Dr. Lisa Williams was shocked by a CNN documentary on the racial attitude of young Blacks towards white dolls. The documentary, put together by Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien, showed that Black children still associate “nice” and “good” to white dolls while associating evil or bad to dark skin.
A university professor then, Williams was alarmed by the study’s findings and decided to embark on a mission to bolster the confidence of Black children. Part of her agenda was to also let Black children have a positive view of their identity.
In 2003, she formed the World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (World of EPI) with the mission of spreading joy by providing children with dolls that inspire dreams, promote intelligence and build self-esteem, her website says.
The former marketing and supply chain professor subsequently created The Fresh Doll Collection to reflect multicultural backgrounds while empowering and uplifting children of color. “They are called Fresh because they’re a new “Fresh” perspective on dolls. These dolls have one-of-a-kind faces; that are truly works of art. They have custom-blended skin tones, beautifully authentic facial features, trendy fashions and hairstyles that include, braids, afros, afro-puffs, wavy and curly styles,” she says, adding that Fresh doll bodies are specifically designed to be more representative by having fuller hips, thighs and more realistic waists.
Today, Fresh Dolls is a six-figure business and it is also being distributed globally via Walmart. What is more, Fresh Dolls was selected as one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2020.
Despite the rise of Williams’ doll business, she says the journey has not been easy for her as she had terrible experience scaling up her business. But that did not deter her from her goal. “I love creating dolls that honor the beauty and intelligence of multicultural children. I want to support families in raising beautiful, confident children with unlimited possibilities. ”
To scale up her business, Williams has landed a deal in China to produce more dolls in a bid to achieve her aim of inclusivity.
For aspiring entrepreneurs who want to be like her, Williams says they should vigorously pursue their dream. According to her, mistakes will be made along the way, and that it is part of the learning process.
Before Williams’ passion for dolls, she taught marketing and supply chain management as a tenured professor at an esteemed institution and earned two multi-million dollar endowed chairs. She is also an author of several business books and academic articles.