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Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor

Most Dolls Didn’t Look Like Her Kids, So This Mom Started Her Own Company

“I was determined to give my kids dolls that looked like them so they could learn to love who they are and be proud of their roots.”

The Bump presents #MomBoss, a series dedicated to showing off all-star moms. We catch up with mompreneurs behind products we love, influencers who get real about motherhood and SAHMs who can multitask in their sleep.

Growing up, Ozi Okaro had a seriously warped perception of beauty, and it all stemmed from the dolls she played with. As an adorable black girl, her playtime pals looked nothing like her. When she became a mother, she refused to let her kids’ self-esteem suffer the same blow.

So she decided to launch Ikuzi Dolls—her very own doll company. The collection features beautifully crafted dolls available in different shades of brown skin tones and hair textures. Learn more about the brand below, and how Okaro balances a constantly-evolving company while raising four kids.

Photo: Ikuzi Dolls

What makes Ikuzi Dolls different from others on the market?

Ikuzi Dolls are dolls of color that are available in a range of brown skin tones, hair textures and styles. There’s a very small selection of black dolls in the current marketplace, and kids of color usually have to settle for whatever they find in stores. More often than not, it’s a doll that doesn’t look like them. Ikuzi Dolls wants to change that. Our mission is to provide dolls for kids of color to relate to and identify with.

How did motherhood inspire you to launch the brand?

Being a mother of four, two of which are girls, had everything to do with my decision to start Ikuzi Dolls. Growing up, I loved dolls but only had one black doll—and I didn’t think she was very pretty! Positive role play in the early years is critical to building self-esteem, self-love and self-pride, and my dolls had a big impact on my perception of beauty. As a mother, I was determined to give my kids dolls that looked like them so they could learn to love who they are and be proud of their roots.

Any plans to add more dolls inspired by other races?

Over the years, Ikuzi Dolls has grown organically, and we’ve added dolls based on customer demand. In 2015, we launched with just two dolls, and now we have 11 total with plans for two or three new dolls to launch this year. Right now, we’re focused on dolls of color, but that could change, especially if our customers request other races. If there is a true need for it, we'll make sure it makes sense for us, our brand identity and our customers.

Photo: Ikuzi Dolls

How did becoming a mom prepare you for a business?

A big part of being a mother is multitasking and decision-making. Parents make decisions that feel right, and then pray they work out. If it doesn’t, you reassess, realign and maybe even change direction. The same concepts are essentially needed to run a businesses.

How do you manage it all?

My family is my top priority. It’s funny, but at this stage, I run my business to revolve around my kids’ schedules. It’s not a typical 9 to 5 job—I work all hours of the day and night, depending on what needs to get done when.

Has your parenting style changed over the years?

It hasn’t changed too much, but I definitely believe I’m more relaxed. By the time I had my fourth child, I had a lot of practice! My kids are also all very different, so I try to match my parenting style with their individual needs.

What advice do you have for new moms?

Always go with your instincts. A rule of thumb for me is if I’m not okay with something, my child probably isn’t okay with it either.

What’s one product that made parenting easier?

One of the most useful items I used for my kids were these waterproof, washable and quick-drying mealtime bibs. Each had a little pocket for catching food and could be easily hand-washed and dried before the next meal.

Any epic #MomFails?

Yes, of course. I’m not perfect! From mixing up the lunches to almost losing one kid at Disney World...In my defense, Grandma was supposed to be watching them!

What about a guilty mom pleasure?

Two words: Rum cake.

Published March 2019

Plus, more from The Bump:

20 Best Children’s Books That Celebrate Diversity

How This Mom Handles Kids’ Questions About Skin Color

Two Moms Redefine ‘Girly’ With Diverse Children’s Clothing Line

PHOTO: Ozi Okaro