Leeds businesswomen secures funds to manufacture her mixed race dolls firm Akila Dolls

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An entrepreneur who decided to create a range of diversity dolls after her daughter asked why none of the dolls on the toy shop shelf looked like her is poised to take her business to the next level after raising £6,000 through a crowdfunding campaign.

Olivia Thompson, founder of Leeds-based Akila Dolls, left her job as a receptionist in a law firm last year to become a full time carer for her seven-year-old autistic daughter, Amira.

During a shopping trip they both noticed a lack of diverse dolls on the shelves.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Thompson said: “I always felt growing up mixed race that there weren’t any dolls on the shelves that represented me but when Amira said to me: ‘Why don’t the toys look like us, mummy?’ I suddenly thought, why in 2020 is this still an issue?”

Olivia Thompson and her daughter.Olivia Thompson and her daughter.
Olivia Thompson and her daughter.

Ms Thompson started researching different types of dolls available online and then did her own market research and realised there was a huge gap in the market.

She has spent the last seven months working with designers and manufacturers to design the first toy, which she hopes will be the first in a long line of diverse and disability dolls.

After a successful six-week crowdfunding campaign, with the help of NatWest, she is now preparing to manufacture the first prototype and officially launch the brand.

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Ms Thompson said: “I’m so overwhelmed by the response. The comments and feedback I’ve had from people is amazing. People who’ve never even met me have been so supportive.”

She added: “It just shows what you can achieve even in a pandemic.”

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