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Lolly Wolly Doodle Spins Facebook Fans Into VC Dollars

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The female-founded social media success story just received a $20 million investment led by Steve Case’s investment company. 

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Just how much are Facebook fans worth to a startup? In the case of North Carolina-based children’s clothing company Lolly Wolly Doodle, $20 million dollars.

The female founded startup just announced a $20 million investment led by AOL founder Steve Case’s company, Revolution Growth. While the company, founded in 2008 by first-time entrepreneur and mother-of-four, Brandi Temple, may not be a household name, it can boast an incredible social media following of more than half a million highly engaged fans.

This social media success was a large part of the company’s appeal to Case, VentureBeat reports:

The massive investment into the tiny company is… a major, major endorsement of a version of social commerce that actually works…

“Most of what happens in social commerce is that the larger companies are looking at social opportunities through the prism of the past,” Case explains. “They have the view that it’s ancillary, a curiosity, an extra.”

For Lolly Wolly Doodle… uses Facebook — and its 584,000 Facebook fans — as its principle marketing vehicle.

That’s right: just-in-time manufacturing. And design, too.

Most clothing brands, including those for kids, design in New York, manufacture in Bangladesh, ship to America, and sell in the mall. Lolly Wolly Doodle, however, designs in Lexington, shares on Facebook, takes orders via its website, manufactures in North Carolina, and ships cute, funky, unique, and customizable designs of Macy’s quality but Target’s pricing to its customers in about a week, Case said. Today alone it posted about 10 designs to Facebook.

And social is the key part… Lolly Wolly Doodle was born on the web, and social is fundamental to how the company began, grew, markets, connects, and, frankly, exists. It’s how the company managed to grow without inventory and marketing costs, and how it built a unique mass customization model, Case said. It’s a true social enterprise.

Case also claims the investment should encourage not only businesses that sell via social media, but also American entrepreneurs (and manufacturers) located outside of tech hot spots. “Lolly Wolly Doodle is a perfect example of our core belief at Revolution that great entrepreneurs and innovative companies can be found all across the country, not just in Silicon Valley,” Case said. “Lolly Wolly Doodle proves affordable manufacturing can thrive in America.”

The investment will enable the company to scale its operation, including recruiting executive talent and hiring 100 more people in North Carolina in operations and manufacturing.

Women 2.0 readers:  Do you foresee more companies leveraging their Facebook followings to attract the interest of investors?

jstillmanJessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.