During her freshman year at the University of Houston, Datreese Thomas says her self journey motivated her to create her first-ever business, The Melanie Dolls.
“I wanted to help Black girls feel beautiful, gain courage, and just develop self-love. I do that by providing a product that helps young Black girls individually see themselves better. I truly believe the company I created is a clear reflection of the journey that I had to go through with myself,” Thomas told AfroTech.
Available for pre-order, The Melanie Dolls prepares to launch with two collections: The Breonna doll, inspired by Breonna Taylor and the Angela collection, inspired by “Black Panther” actress Angela Bassett.
Her new business venture is entirely self-funded. Datreese told the publication that she saved the money she earned from an internship to invest in her doll collection.
“Honestly, I have not acquired any support. I am like a self sustained small business right now,” Thomas said. “I’ve tried to apply for grants and different things to help with my business, but I’ve never ever been able to acquire any of that. I had to make a decision to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this.’ Me saying I’m gonna do this, is me giving everything.”
According to the Toy Association, in 2019, Americans spent over $3 billion on dolls. In 2020, thanks mainly to the pandemic, toy sales skyrocketed by 16%.
Thomas says that some of the profits from the company will go towards launching her nonprofit, The Melanin Movement—to financially empower the creative talent in Black communities.
“I just know that there are so many creatives out here with genius minds and great ideas, but they just don’t have the platform or resources to get them out there. I’m taking my own money and I’m going to create economical freedom for other Black people who want to be entrepreneurs,” Thomas said.
The pre-orders have already sold out.