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Black Entrepreneur’s Slumping Sales Turn Around After Call From O Magazine

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Entrepreneurs and children’s book author Ozi Okaro wants to teach kids about their heritage with Ikuzi Dolls. (Robert Sciarrino)

A doll maker went from making 17 percent of her start-up goal to launch her line of Black dolls to observing a massive sales boost thanks to O Magazine.

Ozi Okaro created Ikuzi Dolls in 2015, which represents “the different and gorgeous shades of Black beauty,” according to the official Instagram page. The mother of four was inspired to launch the company so that her own daughters, one dark-skinned and one light skinned, could have dolls who look like them.

While Okaro, a former computer systems analyst turned Columbia Business School graduate, had the right vision, getting the business off the ground was no small task.

A Kickstarter campaign launched that September yielded just $6,000 from 56 backers over two months. It was nowhere close to the $36,000 goal she needed to reach.

“I was going in a little blind,” Okaro told ROI-NJ of the results. “Afterwards, I realized you have to build up a following and really get people rooting for you. I didn’t have that yet.”

However, Black Enterprise reported things turned around when she took only three weeks to raise $25,000 from friends and family — the majority of which was aided by using her savings to make her #BlackGirlMagic dreams come true.

And then, something huge happened. An O Magazine editor reached out to feature Ikuzi Dolls in the May 2017 issue after stumbling across it online. In just two days, Okaro managed to have 100 dolls ready for the shoot.

Once it was complete, couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I did cartwheels when I got that call from The Oprah Magazine!!!” she wrote on her blog announcing the news. “How exciting and grateful I was to God for the opportunity. It is so interesting how miracles and blessings happen when you least expect it and they can be big or small.”

“We started seeing an increase in orders,” she said, noting revenue has doubled each year since establishing the business. “Nobody knew about us before the feature and that put a spotlight on us.”

And that’s not the only magazine feature Ikuzi Dolls has scored. The business has also been featured in Essence magazine’s December/January issue for its holiday gift guide. Okaro also won the New Jersey Black business award for Best Innovative Product.

For any other entrepreneurs hoping to start a business, Okaro, who became a manager of global e-commerce at Toys-R-Us before raising her children and launching her business, advised they find something they’re passionate about.

“Find your passion or what excites you,” she told Atlanta Black Star. “Once you know what this is, see if you can make it a business. It does not have to be something that you quit your day job for right away. It may simply be what you start to explore part-time, in order to test the market and see if it really meets a need.”

And while her own brand is focused on playthings, she also wants to use it to teach kids to take pride in their heritage. Ikuzi is the Igbo word for “to teach” and each doll is dressed in traditional African prints.

“I hope that our dolls will help young girls learn to love themselves and be proud of who they are and what they look like,” she said. “I want to inspire them to celebrate their African heritage/roots. Providing girls with our Ikuzi dolls that look like them, I hope will nurture a future where young Black girls will never be ashamed of the tone of their skin and the kink of their hair, regardless of what anyone may tell them.”

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