I believe that all children deserve to see images of themselves in the products they engage with from an early age.
After years of pondering, I finally decided to start my own business. Just Like Me Toys is an online toyshop.
My name is Monica Smith. I am an early years teacher and the founder of Just Like Me Toys. We specialise in sourcing, commissioning and selling good quality black and ethnic dolls and accessories for children.
Why black dolls?
I believe that every child should see images of themselves in the products they play with from an early age.
I made sure that the first doll my daughters had reflected their image. I was fortunate enough to find the dolls of my choice in 1984 and again in 1986 when they were born. For me, this was necessary as one of their first toys.
Fast forward thirty years later, in 2013, I looked for a black doll for my niece’s fifth birthday and could not find what I wanted in London, and had to get one from the US via the Internet.
Given that we live in an age dominated by visual images, a compelling medium, every child should see themselves in the society in which they live.
So why are black dolls so scarce?
It is the twenty-first century, and the black population in the UK has increased.
Why are black dolls so scarce?
How is it that thirty years on and I still did not have a choice?
I wanted to know. I turned to the Internet again. This time it was to research doll manufacturers. My research revealed that they are manufacturers making black dolls, but most toy retailers did not believe that there was a market and therefore did not stock them.
A common phrase encountered by black doll enthusiasts was that ‘black dolls don’t sell.’
I knew that was not the case. I certainly wanted one. And many people I knew also wanted to have the opportunity to choose.
My fear and in fact, the concerns of many black people I have spoken with, were the quality of the products on the market.
In my effort to find good quality black dolls, I purchased many samples to assess the quality that were available on the market. I read articles written by other interested parties expressing their concerns in other countries.
I had collected many endearing samples of dolls. These were good quality, beautiful dolls that were invisible to the public, and I wanted little children to see themselves on the products they interact with in shops and stores.
I wanted visibility and choice!
With the support of my daughters, I created a website, invested in my first order as a sample run, to test the market.
My aim was to establish if there was a market for black dolls.
I launched the website in October 2015. Despite having a website I was not satisfied. I wanted tangible visibility, where people could see and touch the dolls. A site, in my opinion, could not bring the products to the attention of the public in the way shops could.
Determined to promote and get public feedback and interaction with the products, I approached three shops. They all agreed to stock them on a sale or return basis. The shops loved them, the quality of the products in particular was a hit.
By the Christmas of that year, I had sold up to 80% of the stock purchased.
It was the confirmation I wanted. They were the type of dolls I wanted to bring to the attention of the wider public.
I re-investment and began the rise of Just Like Me Toys as an online toyshop, with a wholesale ambition to enable the visibility of black and other ethnic dolls to the public.
We now have a growing number of outlets stocking our dolls. We continue to build the distribution part of the business whilst welcoming and serving you on our online shop.
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