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How a mother turned entrepreneur is changing the world - one doll at a time

How a mother turned entrepreneur is changing the world - one doll at a time

Representation matters. It’s quite simple, and yet so powerful. 
From dreaming of becoming an astronaut to simply feeling confident in one’s skin - seeing someone who  looks like you and having your experiences represented positively in society  are the first steps  towards being within reach of endless life possibilities. Numerous studies have been devoted to evaluating the empowering potential of media images. But what happens when media and entrepreneurship combine? What power do they have to address the topic of diversity, to lead positive change in the world?

At Sellify, we support products that make life better, in plenty of ways. We think our clients have great stories to tell, and we want to give them a platform to share those stories with  the world. This article will be the first of a series of interviews we’ll conduct with them, to discuss their stories, the challenges they faced, and how they hope to impact the world in a positive way. Today we spoke to Dyonne from Team Curly Girly, a brand new Dutch e-commerce selling curly-haired, dark-skinned dolls (a novelty in the Netherlands!). We discussed positivity, self-love, and how she turned her educational project as a mother into an e-commerce. With her dolls, Dyonne is seeking to empower young girls in helping them become happy, confident women.

A real life curly girly

Much like her dolls, Dyonne is a real life curly girly. Her head is crowned with dark, thick curls which she has learned to appreciate and take pride in, rather than attempting to tame. She’s confident, and critical towards strict beauty standards.
It wasn’t always easy to feel this way - her personal journey towards self-love is the very core of project Team Curly Girly. Looking back on her childhood, Dyonne recalls a sense of frustration at her surroundings. She couldn’t see herself in  any of the dolls she played with, or the characters of the cartoons she watched.

When I was a kid, I played with Barbie dolls most of the time. It was very hard for my mom and for me to find a doll that really looked like me. The doll that looked the most like me was like Pocahontas… That wasn’t really it. She had straight hair, and my hair is really really curly. [...] I felt that I had to be blonde, with straight hair. I hated my frizzy hair.

For Dyonne, the significance of diverse representation wasn’t just another buzzy topic - it was a real, lived experience she couldn’t put into words. She was never offered an alternative to the unattainable beauty standards which so harshly shaped her perception. She carried that into adulthood and through the  experience of becoming a mother, turning it into an ambition. An ambition to ensure  that her children would cherish and feel pride in their identity in a way she never could.

A chance encounter

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It wasn’t until adulthood that Dyonne had the chance  to play with a doll that looked just like her. As a mother of two, she found herself purchasing her first curly haired doll through a manufacturer. She wanted to see what it would feel like. What she discovered in the process was eye-opening. Her daughter (Nayeli, age 7) had never been one to play with dolls. She had never been interested in them - until she saw one that looked just like her...

When she saw that doll she was like “Wow mommy, I wanna play with it! Can I have more [dolls]?” And now she actually plays with dolls. For me that was really an eye opener, you see she does want to play with dolls... she just didn’t recognize herself in the blonde haired, blue eyed ones.

Remembering her own frustration at Barbie dolls and princesses with silky smooth hair, Dyonne could make sense of her daughter’s reaction. It was that very same feeling she had experienced as a child. Why play with dolls, if she couldn’t be the main character of her stories? A simple toy had now opened the door to dreaming of new experiences and opportunities, to feeling in charge of her future. The imaginative hopefulness and the confidence shining in Nayeli showed Dyonne the extent to which representation could matter to young women, to little girls. Seeing themselves in the world could mean empowerment, fun, heightened self-esteem and ambition.

[Diversity] really matters. If you see stuff that looks like you, and really represents you and reflects you, you feel empowered. [...] I see it in my daughter and I experienced it myself.

An educational project

Not everyone was as in love with the curly haired dolls as her daughter was. The doll's’ hair was too “big and crazy” - something children had never seen before in other toys. It was too different, too unusual. With all the negative comments, Dyonne became acutely aware of just how much of an impact these dolls could make. They skewed a reality people had long been accustomed to- and this was exactly what Dyonne wanted to change. With more diverse dolls out there, the world would become acquainted with the idea of successful, confident dark-skinned girls taking up space, and being anything they wanted. And so, the ecommerce, Team Curly Girly was born. What made Dyonne more certain than ever of the importance of this project was the reaction of one young girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. She saw nothing strange in wanting to play with toys that didn’t resemble her looks - what made them special was that they looked just like her friends. Dyonne realised that she was plagued by prejudices the young girl hadn’t yet absorbed. To her, there was nothing out of the ordinary. She had friends of all kinds, and could see herself reenacting narratives in which they were all represented.  

Being exposed to diversity from a very early age is a crucial step in forming accepting views of other people, and of one’s self. Seeing  other portrayals of girlhood is a significant opportunity for dark skinned girls to re-evaluate their self-image in more positive, accepting terms - and for other people to open themselves to a more diverse reality.

Kids are a blank slate. They don’t have prejudice unless they are taught to. I think that [exposing other kids to diverse beauty] will help with self love, and loving others… with being accepting, open minded.

Team Curly Girly  - the beginnings

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It all started through word of mouth. As more and more friends began to express interest in the dolls, Dyonne ambitiously decided to turn the Team Curly Girly project into a professional platform. The Team Curly Girly webshop opened its doors on March 31st. In only two weeks, their Nayla doll was sold out. Starting a webshop from scratch came with plenty of challenges. Dyonne laughs, recalling how, through some cruel, ironic accident, the first order she received was a box full of straight haired dolls. Dyonne’s journey towards entrepreneurship was as taxing as her journey to the concept of Team Curly Girly. After self-learning Photoshop and the skill of working with clients, Dyonne understood that setting up a business is no child’s play. It was her determination and love for the project that kept her going. . In the process, she not only learned a lot about herself, but that as a woman, a mother, and an entrepreneur, she really could have it all.

The key, Dyonne says, is balance. Knowing your limits, pushing yourself, but also reaching out to others when necessary. With rising  stories of inspirational girl bosses, it’s  easy to be sucked into a myth of self-sufficiency. Although they  foster empowerment, they  can also make it seem as if anything short of being perfect and capable of managing everything  is equivalent to  failure. Dyonne acknowledges that taking a step back , and exploring what worked for her personally, along with the input of other people,made the process so much easier. Most importantly, it made balancing a business, family life, time for herself an attainable possibility. What made it even easier was the support she received and found at Sellify.

I was looking for a platform that would allow me to work with influencers on Instagram, or Facebook, to have a link for third party where they would get their money for referring their followers to our website. They told me how it works, and I thought this was actually great. They helped me explain it, which was really easy to do! It was exactly what I was looking for.

Changing the world for the better

In the future, Dyonne hopes to add more products to her e-commerce to turn it into a more inclusive platform celebrating female empowerment and positivity. Her shop is only two weeks old, so she doesn’t intend to jump into new projects just yet - but there’s plenty to be done, and she is passionate about achieving it and improving the world her daughter and other little girls live in.

I want to do everything I can to help them see themselves the way I see them, beautiful little girls who can become strong independent women.

Dyonne is optimistic about the future, and sees her project fitting well within what she considers a wider cultural awakening.ore and more people are coming together on- and offline to spread positive messages against impossible physical and cultural standards. People out there are celebrating diverse beauty, female empowerment, and self-determination. Just like them, Dyonne wishes to change the world for the better with her business.

I think that self-love, and positivity - I think [they] will improve the world. If you love yourself, you will able to love others, and inspire others, and help others. If we help each other, the world will get better.

 


Sellify supports Team Curly Girly’s efforts for positive change in the world.
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The new generation (dutch)

The new generation (dutch)