02/17/2015 11:17 am ET Updated Apr 19, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Stacey McBride-Irby, The One World Doll Project

In her 15 years at Mattel®, Stacey designed for the Disney Princess® Collection and created countless fashions for the iconic Barbie® line. Most notably, Stacey created an entire new line for the company, the So In Style® dolls, the first African-American dolls by Mattel that more closely represented contemporary girls and young women in this diverse, dynamic community.
While at Mattel, Stacey was tapped to design the Sorority Barbie®, celebrating the Centennial Year of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African-American Greek Sorority. She also designed some of the 2010 Barbie Career dolls, including Pet Vet Barbie® Rock Star Barbie® and Bride Barbie®
Now Stacey has taken her dedication to doll making, her inspiration in fashion design and her commitment to creating positive role models to for The One World Doll Project.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Since childhood, I've always had an imaginative, independent mind and have loved to dream. I was a well-rounded girl who loved to play with dolls as well as playing sports. In fact, playing on sport teams taught me to be a strong, yet compassionate leader and team player. I carried these characteristics with me throughout my life and career, from the persistence of getting my job at Mattel to making the decision to leave after 15 years and take the entrepreneurial step to co-found The One World Doll Project.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at The One World Doll?
Being a part of The One World Doll Project team has been an amazing adventure, and my previous professional experience has prepared me for my role today. Working at Mattel taught me the importance of character, and how to create quality dolls that not only appeal to girls but their moms as well. Working with a large corporation also taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration, skills that are necessary no matter how big or small your company is.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at The One World Doll Project?
A few highlights include seeing the Prettie Girl dolls on the production line and arriving in the U.S. for the first time. Another highlight was our debut at Toy Fair in NYC. Having the entire team come together to introduce the collection to people within the toy industry was magical. The opportunities and positive reception that was garnered for my dolls during this event was priceless.

Leaving Mattel and designing my own line was certainly a risk, and all risks come along with trials and tribulations. In growing the business, I've been faced with business and personal financial challenges. I've encountered a few bumps and bruises along the way but working with great team members and the loving support of my family helped hold me up while on my journey and race to the finish line. Following your dreams is never a smooth ride, but in the end it is worth it. Seeing my dolls in the hands of little girls around the country makes all of those challenges seem trivial.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to have their own business?
Make sure you're passionate about and understand the business that you're trying to pursue. You may not be knowledgeable about every aspect of the business, but learn what you can, then acquire team members that specialize in those areas with which you are unfamiliar. Join groups in your community or in your business field that can aid in teaching, marketing and supporting your business as you grow. Basically, never stop learning!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work/life balance can get a little complicated with the demands of starting a business from the ground up. I have a thirteen-year-old son and an eleven-year-old daughter who command a lot of attention. Meetings, designing, follow up, conference calls, travel, etc. can all come at sporadic times. I make a concerted effort to spend quality time with my family, kids and husband whenever I can. I am also blessed with a support system to call on when deadlines are tight. I recommend utilizing family and friends to step in when you're feeling overwhelmed and don't feel like wearing your Superwoman cape. Remember, taking a moment for yourself helps you recharge your "superpowers."

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Fortunately, I've worked for fashion and toy companies that value women as leaders and respect their opinions in the workplace. I believe we need more strong minded and inspirational women in business who can be power players while remaining approachable, knowledgeable and respectable in their positions. This will allow women to gain the respect of their colleagues and employees in order to build them up on a personal level while they are also helping her build up the company.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has always been one of my key elements of growth. As I move into the forefront of entrepreneurship and business, I'm constantly learning new ways of thinking and building my brand from newfound mentors and friends. In turn, I love and understand the importance of giving, mentoring and encouraging girls and women in my community and throughout the world to go after their dreams. I love inspiring and teaching them through my experiences.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Influential female leaders that I admire are women that started with an idea that they were passionate about, became entrepreneurs and built an empire around their brand: Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington and Cathy Hughes, to name a few.

What do you want The One World Doll Project to accomplish in the next year?
I want The One World Doll Project and it's Prettie Girls! dolls to become a household name. I want to grow the brand, offering more multicultural characters, fashions, accessories and licensing opportunities. I want the dolls to be sold in major retail stores across the country. And ultimately, I want consumers to know that we are filling a void and offering dolls that look like and build up their daughters.