By Joe Lawrence –
In a new Amazon Prime Show called ‘Ready Set StartUp’, a Yorkshire start-up, Akila Dolls, has created a revolutionary new line of dolls to celebrate diversity and disability is set to star.
The start-up was set up by Olivia Thompson, 32 from Yeadon, who’s one of 10 early-stage entrepreneurs from all over the world that are featured on the show, which will highlight the challenges of starting a business.
Akila Dolls aims to make children’s dolls that exhibit a wide range of hair textures, skin tones, and clothing ranges to help educate children on different cultures.
Olivia who is Afro-Caribbean, said: “Akila Dolls is a start-up which currently has prototype dolls that celebrate African and Caribbean culture. Our dolls are designed to inspire children of colour by reflecting their beauty and culture.”
Each of the dolls that Akila Dolls make come with its own storybook with information about the doll so that children can learn more about the doll they are playing with.
Olivia said: “Growing up I never had a doll that looked like me or reflected my culture. I wanted to create a brand that celebrates our beauty, and empowers young girls to be proud of who they are.”
Olivia had no formal marketing experience or background before she started her business. She had completed a National Diploma in Uniformed Public Services at York College after leaving school at 16.
She also started university but dropped out after the first year. After this, she raised £6,000 to help make her prototype dolls by participating in the Prince’s Trust and the NatWest start-up programme.
Olivia is passionate about women having a place in businesses as she said: “We as women can be much more, we juggle childcare, we are mothers and care givers, and also business women.”
Olivia is a single mother of two children, a one-year-old and a ten-year-old daughter who has been diagnosed with autism. She says that this helped inspire her idea for the business.
“Akila Dolls are inspired by my daughter’s obsession and love for dolls. Aged six, she was diagnosed with autism. She struggles with social interaction, restrictive behaviour, and many other symptoms. As a mother, it was important for me to support her, and a lot of her education was based on role-play learning. She loves to interact with her dolls.”
Olivia added: “It has become apparent to me, and more so now as a parent, that diverse dolls were and are still massively underrepresented within the UK toy industry. I believe it is extremely important that not just my daughter, but that every boy and girl can see dolls on retailers’ shelves, that both look like them and relate to their cultures and beliefs. The only way we can do this is with new toys and books. A greater diversity of the toy’s children play with will have a greater impact on how they perceive themselves, and others.”
Ready Set StartUp
Ready Set StartUp shows Olivia alongside the other early-stage entrepreneurs taking part and competing in a series of challenges throughout the series. These challenges are watched by a series of judges which include the likes of Tom Blomfield, the founder of Monzo.
Ready Set StartUp is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime.