Oladoyin Oladapo is the CEO and Creator of Girl to the World, a series of multicultural books focused on female empowerment. In this month’s blog, Oladoyin reflects on her journey as an entrepreneur and shares best practices for growing a business.
Four years ago, I was a Junior at Wesleyan University and, Iike every other aspiring entrepreneur, I had an idea. Initially, wanted to make multicultural dolls for kids that would highlight cultures from different parts of the world and celebrate diversity. They would be amazing characters that could empower children to be whatever they wanted to be. Fast-forward to four years today, there are a bunch of products like this but none are mine. In line with my passion for diversity, I created my product Girl to the World, which is a series of books that highlight cultures around the globe and promote girl power. The journey from that original idea of dolls to creating these popular books was a long one.
After mulling over the idea of making dolls –not yet at the idea of making books- I finally decided to do something with the idea.
"It is so easy and comfortable in the idea stage but entrepreneurs are created when action happens."
At the time, I had no money and little time to work on my business because of school. Despite those challenges, I had to make things work with the money and time I did have. I had. With the help of my alma mater and mentors, I connected with key people and did the research needed to create a business plan, sketch the products and design a prototype. Throughout this process I sought the insight of as many experts as I could connect with who were familiar with my product. And one day, somewhere in the middle of year two of working on my toys, one of these experts named Cathy, gave me advice that resulted in the biggest pivot of my four year journey.
Cathy told me that my dolls were great but unless I made children fall in love with their stories first, no one would buy them for their children. From conversations with her, I realized I had to bring my dolls to life in order to really share their amazing stories. She advised to me pause on the dolls and write stories that could captivate my audience, open their eyes and win their hearts. Cathy was top exec at a major toy company and, even though she was completely right, it would take me another year to fully follow her advice.
"I can write another article about entrepreneurial stubbornness another day but for now I want to share how important it is to be open to shaping your business to something different based on constructive feedback."
When I finally started writing the stories, I realized that the stories better equipped me to accomplish the mission to celebrate cultures and empower girls. I discovered that creating these colorful and expansive narratives brought my vision to life and made it easier for children to learn about the world and feel empowered. My team and I worked on our four stories for almost three years. We self-published, illustrated, self-edited, self-funded and launched the entire four stories by ourselves. We constructed and employed strategic story templates that ensured we embedded as many culturally and developmentally insightful tools and possible. The result are the various books we have had featured across different mediums including YouTube.
We recently released a total of eight books and are looking to grow the business to do more. My very first prototype designs are still sitting in my computer and I may dust them off one day. For now though, I’m excited about the fruition of my idea. It’s not in the form I originally imagined it but that is the exciting journey of launching and growing a business!