Woodbury women help say 'Goodnight'Two Woodbury women are helping to put children to bed around the world.
By: Karina Winkelman, Woodbury Bulletin
Two Woodbury women are helping to put children to bed around the world.
Amy Schwartz and June DaCosta founded a company that produced the “Goodnight Shepherd Doll,” which the women said provides comfort for children as bedtime arrives.
The doll has helped DaCosta’s and Schwartz’s own children be less afraid of the dark. DaCosta and Schwartz have heard a lot of stories about the Goodnight Shepherd doll helping other young children.
Internationally, the dolls have been given away in Haiti, Honduras and Peru. Schwartz and DaCosta also give dolls locally to sick kids or to families who have lost children.
The “A” and “J” comprising the name of their business, AJ Cross, represent each woman’s first name. The partnership was formed about two years ago.
An idea in the making
The idea for the doll was 10 years in the making. When Schwartz’s son, Blake, was 5 years old, he had a tough time falling asleep.
“I was up all night trying to get my kid to sleep. I asked him, ‘If you had a Jesus doll, would you sleep better?’” Schwartz said.
She looked for a doll but could not find one. They settled instead for a picture of Jesus. The picture helped Blake sleep better for a little while but soon problems occurred again.
Schwartz began thinking about a Jesus doll again. The name Goodnight Shepherd came to her while remembering that Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd. Having the name of the doll excited Schwartz but she sat on the idea for a couple years.
“I didn’t know where to begin,” she said.
In 2007, Schwartz was at DaCosta’s house and noticed curtains that DaCosta had sewn.
“I felt a prodding to ask her to join the adventure with me,” Schwartz said.
DaCosta jumped on board right away.
“I just loved the idea,” she said.
DaCosta drew a sketch of the doll and went to buy fabric to start sewing.
But once again, as life got in the way, the idea was stalled.
Getting the business off the ground
Until 2010, DaCosta finished a prototype of the doll.
“One day I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to put my energy where I need to put it,’” she said.
DaCosta cut out the pattern from a cereal box. Soon DaCosta and Schwartz were busy cutting fabric and sewing. It was challenging to keep up because both women had children and jobs.
“After some miscommunication, June finally said, ‘we need to bring this to someone,’” Schwartz said.
Schwartz and DaCosta work with a manufacturer in New York who outsources the creation of the dolls to a factory in China.
The business model of TOMS shoes impressed DaCosta and Schwartz. They decided to imitate that. On their website they write, “Through your generosity, a second Goodnight Shepherd doll will be given.”
The doll’s impact
Schwartz gave a doll to a friend whose 13 year old son had died.
“She placed the doll right in his little casket. I was so moved,” Schwartz said.
They said that the doll is also a way to help children relate to faith a little easier.
DaCosta and Schwartz said that parents are often thankful for the doll.
“I don’t think we’ve talked to any of the moms that have been disappointed at all. They’re all happy,” Schwartz said.
The future of AJ Cross
Creating a business and a product was something new for DaCosta and Schwartz.
“We’re learning a lot. We had no idea how to start a partnership or anything,” Schwartz said.
DaCosta and Schwartz are awaiting a revamped website and a promotional video. They have already established a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Although the Goodnight Shepherd doll is AJ Cross’ only product now, they want to change that. DaCosta and Schwartz have thought about adding a blanket or a book series to their product line.
“We have big visions. There are so many directions we can go,” Schwartz said.
If you would like to buy a Goodnight Shepherd doll, you can order online, call 612-367-7575, or go to the following locations:
St Ambrose Catholic Church - Woodbury
North Heights Lutheran Church - Arden Hills
Hosanna Church - Lakeville
Christ Presbyterian Church - Edina
Living Word Christian Center - Brooklyn Park
From the Heart Gift Shop - Forrest Lake