Meet Jennifer Blaine the young founder and entrepreneur behind the startup company ToyiToyi Toys, which designs and manufactures a range of darker skinned dolls. The company Toyitoyi Toys is based in South Africa and they hope to go global.
“Two years ago I read a magazine article on a company in North Africa, who were producing a traditional darker skinned doll and I thought to myself wow I wonder if I could find similar dolls in South Africa” Shockingly , I couldn’t find darker skinned dolls – ANYWHERE. I was horrified that our country did not cater for the majority mixed race or black people.
Jennifer did some research and discovered a glaring gap in the market. It is almost impossible to find diverse darker skinned dolls not only in Africa, but worldwide! Dolls globally tend to come in one shape and form, usually pale and blonde “Being a campaigner and supporter of equal rights, this struck me as awfully odd. Why this worldwide shortage of darker dolls? It was at that moment I realized that I had to change this. I then read about the doll test done by Kenneth and Mamie Clark in the 1940’s and this broke my heart! It is now my mission to shift the world’s attitude on what defines beauty by bringing them different shades of diverse dolls “
I also think that it is vitally important that ALL children (including white kids) play with diverse dolls from different cultures and religions. It teaches kids so much at an early stage.
Highlights and challenges:
One of my main highlights was when my dolls first went to the “hairdresser” , my hairdresser was braiding my dolls hair, in a busy market square in the centre of Cape Town. Every second person who walked past her asked her where they could buy a doll just like that! At that stage I hadn’t taken the dolls to the public market yet. It gave me a massive boost and the reassurance that my dolls were going to be a win!
Another highlight for me is seeing the look on the faces of the kids, whose parents have bought them dolls – it is priceless! They are always so delighted.
One of my biggest challenges was trying to find a reliable supplier who could supply me with a high quality product. I initially got in touch with 6 different manufactures in India and China and asked them to send me samples. When most of the doll samples arrived they were of a very poor quality: for example the skin tones were not the correct colour or some of the dolls looked too much like a “white Barbie” that had just been painted darker. One manufacturer sent me a doll, with its hair tied neatly into a ponytail. I thought that it looked great, until I took the ponytail out and realized that the rest of the dolls head was entirely bald. I have finally found a great supplier, who understands my creative needs and who is especially particular about quality!
Generally the response to my dolls has been overwhelming POSTIVE! Even though it has been tough at times, it has been so exciting! I have shipped orders as far as the Netherlands and Indiana, in the USA.
So far I am very happy with the way things are going. The dolls are flying out of my online shop.
Any advice for creative entrepreneurs:
Try to do a little each day. To be a successful entrepreneur one has to be passionate about your product and one has to work extremely hard. The life of an entrepreneur is not all glamorous its often really tiring and stressful. Be prepared to give it your all, it will be worth it in the end!
I hope that my dolls are made available throughout the rest of Africa and the world!
My next step is to create a range of really really dark skinned dolls, with different hair styles like afo’s and dreadlocks.
I am also busy designing a range of dark boys action Toys! I keep on getting mothers of boys asking me if I have “boys toys”
I am hoping to build a sustainable ethical business. I am hoping to create employment in South Africa and eventually I would like to bring the manufacturing local.
It’s been such an exciting journey so far and I am learning huge amounts daily! I really do hope to shift the world’s perception of beauty by supplying it with beautiful diverse looking dolls.
To order for dolls visit the onlineShop: WWW.TOYITOYITOYS.COM