Tiny Noggins (https://solo.to/mytinynoggins) makes plush dolls that represent different, rare medical conditions in children. Their first product is a set of dolls wearing a corrective helmet to raise awareness about plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. Founder and Owner Stephanie Visaya Shumaker hopes that through dolls that represent babies who are undergoing cranial remolding therapy, the children would see that they are loved and celebrated in every way. “I strongly believe that dolls are comforting and therapeutic, making these children feel included, validated and loved.” Born and raised in the Philippines before moving to the US 8 years ago, Stephanie’s work had always focused on building and launching brands for different companies mostly in the healthcare industry. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial drive, and wanted to use this ambition to help others and make a difference in the lives of people, she shared. “I strive towards this advocacy that’s why I do my best to connect and network with like-minded organizations that share our vision to make sure all children with different genders, skin tones, shapes and medical conditions are well represented in toys.”
What inspired you to put up Tiny Noggins and to take on this advocacy?
I started Tiny Noggins with my husband, who fought a very courageous fight with ALS. He passed away last month. Before his diagnosis, he had multiple surgeries in his neck that lead us to so many PT, OT, speech therapies and also numerous doctor appointments where we have seen kids wearing medical devices. We thought it would be nice to start a business that would help inspire and bring joy to these kids and to their parents. Our daughter, who was 3 years old at that time, loved plush dolls and we saw how therapeutic they were to her. During that time, I was also working for an orthotics & prosthetics company that has presence across the United States. I loved working for that company primarily because the stories of most of our patients, especially babies and kids, were so inspiring that it just intensified my wanting to pursue this dream of creating a brand that could give joy to these kids and their families.
I lost my job right when Covid hit the US economy in 2020. This allowed me to focus on building the Tiny Noggins brand. I knew I wanted to devote my time in designing toys, specifically dolls, to promote awareness, inclusivity and representation in children with different medical conditions, and not just of ethnicity. Right now, we specialize in dolls that represent babies with positional plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome and I’m proud to say that we are the first in the market to create plush dolls that represent babies undergoing cranial remolding therapy. This year, we are on track to launch new dolls representing other medical conditions in children.
What positive impact stories have you seen so far through your work/products? How Tiny Noggins contributes to advancing equality?
It’s such a blessing to receive so many wonderful stories and appreciation from parents. Almost always the conversations are loaded with so much emotions – for them, it’s so special for their babies to have a doll that looks like them and not feel different. Our dolls are already a part of their little one's story and a constant reminder of a challenging but wonderful journey of their early life. As a result, I have never spent a dime for ads and just relied on the word of mouth and positive impact of our dolls to these families. Our dolls have also made its way to a lot of medical facilities, not only in the US but also in UK.
Tiny Noggins is proud to support Children’s Craniofacial Association (CCA) as our way of giving back. CCA’s mission is to empower and give hope to individuals and families affected by facial differences. We are honored to partner with them in creating a world where all kids are accepted for who they are, not how they look.
What is your advice for women who are seeking to make a difference but are unsure how to go about it?
I think it is important to believe that you CAN truly make a difference. Your mind will always believe everything you tell it – so feed it with your aspirations; with hope and love. A lot of times when you are about to do something great, there’s a voice in the back of your mind that says, “You’re never able to do that.” Silence this voice with action. Network with like-minded people, connect with groups that can help you towards your goal. If you’re on social media, follow pages that can contribute to raising your energy or vibration and become a more loving and positive human being. You will be surprised of the people, things and events that you start attracting into your life once you get to that positive flow state.
There will also be external distractions and people who will hold you back, but don’t lose focus and just keep on doing everything you can to get things done. Most importantly, through the process, always keep a kind and humble heart.