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Cuddoll, Zeynep Kocacal

Title / Role: Founder & CEO
Location: Dumont, New Jersey
Formed in: 2019
What do you do?

We design and make Cuddolls which are hand-knitted, organic, one-of- a-kind children’s toys.

What inspired you to start your business?

The inspiration for our cuddly enterprise was the birth of my daughter, Myra. I started to search for an heirloom doll that was safe, cuddly and could stay with her for the rest of her life -- just like my special doll from my childhood which I still have on my bed! I was unable to find anything that fit my criteria: unique, organic, and a durable sleep friend.

I was almost at the point of giving up when my mother came to the rescue! She knitted a doll which is look-alike of my very own childhood doll.

That day my mom and I decided to design and build a collection for providing these special moments and unique dolls to other moms and their little ones.

What's special about your business?

It was also important for me to make sure we would contribute to society and give something back. Once again, the answer came from my mom, who after a difficult divorce, spent a long time feeling lonely and isolated and was also keen to help other women in the same situation. 

We started up by partnering up with an organization to create a working environment for women who needed both emotional and financial support to start over and live a healthy life. We provide workshop studios with this organization in Turkey to teach these women how to fish! We have an open-door policy welcoming all levels of experience to join our team to create, share, and heal! We are proud to provide a safe, healing and supportive environment for these amazing, passionate women to put their creativity to work making unique, handmade crafts. Today, my mother both helps manage our operation and is a handcrafter herself.

What is your relationship with SCORE? SCORE client What influenced you to seek help from SCORE?

I was very overwhelmed when I applied to SCORE, I was trying to find a new manufacturer in Peru which I had worked with before.  I was scared to make a big import. I was feeling very alone, and overwhelmed and searched for help on Google, where I found SCORE.

As an immigrant entrepreneur, my knowledge of business was not enough, I had to learn how to identify opportunities, find legal advice, and talk to others with similar experience to light my way.


How SCORE helped.

My mentor, Michael Ziegler and co mentor Bob Messer, helped me a lot. They helped me keep calm and gave me advice about freight, manufacturing, billing -- literally everything.

Without them, I couldn’t have created our newest collection from another country.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?

Being a small business owner and entrepreneur is a lonely journey. Sometimes you have to persuade your family, friends, colleagues of your vision and most of time no one will share your pain or understand what motivates you. That’s why a small business owner should learn how to motivate herself, not give up and always keep moving forward even if it is only a baby step.

How Did Your Business Get Started? Additional media
My mentors
Headshot of Michael Ziegler
Michael Ziegler

I can help you to develop a winning sales promotion strategy and enter new markets. My expertise...

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Robert Messer

I have had a broad and varied career in many industries where I started a number of small companies...

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1165 Herndon Parkway, Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20170

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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