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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 8, 2016 6 years ago

Dreams with friends

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Haile Fulton liked being an attorney, but she never loved it.

Haile Fulton liked being an attorney, but she never loved it.

She handled criminal and civil cases, and she represented financial institutions in the foreclosure process for a Broward County firm for three years. Fulton gave up her law career 17 years ago to chase her entrepreneurial dreams, and while her second act is less lucrative, it's more personally rewarding.

The most recent reward is significant: Her Sarasota-based startup pillow toy company, Dream Frenz, was recently approved for sale on Walmart.com. The retail giant, says Fulton, chose Dream Frenz from a large count of toy companies to be part of the new and revamped Wal-Mart website. “They liked the design of the characters and thought Wal-Mart customers would as well,” Fulton tells Coffee Talk.

The idea from Dream Frenz goes back to 2012, when one of Fulton's three young daughters sketched out some playmates on a paper placemat at a local restaurant. The characters, says Fulton, had big round heads and tiny bodies. The girls giggled at the drawings, while Fulton saw a business opportunity.

Fulton, with help from another daughter's sewing instructor, made a round cuddly plush toy, where the head is the pillow and a small body tucks inside. The backsides of the pillows have the same quilted fabric, and can be used for an accent pillow. Dream Frenz now has 10 different styles, aimed for boys or girls at least 3 years old. Specific pillow characters include PJ, with a pirate's eye patch; Sol, a yellow pillow wearing sunglasses and a smile; and Brittany, one of the flagship characters.

The diversity of the characters, says Fulton, has attracted an engaged Facebook audience that has more than 40,000 likes. She also thinks the diversity is partially what reeled in Wal-Mart. “To be in Wal-Mart is fantastic,” says Fulton. “It's a big step for us to reach a broader customer base.”

(This story was updated to reflect how many years ago Fulton left her law career.)

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