67. Growing a Purpose-Driven Business Through Networking, Pitch Competitions, and Fellowships
Yelitsa Jean-Charles is the creator of the Healthy Roots Doll, Zoe. Healthy Roots is a toy company Yelitsa founded that creates dolls and storybooks that reinforce positive self-perceptions of the richly diverse, varying shades of complexion, and natural hair textures among girls of color. Societal beauty standards negatively impact the
In this episode, Yelitsa tells us how a class project led her to the development of the doll Zoe and the creation of a purpose-driven company. We also discuss how she used crowdfunding, fellowships, pitch competitions, and more to grow her company. Her story will inspire you to take action.
Studio 78 Podcast
- Attended the Rhode Island School of Design
- In 2014, Yelitsa had a class project where she was asked to remake a fairy tale character and she chose Rapunzel, which turned into a little brown girl with kinky curly hair
- Classmates told her she should turn her concept into a doll which led her to do some research
- She then applied for the Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship
- To get accepted she wrote a 5 page paper on Internalized Racism, Colorism, and the Impact that Children Products Can Have on Self-development and Identity and Healthy Roots was born
- She was also part of the Mass Challenge Accelerator Program between her junior and senior year of college
- Afterward, she created a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $35,000 and was able to raise close to 50k!
- She was part of Venture for America Fellow and won the Startup Stampede Competition and the New Voices Fund Pitch Competition
- A friend gave her three steps to do anything you want to do: (1) figure out what you want to do (2) figure out how to do it (3) and then do it
- Yelitsa says she’s followed this advice by Googling her way to victory, not saying no before she can say yes, asking for help when needed, and sending emails even if she thinks she shouldn’t
- She mainly does e-commerce and attends events such as Essence Fest, Curl Fest, Summit 21
- We discuss pitch competitions, Yelitsa says your job is to sell your company. You’re selling the problem and you as a solution
- When she goes to a pitch competition, she’s looking at who’s attending, what industry the attendees from, is there a high chance someone will approach her when she finishes her pitch; she also makes sure she knows the judge’s background
- Advise for creating a product: (1) Make sure you’re solving a problem and that the problem is not only exclusive to you (2) utilize your network
- Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship
- Mass Challenge Accelerator Program
- Venture for America Fellowship
- Backstage Capital (her first investor)
- Startup Stampede Competition
- New Voices Fund Pitch Competition (held at Essence)
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