11-year-old black doll business owner surprised with $10,000 grant

Dollita Okine July 05, 2023
The CEO of Beautiful Curly Me, 11-year-old Zoe Oli, stated that the grant is on schedule. She has big ideas for how the funds will be spent. Photo Credit: The Atlanta Voice

Evana and Zoe Oli, mother and daughter business partners of Beautiful Curly Me, were completely taken off guard when former Atlanta Hawks guard, Lou Williams, showed up to give them a $10,000 check from Verizon during an interview with the local TV show, Atlanta & Company – at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE).

According to the Atlanta Voice, the mother-daughter duo was quite shocked during the presentation and doubted it was real.

Russell Center staff decided to surprise the two center stakeholders who are members. The Small Business Digital Ready program at Verizon and its affiliate, LISC, provided the check.

CEO of Beautiful Curly Me, 11-year-old Zoe Oli, stated that the grant is on schedule. The young entrepreneur has big ideas on how the funds could be spent. This Christmas, Oli declared, “I’m going to use every cent to expand my company, my social impact, and the line of dolls.”

After having a brief encounter with the young CEO, Williams’ mother told him about her. The three-time winner of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year emphasized the value of encouraging children to follow their aspirations.

“She’s a young entrepreneur, doing a lot of positive things. I think it’s important, especially with young people to have a vision, to have goals that they want to accomplish in the future,” Williams said. He believes it’s important whenever community members like him can assist a young person. 

The telecom giant started its ‘Digital Ready’ program two years ago after realizing that many small businesses were finding it difficult to compete in the modern digital economy, according to Verizon Communications Officer, Bernadette Brijlall.

“We saw that small businesses had a need for influence marketing, tax support, how to get a website, etc.,” Brijall said; adding that the project helps “tens of thousands” of small businesses.

When she was seven years old, Zoe started her journey toward entrepreneurship. At age six, her mother gave her a black doll. “I loved that doll, but it didn’t have curly hair like mine,” she recalled.

The young CEO made her own black doll after numerous unsuccessful attempts to find one in stores with the desired hairstyle; not just for herself, but also for other girls who shared her desire.

Three Black dolls with the names Bella, Anika, and Leyla are produced by the Atlanta-based company, Beautiful Curly Me. Customers can also buy affirmation puzzles, clothing, hair products for girls and their dolls, hair accessories, and books written by Zoe.

The business has since reached new heights. According to The Neighbor, on May 3, 2023, Barclays US Consumer Bank’s third annual Small Business Big Wins competition saw Beautiful Curly Me place third, earning a $20,000 cash prize.

Despite the tough competition, more than 14,000 businesses signed up for participation — Beautiful Curly Me was chosen as a Top 10 finalist. Evana said, “We got to see how much people really love and support us. “It was really heartwarming to know we have a true community around the brand and what it stands for,” according to Black Enterprise.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 5, 2023

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