It’s not your typical doll – and it’s not for kids.
But the 12-inch brightly covered fabric Dammit Doll can help with anger management.
And for Drew Levich, a Wichita native and Los Angeles transplant, the dolls are part of a growing business that have gained popularity with celebrities like Betty White and were part of the gift bags for the last Republican National Convention.
“In this world of technology, phones, cords, rechargers, computers and remote controls we can never figure out, I think it’s simple, it’s silly and it’s stupid,” said Levich, CEO and founder. “It’s simplicity and it brings us back to handing something to someone – the most basic human interaction.”
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On each doll a poem reads:
“Whenever things don’t go so well, and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little dammit doll that you can’t do without. Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it. And as you whack the stuffing out yell ‘Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!’ ”
Levich graduated from Wichita Southeast High School in 1994. He said he wasn’t a stellar student and took time after graduating to visit Israel and travel across Europe before heading to New York University to study economics.
“I tried the Wall Street thing but it wasn’t for me,” Levich said.
So he headed to California for real estate development.
But then the market crashed.
So in 2010, Levich started developing Dammit Dolls while working another job.
“I wanted to do something that people would love, a fun product that would make people laugh,” Levich said. “The great thing about Dammit Dolls is they’re something people can share. The closest distance between two people is a smile and a laugh and that’s what Dammit Dolls are about.”
He admits that some people thought he was a bit crazy.
“You take the entrepreneurial jump and dive right in. ... Your friends think you’re nuts because you started a doll company. It’s embarrassing,” Levich jokes. “I’m the bald dude with a Prius full of dolls.”
The company, which sells to hundreds of independent retailers globally, has already turned down several big retailers, he said, with the exception of Nordstrom’s and some locally owned Hallmark stores.
“Dammit Dolls will never end up in Wal-Mart,” Levich said. “We’ll never sell a billion dolls. When someone gives you one, since they’re in limited runs, it’s a special interaction. We’re keeping our brand unique.”
“We’re keeping it close to the vest,” he said. “We love our independent retailers and small businesses.”
And Dammit Dolls have made their way back to Levich’s roots. One local retailer who sells the dolls is Nancy Robinson, owner of Best of Times Card and Gift Shop, 6452 E. Central.
Robinson, who’s had her business for 32 years, said she met Levich at a retail market in Atlanta in July. She said she was surprised to learn he was a Wichita native.
“I’m thrilled for him,” Robinson said. “I love that somebody from here is making it big.”
She’s been stocking the dolls for about a year after reading about them online.
“I try to carry a lot of fun things, not things everybody else has, which is harder in Internet days,” Robinson said. “We sell a lot of them for people going through cancer treatment. A number of people say that they’re a good way to express their frustration and they’re something fun and lighthearted.”
The dolls, which are made in China, are produced in limited runs with different patterns and hair colors. The hottest pattern coming out now? Chevron, Levich says.
The next thing for Levich, he says, will be starting a cancer charity next year.
He says he hopes would-be entrepreneurs can learn to put faith in themselves and their products.
“I’ve never said I’m the smartest or best-looking guy in the room, but the only difference between me and other entrepreneurs who have been successful or not is that we’re the ones who took the risk,” Levich said.
“Give yourself permission to fail because you learn from failure and learn to push forward.”