‘Where are the women?’ I wondered. ‘Why aren’t there any female creative directors?’ That’s what I was thinking six years ago while working in a position where many people, many male people, pitched me ideas all day long. Studies now show that only 3% of creative directors are women. Seriously?
This sparked an idea—I had a vision for a creative agency that would bring women together and thought Paper Dolls was a clever name. When I checked to see if the domain was available, I discovered it was owned by Jamie, a female photographer in Colorado who bought it to create a site to showcase her work. I called her inquiring to see if she would be willing to sell. Our conversation quickly turned from a discussion of yet to be created websites to me learning that she was undergoing chemotherapy for kidney cancer. I just listened. She told me about her three young children and how her husband had recently left saying, “I didn’t sign up for sick.” By the end of our conversation I didn’t care about her domain—I wanted to help.
Jamie and I stayed in touch and life went on. She went into remission, remarried, grew strong again and was eager to reboot her career. At first the task seemed daunting. She shared with me, “The mistake I made was not staying connected.”
This notion of “staying connected” stuck with me. I thought about how important it is especially during times of transition and how easy it is to neglect the health of your network. I was moved by Jaime’s words and began to host dinners of carefully curated women—women who would benefit from meeting and knowing each other. Witnessing those connections unfold before my eyes brought me joy—not too different from the delight of seeing Paper Dolls unfolding to reveal a bunch of individual dolls all joined together.
A year ago and well past my interest in the domain, Jamie called me and asked if I still wanted the name. That act of generosity catalyzed the beginning of the Paper Dolls you see on this site. She said, “I want to give you the name because I have a feeling you’re going to do something important with it.” I paid her anyway, but what I really wanted to give Jamie, and many women, is something bigger than money—the value of togetherness. “The mistake I made was not staying connected.” That statement stayed with me. Paper Dolls are connected. It is this connection that defines them and shapes their careers and lives. To me, Jamie will always be the original Paper Doll.