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-Name of company and year launched:
Corage Dolls, 2016
-Where is your business based?
East Orange, NJ
-Tell us a little about yourself and your company:
I’m Flora Ekpe-Idang and I am the Founder and CEO of Corage Dolls – a multicultural doll and book company that helps to elevate, educate, and encourage girls of color to be unstoppable.
I’ve always had a passion for diversity and inclusion. From my 10+ years of experience in multicultural marketing including mass retail at Target, interning at two of the largest toy companies Jakks Pacific and Hasbro, and mentoring countless young girls over the years, my vocation is the empowerment of girls of color and Corage Dolls is my purpose.
I’m originally from New Jersey and I like to claim that I’m from the best of both worlds. My father is Nigerian born and my mother is from Grenada. Growing up, my house was filled with images and books that celebrated Black culture and my mom made it an imperative for me to have Black dolls. Even though my home made me feel loved in the skin I’m in, society made me feel otherwise with media that constantly showed thin, blonde, and light skinned as the default of beauty. I can’t lie and say this didn’t make me feel lesser than as I often begged my mom to relax my hair so my natural hair wouldn’t be perceived as “unkempt”.
-What was your “aha” moment that made you decide to start your company?
It all started in 2005 in high school. While sitting in health class, I first learned about the doll test – a famous 1940s experiment that studied the psychological effects of segregation on Black children. A group of Black children were given a white doll and a Black doll and asked various questions such as which doll is prettier, smarter, more likely to succeed. I was disheartened to see that the kids overwhelmingly chose the white doll when it came to anything positive and the Black doll when it came to anything negative. I thought to myself, these kids are so young and already have internalized racism, especially the young Black girls who often deal with colorism and harmful beauty standards that impact their self-esteem in the long term. I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to do with this realization, but I knew I would always remember that moment and it would take 10 years later for this to come full circle.
I started Corage (pronounced Co-raj) Dolls in 2015 while getting my MBA. After spending numerous years perusing toy shelves and chatting with socially conscious millennial moms about the limited access to Black dolls, existing homogenous options, and the importance of why Black dolls matter, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I wanted to revolutionize the American girl with the NEW American girl. I wanted to create beautiful high-quality dolls that authentically reflect girls of today to instill cultural pride, spark creativity, and promote diverse play. I wanted to create uplifting stories that aid in a child’s development and a community of sistership with others that support and advocate for girl empowerment. It was important to me that girls feel seen, valued, and know that they matter.
I wanted to ensure that at every stage of the doll making process that it was done with the highest quality in mind. From the soft vinyl material for lasting durability and the authentic facial features to the bendable arms and legs for great playability, and the voluminous curly/coily hair texture that would make Black girls say “that hair looks like mine!”. Each doll is made with love and care because we deserve it! Since launching Corage Dolls, I’ve expanded into more items including doll apparel as well as creating Cultivate Courage – a collection of apparel, notebooks, and more in which 50% of the proceeds goes to Black-led organizations supporting social issues impacting Black families.
-What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting a new business?
Cultivate courage within yourself and take that chance to just create even if you think you’re not ready because eventually you’ll inspire someone else.
-When you have time to yourself, what do you do to unwind?
I love watching “The Office”, trying various restaurants, and visiting Trader Joe’s on the weekends. This year I’ve made it a mission to create the perfect cheese board and TJ always comes through with the great selections!
What are a few of your “go to” products that make life a little easier?
Trader Joe’s cheeses, anything aromatherapy and air diffusers, comfy bed, Trello and Slack, my Spotify playlists, my mom’s Caribbean food.
-Fave small business accounts:
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Last show you binged: Ginny & Georgia
Last book you read: Rest is Resistance
Favorite quick recipe: Air fryer salmon with sweet potatoes
Favorite beverage: Taro milk tea
Go to take out: Chinese
Favorite dessert: Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream