This Is Melissa Foley, Founder of Hopscotch Girls

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Melissa Foley, founder of Hopscotch Girls

Melissa Foley founded Hopscotch Girls because she felt that mainstream media doesn’t offer enough content that feature positive themes for young girls. As a mother herself, she wanted her kids to see themselves portrayed positively on the various platforms in media.

So, Melissa Foley wrote Hopscotch Girls books for young girls. One of her first books, titled “I Am Confident, Brave & Beautiful: A Coloring Book for Girls,” became an Amazon bestseller, selling more than 225,000 copies in the United States. Since then, Hopscotch Girls has released activity books, coloring books, journals, and more, inspiring young girls everywhere to grow up as intelligent and healthy and creative women.

At Hopscotch Girls, Melissa Foley wants to “encourage girls to embrace their true multifaceted selves.” She notes that some content for children, like books and toys, invite girls to “focus on their appearance and bodies as sexual objects,” which limit their imaginations and the possibilities that they see for themselves in the future. Girls could be so much more, and Hopscotch Girls wants young girls to believe it.

Melissa Foley is a social entrepreneur who, with Hopscotch Girls, wants “mothers, grandmothers and youth group leaders” to uplift generations of young girls by giving them products that would help them imagine new possibilities and their places and roles to play in this beautiful world.

Read more interviews with social entrepreneurs here.

Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Melissa Foley: I think Hopscotch Girls stands out because we’re making a real, positive impact on girls and families. One of my favorite stories was shared by a grandmother who purchased one of our coloring books for her granddaughter because she was being bullied. The book includes positive affirmations, like “I Am Brave,” “I Am Strong,” etc. Her grandmother said she took to the book like a duck to water and that it really buoyed her spirit.

Another time a 12-year-old girl found Hopscotch Girls online and sent us an email because she took issue with the illustrations on a page in one of our books. My first instinct was to feel hurt by the criticism, but then I realized how amazing it was that a young girl would seek out a company and give us that kind of feedback unsolicited. We want our books to be thought provoking, and we had definitely gotten her thinking. Of course we ended up thanking her for being so bold and forthright, and sent her some goodies as an extra thank you.

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Melissa Foley: My best tip is to listen to other people’s stories and join a community of entrepreneurs if possible. I’m a big fan of business podcasts and interviews like this because they show what the real entrepreneurial experience is like — a roller coaster! So many amazing companies have gone through tough times, and even come close to closing. We just don’t normally hear those stories. My favorite podcasts include How I Built This, Building a Story Brand and My Wife Quit Her Job.

Joining or forming some kind of community of entrepreneurs can be incredibly supportive too. I was lucky to find a community of independent publishers on Facebook that’s been immensely helpful. Sometimes I’ve run into issues that someone else had already experienced and could talk me through. Other times folks have offered moral support, which is great. I’ve had a really good experience with a local female entrepreneur group online too. Beyond the usual business issues, it’s nice to have someone to turn to when issues come up with figuring out how to balance business and family, etc.

Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Melissa Foley: I’m deeply grateful for my husband, who has been supportive of my business from the very beginning. When we first decided that it was time for me to leave my full-time job to focus on Hopscotch Girls, I shaped my schedule around my children — school pick-ups and all of that. But when the pandemic hit and demand for activity books rose, I found that I was struggling to get enough work done and run distance learning for my 5 year-old and 7 year-old. My husband suggested that he take on more child management duties and it’s been a huge help. He’s taking the lead with distance learning, and all of those little things that take up so much time and mental energy — organizing play dates, volunteering in class, cooking for the family, etc. Without that support it would be tough for me to take advantage of some of the hard-earned luck that’s come my way recently.

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

Melissa Foley: One of the things many eCommerce businesses are doing well is changing up their offerings to ensure they’re still relevant. One of the best examples of this is fashion companies that are now selling masks and loungewear. It’s a great way to keep cash flowing through the door, make your brand visible, and help consumers.

Many businesses have also changed the way they get their products into the hands of consumers. Early on in the pandemic, some eCommerce businesses struggled because they were heavily dependent on Amazon. When Amazon temporarily stopped shipping select FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) products so they could prioritize necessities, entrepreneurs found themselves in a tough spot. It was a good lesson though and companies are now thinking beyond Amazon FBA. This includes using Amazon FBM (Fulfilled By Merchant) so they can ship merchandise themselves, selling through their own websites, and taking advantage of emerging online marketplaces like

Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Melissa Foley: I think there’s real strength in knowing your customer well, and that’s tough to do from overseas. Today more than ever, customers are interested in brands and values. They want to know that the product they’re getting is more than just cheap and available. They want to know that you’ve truly thought about their need or want, and have put care into giving them the best possible customer experience. That means creating a quality product, having company values that gel with their own values, and providing a superb customer service experience, should the need arise. I also think there’s opportunity right now for businesses run by women and people of color to share their stories with their customers.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Melissa Foley: One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is not putting enough thought and money into marketing. You can create the most incredible product ever, but it won’t sell if nobody knows about it. It’s not unusual for marketing to take as much, or even more effort than developing a product. One of the things you can do to avoid this is to think about marketing upfront — ideally before you’re done developing your product. When you think about marketing early on, you open yourself up to the possibility of making decisions during product development that will make marketing easier down the road (ex: designing the product or packaging so it looks good on Instagram, etc.). Then, push yourself to develop a full marketing plan prior to launch, with a clear budget.

Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Melissa Foley: Other than marketing, people tend to underestimate the amount of time required for operations and logistics. Even when you’ve been working with manufacturers, warehouses and other partners for years, things go wrong. Fires pop up that need to be put out and new hectic situations arise. Even though they’re based online, eCommerce businesses are not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.

Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?

Melissa Foley: I believe very strongly that defensiveness has no place in a response to review, and that a company should always respond with kindness and respect. The opinions of our customers matter very much, even when they’re upsetting to us. In the case of unfair statements, the company response is an opportunity to show the brand’s values and commitment to other potential customers that are contemplating a purchase. People don’t expect to have a 100% perfect experience with a product or company all the time, but they do expect a company to make things right when things go wrong, and the company response is a way to show how your company handles those situations.

Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Melissa Foley: I’d love to see a movement to create a culture that truly values girls, prioritizes their growth and development, and recognizes them as future leaders. I believe the world could change in so many amazing ways with more female leadership in business and politics. Laying the groundwork for more women in leadership starts with the culture and world we’re sharing with girls right now.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Melissa Foley: You can find Hopscotch Girls online, and on Instagram and Facebook. For easy ways to empower girls, fun activity ideas, alerts about new Hopscotch Girls products, and musings from me, join our email list.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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