Third-year Cal Poly business administration majors Madeline and Gabrielle Pollock and their childhood friend Kate Lally, a second year at Stonehill College, are inspiring creativity with their startup AG Sisters.
AG Sisters encourages young girls to explore their creativity through crafting with subscription craft boxes as well as both in-person and virtual summer camps. The summer camps, led by Madeline, Gabrielle and Kate, provide attendees with a three-day immersive experience centered around crafting doll accessories.
“We’re teaching [young girls] to use their hands, get creative and make their own doll accessories while having a creative experience and being resourceful,” Madeline said.
Madeline, Gabrielle and Kate grew up playing with American Girl dolls, but it wasn’t until 2013, when they were packing away their dolls for storage, that they realized they had crafted most of their doll accessories themselves. The realization inspired them to found AG Sisters and share their crafting expertise with young girls everywhere.
“I’m always blown away by the fact that we were three 13-year-old girls who thought, ‘Let’s make an American Girl doll summer camp’ [and] somehow figured out how to do it,” Madeline said. “It’s just so cool that we’re able to use our hands and our minds and create something to help others.”
AG Sisters experienced significant growth in 2020 when, with the rise of COVID-19 and the implementation of nationwide shelter-in-place orders, parents turned to their virtual summer camp to keep their daughters entertained during the quarantine. This unanticipated growth inspired the AG Sisters to take their idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator, an intensive, summer-long program that helps Cal Poly students and recent graduates develop their startup ideas into real, sustainable businesses.
The CIE and the Summer Accelerator program provides the AG Sisters team with valuable resources that are helping them grow their startup. The expert mentorship from CIE staff and industry professionals have been especially helpful, said Gabrielle.
“We love the entrepreneurial opportunities here,” she said. “There’s so much freedom to go where we want to go with our company and so much fantastic support… The most helpful resources have been all of the amazing speakers that have come in. We’ve learned so much from them.”
The Summer Accelerator has not only helped the AG Sisters founders develop their business, but has helped them to grow as entrepreneurs, independent from their startup.
“Sometimes I struggle with making decisions and I want someone to tell me what to do,” Kate said. “To be in an environment where people aren’t necessarily telling us what to do, but guiding us, is helping me learn how to [make decisions] myself,” Kate said.
The Summer Accelerator has provided the AG Sisters team with practical lessons in developing a startup, as well as emphasized the value of entrepreneurship.
“The power of entrepreneurship is your ability to create something out of nothing, and I think that’s really powerful,” Gabrielle said. “It’s going to stick with me the rest of my life, knowing I have the power to change things for myself.”
The AG Sisters team intends to continue growing their business, even after the Summer Accelerator comes to a close. The lessons learned through the program will help them to expand their impact efficiently and effectively.
“We are dreamers and we have so many ideas of ways to grow our business,” Madeline said. “I’m excited about bringing these dreams to life and helping inspire more girls to be creative [and] seeing what the three of us can do together.”
Working and growing together, as a team, is important to the AG Sisters team.
“I think a lot of people talk about how business relationships shouldn’t be personal and you [need to] keep your space,” Gabrielle said. “It’s the opposite for us. If I wasn’t so close to [Madeline and Kate], we wouldn’t be here.”
The AG Sisters founders rely on each other for support when navigating difficulties in entrepreneurship. Their close relationship, they attested, is integral to their success as a startup.
“One thing that motivates us to keep going when we hit a roadblock or an obstacle is each other,” Kate said. “We discuss problems together and make decisions as a team. Working as a team is really important to our dynamic as a business.”
Gabrielle echoed similar sentiments.
“Obviously the AG Sisters means so much to me as a company, but [Madeline and Kate] mean even more,” Gabrielle said. “When we face obstacles in our company, we all have the same values in what this means to us and we’re going to help each other no matter what.”