After Nicole Hawthorn’s daughter, Jayla, was born, she tried to find dolls that looked like her.
Being of Puerto Rican and African-American descent, there was nothing in the market that represented her culture. She was frustrated that she could only find dolls that were plastic and mass produced.
“Unfortunately, the options available were limited with only two colors,” Hawthorn said. “When I wasn’t able to find anything that represented our culture, that was it! I had to do something about it.”
Not knowing how to sew, Hawthorn reached out to women around the world for help.
“We are an internationally diverse world, and this is the lens I wanted to bring to the business,” Hawthorn said.
Being the curator of the dolls, Hawthorn wanted something that could last, represent heritage, and be a keepsake for future generations by crafting the dolls using sustainable material. Each doll is made of fabric and is as unique as the culturally diverse women who hand-make them.
Her concept won top prize in the 53 Ideas Pitch Competition led by South Piedmont Community College’s Small Business Center and supported by Fifth Third Bank.
Hand-making dolls is a slow process, and the $10,000 she received from Fifth Third Bank’s competition will help her discover new ways to streamline her process without sacrificing the dolls’ unique qualities.
Nicole plans to develop new collections and a mobile app where others can create dolls representing their culture’s unique attributes.
Although her idea won the competition, Nicole believes her business background and the coaching webinars provided by the South Piedmont Small Business Center helped her take a new look at her business plan and streamline the pitch.
On the web: www.jaylasheirlooms.com