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Entrepreneur tackles prejudices about relatable dolls for African girls

Jun 26 2017 18:34
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – An entrepreneur is tackling complexes among young African girls by selling dolls with ethnic hair.

Gugu Kgongoane made her first Afro-doll so that her daughter could play with an item that looked like her. Kgongoane bought a doll that was dark in complexion and then stripped it of its hair, before re-attaching an ethnic Afro, much like her daughter’s.

“My daughter was visiting friends, playing with her Barbie... Because Barbie has blue eyes and long straight hair. I started looking for a doll for her. A nice beautiful black doll for her. I found one and then reworked it,” she said.

Kgongoane explained to Fin24 that people kept asking her about her daughter’s Afro. Even though their enquiries were meant as a complement, Kgongoane said she did not want her daughter to think there was something wrong with her. This led her to make the doll. “The hair looks like my daughter’s hair. I don’t think she will think there is anything wrong with her hair if she is playing with a doll with similar hair,” she said.

She made outfits for the dolls and posted them on Instagram, which led to other people taking an interest in the dolls, and Kgongoane’s business, Masebotsana Afro Dolls, was born.

Kgongoane has been making the baby dolls for the past two months, but she has been running a baby couture business for nearly a year. Again, this business was inspired by her daughter as she started out making outfits for her daughter with Shweshwe material.

Kgongoane’s husband contributed the capital for her business. She does not keep stock, and makes the dolls and outfits as the orders come in. The outfits are custom made, Kgongoane shows the clients five options for clothes and they choose the ones they want, she explained. The turnaround time is seven days.

A play-set for a girl, which includes a skirt, baby grow, bib and headband goes for between R350 and R450. While the price range extends to R500 for boys.

Kgongoane has been selling the dolls for R250, but will revise this to R199, following market research.  “Some people said it was too pricy. So I thought I could bring it down a bit and see how it goes form there.”

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barbie  |  women  |  entrepreneurs  |  small business
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