There's a new interview with Kathy and Janet in promotion of their Best Pals doll line. Check it out.
Presenting: Lennon sisters’ rag dolls
By GRETCHEN METZ
Entrepreneurism is a new role for sisters Kathy and Janet Lennon.
They are familiar with celebrity, having been in the spotlight 50-plus years. But as founders of KatJan, a company that makes rag dolls like the ones crafted for them by their mother and grandmother when they were tots, there is a lot to learn.
“I had no idea how much work was involved,” said Janet Lennon in an interview Wednesday at a local hotel. “Our background is entertainment. We leave the business-business part to people who know what they’re doing but we’re learning all the time.”
Kathy and Janet Lennon, the two youngest of the Lennon Sisters quartet, are in the West Chester area this week to pitch their new line of Best Pal dolls to QVC in West Goshen and appear on the Comcast CN8 “Your Morning” show at 8:30 a.m. today.
The Lennon sisters, Diane, Peggy, Kathy and Janet, grew up as the apple of America’s eye, little girls in matching dresses, singing in harmony on “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
Janet, the youngest, was 9 when the sisters made their first Champagne Music apparence for Welk on Christmas Eve 1955. They left the show in 1968 and started their own musical variety show on ABC, “Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters,” the following year.
In the 1970s, the sisters performed regularly on “The Andy Williams Show,” and toured with Williams across the country.
In 1994 they began performing at the Welk Resort Theatre in Branson, Mo., and producing CDs. Sisters Diane and Peggy have retired. Younger sister Mimi has joined Kathy and Janet to make a trio.
There were 12 Lennon siblings in all.
“We thought we’d be there for a year or two but it’s been 13 years,” Janet Lennon, 61, said.
The two sisters, who were inseparable growing up and still remain “best pals,” decided three years ago to make their entrepreneurial dream come true.
“We always wanted to do something together,” said Kathy Lennon, 63. “And we loved the rag dolls so much we wanted to give them to other children.”
Added Janet Lennon, “those dolls were with us on the road, slept in our bed in hotels when we were little girls.”
The still glamourous, yet approachable, sisters said they thought the time was right to fill a need for wholesome toys in an industry saturated with techno-toys and dolls with attitudes and provocotive cloths.
“They are playable and we felt it was time to bring children back to a simpler time,” Kathy Lennon said of Best Pals.
Like the dolls made by the Lennons’ mother and grandmother, Nana, the dolls have embroidered faces, yarn hair in pigtails, cotton-print dresses, white pantaloons, white stockings and white Mary Jane shoes.
The Best Pals line started with a blonde Janet and a brunette Kathy doll, both 16 inches tall. When the Best Pals Christmas CD came out and the sisters saw the covers with the Kathy doll in a green velvet dress and the Janet doll in a red velvet dress, Kathy Lennon said they decided that they were “so adorable” they would add Christmas Best Pals to their line.
The sisters launched the line in August 2006 at the Mall of the Americas in Bloomington, Minn. Since then, they’ve been on the road talking to retailers and making appearances at trade shows around the country.
As new entrepreneurs, performing at Branson, where they live, is actually the most restful part of the year, according to Janet Lennon.
“We get to sleep in our own beds,” Janet Lennon said.
KatJan is adding a line of multicultural dolls: Lily, Sofia and Isabelle so that black, Asian and Latino children will be able to identify with their own doll.
There will also be mini dolls, a cookbook, gift book and children’s CD.
KatJan is managed by Roxi Elfering who ran her own toy manufacturing company before signing on with the Lennons. As KatLJan president and executive director, Elfering is guiding rollout of the new products in the Best Pals line.
The start-up company is “exceeding goals” Elfering said, thanks in some degree to the sisters’ celebrity.
“It absolutely opens doors,” Elfering said.
The Lennon sisters have an office at their warehouse but prefer to work from home.
“You can have lunch with the grandchildren and go back to work,” Janet Lennon said. “It’s so much easier than getting dressed and going to the office.”
To contact staff writer Gretchen Metz, send an e-mail to email@example.com.