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The male ad executives at company were not impressed with Ruth's doll. Neither were mostly male buyers who saw her debut at American Toy Show in 1959. But as Ruth had guessed, little girls loved her - and 350,000 Barbies were sold that very first year, which was a record. Mattel introduced more dolls to Barbie line over next several years, some of which were named after other Handler family members, such as Ken -- Ruth's son -- and Stacie, Todd and Cheryl, who were named after Handlers' grandchildren.
All was going well until 1970, Ruth was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a difficult time, bad decisions were made and Handlers' eventually left successful company they had founded. But Ruth not only survived her bout with cancer; her experience inspired her next business venture.
Ruth told Los Angeles Times about her fruitless search for natural-looking prosthetic breast. What was available at time was less than adequate. "I looked at shapeless glob that lay in bottom of my brassiere and thought, 'My god, people in this business are men who don't have to wear these,' " she told Times. Once again, Ruth discovered a niche to fill.
Ruth found a designer who created a new prosthetic to her specifications. Made of liquid silicone and polyurethane, it looked and felt natural. Her stroke of genius was her realization that like shoes, it needed to be made up in "lefts" and "rights." Then Ruth assembled a sales team made up of other breast cancer survivors, who demonstrated her new product to department store buyers and helped train their sales staffs on how to fit their customers. In 1991, Ruth sold her company to a division of Kimberly-Clark and retired.
"Women--and men too--can do almost anything they set their mind to," said Ruth. "You have to believe in what you want to do and have courage of your convictions."
Good advice for us all. Rest in peace, Ruth.
Donna Schwartz Mills writes about the specific needs of work at home parents at her website, The ParentPreneur Club, "For Parents Who Want Choices, Not Office Politics." http://www.parentpreneurclub.com Tools, tips and advice you need to help grow your home based business while raising a family. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter sending a blank email to: mailto:email@example.com