Two African women entrepreneurs are using a collection of dolls with facial and body features of African and Caribbean children to help encourage black girls to embrace their natural beauty.
The two, Caroline Hlahla, A Zimbabwean based in the U.K., and Khulile Vilakazi-Ofosu, a South African, want children of African heritage to appreciate the beauty of their skin by providing them with dolls that look a lot like them.
Confronted by the apparent lack of black dolls with kinky Afro hair in the market, the two decided to challenge this inequality by creating a beautiful line of dolls called “The Sibahle Collection” that represents the children of African heritage.
“We decided to do this because we want our children to know they are beautiful the way they are,” Hlahla and Khulile said in a recent press release.
“We hope the doll’s hair will teach our children how to take care of their own natural hair from a young age and to love the skin that they are in.”
Black is Beautiful
Initially, Hlahla and Khulile came together to create a customer-centric hair brand called Bounce Essentials, which specializes in 100 percent natural textured extensions to match the African woman’s natural hair, but later realized that they had to do something to boost the identity and confidence of the African girl child.
It was also a personal experience for Khulile, whose 3-year-old daughter started demanding blond and flowing hair like the one she saw on most dolls in toy shops. This was the “a-ha” moment for the pair, who immediately started figuring out how they could address the hair issue amongst black girls.
But the journey to making Sibahle Collection an established toy brand has not been easy, especially in the European market, where manufacturers and customers are used to white toys.
The two say one of the major hurdles they had to overcome at the initial stages was to find a reliable manufacturer.
“The consistent response was that black dolls do not sell, black dolls are ugly, etc.” the statement reads.
But these rejections made the duo even more determined to succeed. So they opted to partner with two South African clothing designers to help them manufacture the dolls.
One of the designers operates from her home garage while the other one is a stay at home mother who sews from her dining room.
“Our first doll under the collection is called Nobuhle, Buhle for short, which is a Zulu word that means ‘the one that represents beauty’. Her hair is the most distinguishing feature of this doll,” Caroline and Khulile say.
The two are happy with the positive response they are receiving regarding the brand, which has been sold out twice, and are now looking for seed funding to scale up the production.
They also want to use the dolls to create more jobs in South Africa and empower more women.