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Newsmakers

Daughter's Patchwork Playmate Means Big Business

December 25, 1987|ANN CONNORS

--Toya Thomas was heartbroken when, three years ago, she couldn't afford the department store doll her 6-year-old daughter wanted. So Thomas, from one of Chicago's largest housing projects, went home to her sewing machine, took yarn, an old dress and pillow stuffing and stitched together a little girl's dream--a doll the size of a 6-year-old with creamy brown skin, a brightly colored dress and a beguiling smile. Children in the neighborhood went wild for the doll and Thomas, now 33, wondered if there was a larger market for the toy, which she would name for her daughter, LaToya. With the help of the Chicagoland Enterprise Center, a resource center for small and new businesses, Thomas was able to interest such prestigious enterprises as Marshall Field's in the dolls, which are now a $50 best seller in the department stores. About 800 LaToya dolls have been sold since 1984, Thomas said, and she wants to expand nationally. "She's gotten in the door," said Brian Caldicott, a project manager with the center, "and there's a world of opportunity in front of her."

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