and is a key way to foster imagination, but many dolls on the current toy market are based on adults.

Ian Harkin, CEO and co-founder of Lottie Dolls, wanted to change this when he and Lucie Follett launched the company in 2012.


Ian Harkin. Image: Lottie Dolls

Inspired by real kids, Lottie Dolls has come a long way as a company since its foundation, from a very special collaboration with filmmaker Elena Rossini, to the debut of the first mass-production doll in the world with a cochlear implant, Mia the Wildlife Photographer.

Smashing stereotypes

Diversity and inclusion are crucial concepts for children to learn, and fostering imagination through play is the perfect way to hear about different viewpoints, cultures and inspirational life paths, as Harkin explained: “In our brand, we want to challenge stereotypes with boys as well as girls. Toxic masculinity is as much an issue to us as the limitations of gender stereotypes for girls. Ethnic diversity, but also in diversity of ability, is extremely important to us.”

Dolls of many ethnicities with a wide array of hobbies, from space travel and journalism to ballet, are among the Lottie range. The company even has a special STEM collection of dolls to choose from. The inspiring and vibrant dolls have been a much-loved Inspirefest fixture for the past number of years.

Collaboration with kids

Harkin is a major proponent of collaboration with kids themselves when it comes to toy design, telling “The great thing in working with kids is that they completely ignore stereotypes for change. We need to include kids more in our decision-making and in our design processes.”

He will be taking to the Inspirefest stage on Thursday 21 June to discuss building a better future for young people, as part of the ‘Next Generation: The Future is Now’ panel along with EU Digital Girl of the Year, Aoibheann Mangan; teen advocate Taylor Richardson (aka Astronaut StarBright); and International Women’s Day prizewinner at DCU Business School, Nikita Naz Siddique.

For inspiration from extraordinary thinkers, catch Ian Harkin and more at Inspirefest in Dublin on 21 and 22 June. Get your tickets now.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects