The Story of Sugarfoots

cold water bath

I have always had an adventurous spirit! When the opportunity came my way to take a trip to Ghana, West Africa, I caught the first thing smoking! Now granted, the motivation was to visit an old flame and gain a feel for his much talked about country. I was awestruck being in a place so vastly different from the United States and admittedly was not prepared for all of the underdevelopment. But my mind was set and I was ready to embrace EVERYTHING – well except the cold water bucket baths…

colorful fabric

One of the joys I loved most about Ghana was the never ending sea of colorful fabrics! I was fascinated with the women in the market place selling anything from nuts and bolts to a hot lunch wrapped in large cassava leaves. These were hardworking women! Watching them daily taking near to nothing and making it something, begged me to ask the question; “What can I do, what could I create when I returned home?”


I knew then, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I arrived back to the states, I had with me two LARGE baskets I purchased from the women in the market place; which by the way I would not recommend carrying on the airplane. Other passengers are just not very friendly when you have baskets larger than their seats. I was thankful for the flight attendants who did not confiscate my prized possessions but placed them in their private holding area for the duration of the flight.

With the idea of eye-catching colorful fabrics, the African baskets and my sewing machine, I was ready to sew. However, I did not know where to find the types of fabrics I saw in Ghana. With champagne taste and beer bottle money in my pocket, I happily settled for a venue in my hometown in Harrisburg, PA. This rummage store provided me with mountains of recycled fabrics I could sort through and take home for free! This allowed me to create Rusty, my very first rag doll! Sadly I had not sewn since high school. Rusty proved to be lovable, but clearly there was a need for a few alterations. I knew in order for the dolls to be eye-catching, I would need to draw upon my creativity to make it happen.


While cordially employed as a temporary office assistant at the World Bank, with limited financial resources, I loaded my dolls in my African basket and boarded the metro subway. I have to tell you, I was nervous; grown woman with an African basket full of dolls on a rush hour commute. “How do I get them to respond to me? Do I hold the basket or should I place it on my head…?”


Once I was on the train, I had a captive audience; well sort of. People were thinking about “stuff” and I had an oversized basket with dolls, standing and holding on to the overhead bar of the metro car blocking the doors! Even frowns could not stop me. I was on a mission. If the women in Ghana could be about all day in the hottest sun ever, surely I could withstand stares on an air conditioned subway train! I would begin my sales pitch; would not stop until I made someone smile or the very least I received a thumbs up!

I carried that nine pound basket for eight years, made sales and gathered contact information. My calloused palms were mighty glad when the World Wide Web came to surface! Having the gift of gab as any good storyteller should, I found myself in numerous television broadcasts,The Washington Post (with a slightly challenged hair day) and three times, yep can you believe it, three times in Essence Magazine!


I am proud to have created Sugarfoots, these old-fashioned dolls with a fresh new look. This is sure to be an adored keepsake for many years to come and with your continuous support, ultimately the next household name. Whether you are buying Sugarfoots for you or for someone you hold dear, a genuine Sugarfoots will always make you smile.

Lastly, as always, we thank you for your patronage and desire only, that you enjoy Sugarfoots, as much as we enjoy creating them!

Warmest Always,
Barbara El Wilson
Executive Director