The Wooden Doll Millionaire
Alexander Krilov was a medical doctor by trade, but when he emigrated from Ukraine 15 years ago, his thoughts turned to entrepreneurship. After running a variety of businesses, ranging from athletic shoes to international distribution for online florists, Krilov landed on the idea for sports-themed Russian nesting dolls while working as a business manager for Los Angeles Lakers star Stanislav "Slava" Medvedenko.
Krilov, 40, and his wife, Julia Butler, 45, noticed sports fans would buy anything featuring their favorite player's likeness, so the pair decided to create a traditional-looking Russian nesting doll with the modern twist of a superstar's face. Obtaining licenses from the NBA took perseverance, but in the end, Krilov and Butler were able to make dolls with the renderings of Kobe Bryant, Rick Fox and Shaquille O'Neal.
Manufacturing the dolls in high-quality plastic with almost portrait-quality artwork, Krilov and Butler have since secured licenses from the NHL and Major League Baseball, in addition to Elvis Presley and I Love Lucy properties. With these unique collectible alternatives to bobblehead dolls now being sold nationwide in arena stores, specialty stores and online, sales passed $1 million in 2004.
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