Terri’s star-sprinkled new business
When Terri Mello started a business selling hand-painted peg dolls this year, she had the perfect name — Star Sprinkles.
It was whimsical, imaginative and she had been waiting her whole life to use it.
“When I was 3 I really wanted to be called Star Sprinkles,” Ms Mello laughed. “I think it was from the cartoon Rainbow Brite. My mother said she was very sorry, she just hadn’t thought of that when I was born.”
Star Sprinkles began as a hobby in December last year.
“I ordered these wooden peg dolls online,” she said. “I thought I would paint them to look like characters from my son Asa’s favourite books. I thought they would make a great stocking stuffer.”
Asa, 9, was delighted. After seeing what she could do, he wanted her to paint him a Ninja and then a deep-sea diver. Soon he was drawing various characters and asking her to paint them.
When Bermuda went into a second lockdown, painting peg dolls became something for Ms Mello to do.
“I had a great time painting them up,” she said. “It was relaxing. I would put on some music and just paint.”
Her husband looked at her creations and thought maybe she could sell them.
So she consulted her friend Melanie Scanlon, owner of Bright Isle, an online toy and gift shop.
“She sells all these educational toys,” Ms Mello said. “So I thought she would be a good person to ask. She said there was a market for them, and she would carry them. Then I thought maybe this is something I could do and other people would enjoy them as well.”
Bright Isle started selling Star Sprinkles this summer. Then Heather Willens of the subscription box service Messy Mama asked if she could include the peg dolls in her monthly boxes for young children.
“Now, I am doing 25 peg dolls for her at a time,” Ms Mello said. “Then a lot of times she requests a few more for orders that have just come in.”
Ms Mello quickly learnt to do her peg dolls assembly-line style to get them out faster.
Sometimes she does custom orders depending on how much time she has.
“I recently did a bride and groom,” she said. She was given photos of the bride and groom to work with but the groom was wearing a kilt.
“It was quite a challenge trying to figure out how to paint plaid,” she said.
But she managed.
Ms Mello has had a few special projects with the dolls. When Bermudian Flora Duffy won a gold medal — Bermuda’s first — at the Tokyo Olympics this year, Ms Mello made a Flora Duffy doll.
When she put a photo of it on social media, many people asked if they could buy one.
“I didn’t think it was right to profit off of Flora,” Ms Mello said. “So I got in touch with the Flora Duffy Foundation and said, ‘What would you think if I painted a limited number of these and all proceeds went to the Flora Duffy Foundation?’ ”
She made five Flora Duffy dolls and sold them for $25 each.
“But we made a donation of $200,” Ms Mello said. “I also made a sixth doll to give to Flora. I gave it to her mother, and she will give it to Flora the next time she sees her. It was a fun way to bring attention to the fund and congratulate her for winning the medal.”
Flora is just one of more than a hundred dolls Ms Mello has painted since she started Star Sprinkles.
“The challenge has been making time, between home schooling my children and trying to keep up with the everyday household stuff,” she said. “I do a few other things as well, with my church and Bible study. I have a lot of obligations. It is about organising and planning my time to meet deadlines.”
The tricky part of the business is sourcing materials such as non-toxic sealant. Sometimes her usual suppliers run out, and sometimes there are Covid-related shipping delays.
The peg dolls sell through Bright Isle and Messy Mama for $16 a piece. Custom orders start at $20 depending on the job.
For more information see Terri Mello on Facebook @starsprinklesbermuda or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org