Stevenson grad banking on dolls based on heroic women of history

Many little girls play with dolls because they would like to bring those dolls to life. A Stevenson High School alumna is hoping to build dolls that girls will wish they could bring back to life.

Hannah Schlacter, soon to be a sophomore in the University of Illinois business school’s honors program, is the first employee of Miss Possible, a company founded by two other Illini that plans to manufacture dolls based on heroic women of history.

Schlacter, the director of Miss Possible’s social media operations — which, if everything pans out, will be approximately as important to the overall operation as the toys themselves — said the group’s hope is to give girls a doll that causes them to dream of something more than flawless hair.

“We want to empower these little girls to realize their potential,” she said. “The idea is that these little girls will learn history.”

Beginning, possibly, with Marie Curie.

At this point, some of Miss Possible’s potential target audience may log onto Instagram to see if Marie Curie is a good follow. Of course, she is not — because she has been dead long enough that the company can use her image without any legal repercussions.

However, if they Google her, they will discover Curie was a scientist who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win Nobel Prizes in two different fields.

Miss Possible is the project of Illinois chemical engineering graduate Supriya Hobbs, who will soon be headed to Stanford University, and Illinois senior Janna Eaves, another business student.

The pair met in the dorms and came up with the idea of dolls based on historical figures, with the intent of showing the women of the future who the leaders and heroines of the past were.

There are no dolls in existence yet. Schlacter said Miss Possible garnered some early funding from winning a university entrepreneurship competition and a grant from Microsoft, but not enough to produce any models of the toy.

Their basic format, if Miss Possible dolls come to production, is that they will be similar in size and materials to American Girl dolls, but with less joint functioning — no open-and-close eyes — and a smaller price tag.

“These will cost about half as much,” Schlacter said.

Eaves is looking into molds and manufacturing details, Schlacter said. Putting those plans in motion will require additional funding, though, and Miss Possible is mounting an Indiegogo campaign to seek donations.

Eaves and Hobbs have a hand-built prototype: a store-bought doll of similar size and construction that they retrofitted into the likeness of groundbreaking airplane pilot Amelia Earhart, who has also been dead long enough to be modeled for free.

Should they be able to afford a production run, the first character will likely be Curie.

But the other half of the Miss Possible idea is online. Schlacter described the digital community they hope to build among the girls who become interested in the dolls, a place where they can learn more about the real stories behind their toys and share their own dreams with each other.

Schlacter said she met Hobbs last year and found in the Miss Possible concept a mission they shared.

“I was the biggest girlie-girl ever,” Schlacter said of her elementary-school days. “I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.”

Her mind has changed quite a bit since then.

“I’m very active in politics,” said Schlacter, who is spending her summer volunteering for Republican Leslie Munger’s campaign to win the Illinois House 59th District seat from Rep. Carol Sente, D-Lincolnshire.

Schlacter said she believes that the time for educational, inspirational entertainment for young girls has arrived.

GoldieBlox, another “more than just a toy” product, made a splash with an ad during this year’s Super Bowl, and Hollywood has begun to embrace the idea of heroines carrying the lead role and even saving males from final danger in a film’s climax.

Miss Possible, Schlacter said, could ride that momentum.

“It’s a tangible movement that people can get into, that can happen,” she said.

GET DOLLED UP

The online community that Schlacter envisions accompanying the dolls has begun to form, at BeMissPossible.com.

Those wishing to help fund toy production can do so at igg.me/at/misspossible.

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