Getting Funding, Changing Lives and Blowing Up On Twitter

As a brand, products that have an impact on your customers’ lives certainly help to keep your business top of mind. But they can also influence them in deeper, more impactful, and meaningful ways that they’ll carry with them for life. In this episode of Start Yours, Yelitsa Jean-Charles joins us to talk about how she founded Healthy Roots Dolls, a successful toy startup that creates dolls with a goal to empower young girls. Listen to Yelitsa discuss her inspiring entrepreneurial journey that started when she was a college student and her responsibility to educate, empower, and influence through her brand. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to subscribe and check out our past episodes. Prefer a condensed version? Here’s a five-point TL;DR summary: Before launching a business, research your idea to find out if anyone else is already doing it and if you can do it better. Going to events, networking, and building relationships allowed Yelitsa to find the right people who helped to build her business. Yelitsa’s Kickstarter campaign made $50,000 in pre-sales. She also went on to win a series of programs that brought in more grants and investments. It’s Healthy Roots Dolls’ first year of being fully operational with products and they’re already all sold out and pre-orders continue to flood in. Yelitsa says artists have a unique responsibility in the work they create to educate, empower, and influence, which is what she’s doing with Healthy Roots Dolls.

Getting Into Entrepreneurship


Yelitsa and Zoe

David: So how did Healthy Roots Dolls all come about? Have you always had an entrepreneurial history? Was a business always in the cards? Just take us through the thinking or the process that led you to starting a business.

Yelitsa: Oh my goodness, what a big question especially…

David: You take that in pieces.

Yelitsa: Yeah, I have to. I wasn’t even really supposed to go to art school, let alone become an entrepreneur. My parents… I’m their one and only child and being the child of immigrants all they know is, “Are you gonna be a doctor? Are you gonna be a lawyer?” And so when I said, “Art school,” my parents were like, “How are you gonna make any money?” 

David: Right, that’s fair.

Yelitsa: Yeah, it’s a fair question.

David: As a philosophy grad, I know the look on parents’ faces at that point.

Yelitsa: So you understand my pain.

David: I do, I do.

Yelitsa: So from there I went to the Rhode Island School of Design where I studied illustration and while there, it was the first time that I developed an understanding of the social issues that I had experienced throughout living in America as a Haitian-American woman and being a little brown girl. 

And so the business was basically built out of my experiences growing up and never really seeing products that looked like me and how that impacted me. 

So the one particular memory I have is when my parents tried to give me a black doll and I cried because I thought it wasn’t pretty. Because on TV, the one that they put on all the commercials is a beautiful blonde Swan Lake Barbie but not the brown-skinned one. 

And in college, we had a lot of conversations about representation in children’s products in the media. And I started to unpack these issues regarding race and gender and identity and it started when I went natural. 

So I was wearing my naturally curly hair and I brought that into my work as an artist in the classroom and that developed a project called Healthy Roots Dolls because one of my projects was to redesign fairytale characters.

So I took Rapunzel and I turned her into a little brown girl with kinky curly hair to show little girls that you can be a beautiful princess too with your natural hair and all of my classmates said, “Oh my God, this looks like a doll, this looks like a doll.” I was like, “Okay, that’s cool.” 

But I took that conversation online and what I didn’t realize I was doing at the moment was validating a problem and proposing a potential solution ’cause the conversation that happened was many women stepping forward and talking about how they never had toys that made them feel beautiful, or that they could see themselves in and then I realized there was an opportunity there.

So I applied for the Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship through my university and I received $4,000 to work on this company called Healthy Roots Dolls, which I defined as a multicultural children’s toy company that creates products that help young girls learn to love themselves just the way they are and our first doll is Zoe and she is so much more than just a doll. 

When I was doing research about children’s products and the space, I recognized that toys can influence how kids think, act, and see themselves. So when little girls can’t find dolls that look like them it negatively impacts their self-esteem. 

And so I wanted to do more than just make another doll painted brown so I specially designed her with hair that can be washed and styled so that girls can learn to love their curls.

David: You said you studied illustration and I’m curious if dolls were how you envisioned those skills coming to life, like did you have any particular background with dolls outside of the fact that you were… You said you had them growing up? 

Was that a niche that you were particularly interested in or is it kind of by accident based on this Rapunzel activity you were doing that you just kind of ended up in the dolls field?

Yelitsa: Absolutely not, when I went to RISD I was like, “I’m gonna be the next Carol Walker,” and then I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna work in video games,” and then I was like, “I’ll do children’s books,” and then somehow I ended up doing dolls even though I wasn’t majoring in industrial design or product development. And I think it’s because I just saw the value in that space and the demand and the need.

David: So you did some accidental market research when you were going online and you kind of unearthed a hole in the market that you maybe weren’t even totally aware of or that you’d maybe forgotten about since your own childhood?

Yelitsa: I think it’s just something in my character. When I see problems I have to do something about it, and that’s what I saw when I was doing… ‘Cause I think one thing that a lot of people with business ideas don’t do is they don’t do the research to figure out if somebody else is already doing this and are they doing it better than I could. 

And so I wanted to see what attempts there had been made in this market and there were a few brands, but nobody was trying to solve this specific problem I had in terms of hair play and so I figured I’d at least try.

What people with business ideas don't do, according to Yelitsa

Throwing Design and Manufacturing Into the Mix


David: I wanna dig into some of the nitty-gritty behind creating your products and I think that the process of creating your own products from scratch, it’s pretty scary. And I think creating marketing campaigns and dealing with customers when you’re sourcing existing products, that’s a big enough challenge right there. 

But adding the design and the manufacturing on top of all that, it just adds a lot of complexity. And so what were some of the initial challenges of the design and manufacturing process as you went from your sketches into trying to bring that to life?

Yelitsa: So I will say that I’m lucky to… Well, not lucky but it aligns with my skill set so it was easier to do the design work. I come from this art world and creative vision and all those things. And I happened to go to a school where they have really strong relationships in the toy industry, in the same city as Hasbro. So I was able to connect with toy designers and learn more quickly. 

And so knowing what I don’t know, and knowing what I do know, were things that I used to my advantage very early on.

And so I took my understanding of design, and then I realized, “Okay, I don’t know how to manufacture. I don’t know how to take this from pencil to physical manifestation. Let me do some research and enter conversations and spaces where people who are experts in this, I can learn from them.”

So going to events, looking at my network and seeing who knows people who have worked in the toy industry, or who have worked on product design and development, and then being… Asking them for introductions, so that I can learn from them. 

And that’s ultimately how I found the manufacturer and the designer that we work with now to bring our work from sketches to full product is going to Toy Fair and running into… Well, not running into… I deliberately went to go find Debra Sterling from GoldieBlox because she was the inspiration for our own Kickstarter campaign. 

I kept her business card for two years and when I reached out to her she was able to help us make the right relationships and find the right partnership.

David: So you mentioned that you did… You went to events, you networked, you were asking for intros. Is that sort of getting your hands dirty? Are those tactics something that you think are replicable for somebody who has the idea, but maybe doesn’t have the direct line on, “Okay, how do I get this thing produced and produced at scale?”

Yelitsa: Absolutely. I would say that for the toy industry, relationships are very important, and that’s how you can find qualified manufacturers that… ‘Cause people are not gonna recommend you someone who isn’t doing great work for them. 

So going to those industry events, so going to Toy Fair, going… Engaging with women and toys and like going to their networking events were ways that I was able to build relationships and find some of the people that I work with now. 

And that’s definitely what I direct people to do. I know really early on, I was joining a lot of Facebook groups with other business owners and finding people who weren’t necessarily in my industry, but doing work. I was like, “Oh, she has really great packaging design for her lipstick. Let me ask her who does that work so that maybe they can do something for toys.”

Yelitsa talks about the importance of building relationships

Bringing the Product to Market


David: Cool. And so once you track their manufacturer, or their… Was there a series of test dolls? What did the first steps look like to get Zoe in your hands?

Yelitsa: Yeah. So in order to bring the product to market, I launched a Kickstarter campaign during the summer of my junior year and we did $50,000 in pre-sales. And with that capital, we were able to work with our first manufacturer to develop the first design of our doll and we shipped that and people loved her, and we were getting tons of feedback. 

So we went back, re-designed her, worked out some kinks, and made her even better, and with our manufacturer, we were able to find the right materials, create the best product that I envisioned. 

This is the product that I’m most happy with. And I think that she’s perfect, but I’m also biased.

So it is a lot of back and forth. And bringing in a COO who has years of experience in the toy industry to work with them with regards to sampling, and picking the right materials and getting the price point just right, so that we can introduce it to the market. And those were some of the challenges that we dealt with, but we were able to find a great manufacturer because of the relationships that we had. 

So getting an introduction to Melissa and Doug, who… They’re not in our direct space, like our direct category of dolls, but they were able to introduce us to people who could find us the right factory.

Launching on Kickstarter


David: So $50,000 on Kickstarter… That’s a pretty big deal. Talk me through the process of launching on the platform and then having that success.

Yelitsa: It’s kind of crazy. Well, so we did Kickstarter because while I was in the MassChallenge accelerator program, I began to get the feeling that as a young woman, it would be particularly difficult to get venture capital. And maybe somebody told me that and I realized, if people are not gonna write me a check without proof of concept, I will have to do that. 

So we built out this really beautiful campaign. We did a great video and we really learned who our audience was and how to speak to them and show them the value of our product because we didn’t even have a prototype. We were telling the story. And so that’s what really sold to people. 

And we didn’t spend any money on ads or any marketing of any kind. It was all organic. 

And it was because we spent nine months before that Kickstarter campaign building our audience and going to events and doing tons of guerilla marketing to make sure that when we did launch the campaign, we know who was going to be backing it. And tapping our network for press contacts and getting people to write about it. So that’s how we were able to generate that first batch of revenue.

Yelitsa on telling the story

Being the Money


David: Now, this venture capital angle is interesting. You said that you were kind of swimming upstream, to put it nicely, given that you were a woman. Did that fuel you? Was that extra motivation?

 What was the sting of that like? Or maybe it was discouraging. I’m not sure. But what was the… How did that hit you, when you heard that maybe it wasn’t gonna work, the normal venture capital route?

Yelitsa: My parents have always prepared me to navigate the world under the understanding that I may not always be treated as equal because of how I look and who I am. And that doesn’t discourage me at all, it’s definitely fuel for the fire. Just the fact… Even with healthy results, in general, people telling me, “I don’t know if you can build this company.” And then I was like, “Okay, challenge accepted.” So… I’m going to do this now. 

And so I reckon… I think one of the things that I… One of the things that I talk to people a lot, especially young female founders who are just beginning their businesses, we don’t… 

We should not be chasing people, asking them to invest in the business when we are the opportunity and we’re presenting them with an opportunity to make money and be a part of something awesome. 

So if they don’t see that value, go find the people who are. So early on I saw that. 

I was like, “I can’t spend all my time trying to convince people to give me money. Let me go be money, and then the opportunities will come to me.”

David: And that’s how it played out, yeah?

Yelitsa: Yeah. I would say I… I wrote, on Medium, this article about how I made 2018 my year by minding my damn business. And it was literally about how I kept my head down and only worked on my business. 

So when I recognized VC wasn’t working, we had gotten our first check from Arlan Hamilton at Backstage Capital, but raising the rest of the round was more difficult, so I said, “Okay, I’m gonna build this company.” And I got into an accelerator program in Durham, North Carolina called the StartUp Stampede, where I learned all about ecommerce and doing digital marketing, and implementing strategies, and speaking to your audience. I won that competition, got a $100,000 worth of marketing services from the McKinney agency. From there, won the first New Voices Fund pitch competition at Essence Fest, got a grant in the fall, got our next investor. The next year we won a pitch competition at… We won the Detroit Demo Day. So we got $145,000 in grant and got our next investment of $100,000. 

So when I started doing the work and people started to see the value, the opportunities came.

Offering investors the chance to make money

Getting Hands-On With Sourcing Quality Materials


David: So you mentioned that when you started looking into the market for dolls that would be similar to Zoe, that there were a few out there, but that the hair, in particular, was one thing that would set Zoe apart. 

So, what was the process of ensuring quality materials, and especially when it came to the hair, which was gonna be one of the big differentiators between what you were offering and what was already out there?

Yelitsa: So I’m not sure if you’ve seen photos of me or visited my Instagram, but I’m very much a hair girl. It is one of my biggest passions. I do my own box braids, bantu knots, all these types of different hairstyles. And so I already had a ton of experience in the space of like, “Okay, this is what I know we’re looking for, and this is what I know materials work.” 

So using that knowledge, I was able to send samples to my manufacturer and have them source it on a larger scale, and then send them back to me for approval. So there were… 

You know how people will say, like, “Oh, you know, it’s like watching paint dry.” I was literally sitting at desks watching wigs dry and like approving the curl pattern and being like, “This isn’t curly enough for me, we need a different material.” 

So it was a lot of back and forth because not only is there a language barrier when you’re working with a manufacturer that’s overseas, but that cultural understanding of the materials and the space that we’re in, and saying… Having to explain to people that this is curly and not kinky, and like how do I explain “kinky”? Like it’s gotta be like zigzag. 

So there was definitely a challenge there, but we got it down, and we were able to produce something really beautiful and share that with our customers.

David: And so that was the starting product, but since then you’ve introduced additional products. Shampoo, conditioner, other items that supplement this beautiful head of hair that Zoe has. 

What was the thought process of expanding the product offering? Was that simpler than getting the doll off the ground, or were there new logistical hurdles to that? Tell me about these other supplemental products.

Yelitsa: Introducing the companion products was definitely way easier because we didn’t make any of them. They are from our partners. My Black is Beautiful from Procter & Gamble, they launched this hair care line around the same time that we were preparing to launch our doll. 

And My Black is Beautiful as a brand has always been about empowerment and helping women feel beautiful and celebrating diversity and that aligns perfectly with what Healthy Roots is doing for children in terms of teaching them to love themselves just the way they are and not feeling less than because of the texture of their hair or the color of their skin. 

And it was actually a continuation of what we had done in the previous year partnering with other toy companies to create our curl care kit, which we developed after we learned that, “Okay, our customers are loving this doll.”

But still, so many parents are coming to us and saying that when they go down the hair aisle, they literally do not know what products to buy. So what is a way that we can solve the problem of having a product that makes your kid feel beautiful, but also helps them have healthy hair? Let’s recommend products for them in this kit that’s basically a natural hair starter kit, and you can try out things and see if it works for you. 

And so we launched that product with… We launched our newly designed doll with My Black is Beautiful, and we devised this whole bundle. So Zoe is wearing a My Black is Beautiful t-shirt, the kids got a My Black is Beautiful t-shirt, and they got the curl care kit featuring the full line of my Black is Beautiful products for a special promotion for 2019. It’s over now, but people keep asking about it, and I really would love to do something like that again for sure.

Zoe supplemental products

Getting to Know Zoe


David: Nice. Let me ask you about Zoe herself. You have a little bio for on the website, and I’m curious about the personality or the backstory, is it simply an adaptation of the fairytale character? Or Zoe, is she her own girl who has her own likes and dislikes? What’s up with the actual character at the center of the brand?

Yelitsa: Zoe is her own person. We had to give her own style, her own energy, and we’re really excited to show that in other products that we’re developing. Her backstory is basically that when she went to the hair salon with her mother, she saw this woman with big beautiful hair, with this beautiful afro. And she turned to her mom and said, “Why don’t… Why doesn’t my hair look like that?” And her mom said, “Do you want it to?” She’s like, “Yeah.” 

So then they went through the process of the big chop, which is when you cut off all of your chemically processed hair or straightened hair, and then you just grow your hair naturally. And so with her mother’s help, they learned all about taking care of her garden, which is what we like to call it and they grew some beautiful curls together. 

And so she’s here to teach other girls that they can grow their gardens and have healthy hair and be beautiful just the way they are.

Good Problems to Have


David: Okay, fair enough. Now, of course, you had certain business goals set out when you got into this, but you’ve also mentioned a few different times that you wanted Zoe to be an educational tool and a way to empower young girls. 

How do you feel now that Zoe has been such a success, not just on the business side of that, but on these adjacent goals that you had that were more around what the doll would mean to other people?

Yelitsa: So I’ll just bring in the tweet since we haven’t talked about it. I had been working on… We literally had sold out last week, and then I sent that tweet, and it was very timely ’cause I had literally just redone the website and gotten the team ready to take pre-orders and I was debating whether or not we should do it. 

And seeing people, and during this time being able to resonate with just a really cute product with a great message and meaning, makes all my work meaningful. The fact that we get so many customer reviews where parents are saying the first thing their daughter said is, “Oh my God, she looks just like me.” That is the exact moment that we’re looking for when we created this product. 

So for me, I mean, I’m all gushy, ’cause I’m just like, “Wow, kids really love this.” And a lot of my friends who work in children’s media, we regularly have conversations where we talk about, “Do we realize that we’re making the products that will empower and influence the children of today for tomorrow that we had when we were little?” 

I think about books that I was reading when I was a kid, and snow day, and all these things that I was consuming it’s like, “Wow, you’re making these children’s books and I’m making these dolls, and kids are gonna remember it, and it’s gonna impact them for the rest of their lives, wow!”

Zoe's curl care kit

David: Yeah, it’s awesome. Now you mentioned the tweet. We can dwell on that for a moment, so it’s gotten more than 900,000 likes, it’s got 130,000 retweets, and God only knows what those numbers are gonna be when this publishes. 

You’re active on Twitter. It looks like you have 14,000 tweets, so it’s not like you’re new to this, but I had to imagine that this tweet that you’re talking about and the ensuing thread which is bottomless, it must have been a bit mind-blowing.

Yelitsa: It was. You know, I’ve never… I’m not on social media to go viral. I definitely would not wanna do this again, it’s been a lot. But you know, I’m on social… It’s a lot of work, you guys.

I’m on social media to share my story, to talk to other people, and to learn from other people. 

So the opportunity for Healthy Roots Dolls to have been shared so massively is incredibly meaningful for me because we have been doing this work and it just means that we get to impact even more children. It was definitely timely. We’re getting ready for our next production, we’re introducing new customers, we’re making new friends, we’re building a lot of new relationships. And so I’m really excited to see what opportunities come out of it, and what we’re able to produce for children.

David: Your dolls are, as you mentioned, they’re sold out. You’re taking pre-orders that… According to the comments and the tweets, it looks like you’re probably getting a lot of pre-orders…

Yelitsa: Yes.

David: Based on what people are saying. How has it been trying to turn around another shipment and deal with the overwhelming demand that you’ve seen in recent weeks?

Yelitsa: So full context, this is our first year being fully operational with products although we’re sold out right now. And so I’m figuring out, this is… 

It’s been interesting because we had an uptick in sales from COVID, and now we’re having an uptick in sales from being viral. 

So I haven’t really determined what a typical supply chain would look like, like how many… I’m never… Like, when am I gonna get to know what it’s really like to sell throughout a year with no craziness? So we’re figuring that out. We’re seeing like… ‘Cause now it’s impacting holiday season, and like, “Okay, when do we hit our… When do we place our next order, and for how many,” and da, da, da, da, da. 

So it’s an interesting way for us to measure demand and maybe introduce new products along with the doll. But yeah, that’s what I can say about that. It’s been very interesting. My COO, and I, and the factories are working very, very hard. I will say this on the podcast, we are working on international shipping, please do not ask me every single day.

David: Cool. So we’ll be able to get them over here in Germany soon. That’s good.

Yelitsa: Yes.

David: That’s good to know. I think having multiple things tip you into being sold out, it’s a good first-year problem to have, I would say, compared to what your other problems might be.

Yelitsa: I just tweeted about this where I said, like, “All of my mentors are saying these are good problems to have because they’re not having the problem.” I’m very stressed.

David: Okay, that’s true. I’ve never had to mass manufacture a doll, so yeah, you can tell me to shove it if you want.

Yelitsa: No, but it’s very true. These are good problems to have, and I’m happy to solve them.

David: But you mentioned that social is not necessarily something that you seek out constantly and that it’s been a bit exhausting. What has the really massive exposure been like just on the… Not from the business side, but just from the personal side? What has that done to your psyche, or your energy, or you know those things that you kinda need to keep in check, to keep things going?

Yelitsa: I will say that it’s overwhelming and it’s interesting because you know when you go viral, you expect to be really happy and excited, and like, “Oh, my God, I’m… This is great.” And I do have those feelings. But I also have this feeling of, you know, “There’s a lot of responsibility now, and I do not wanna disappoint. So let me make sure that everything runs smoothly, and we can make people happy.” So that’s the other… 

I’m feeling the weight and the pressure, but it’s good pressure. Because it means that people care and people value our work.

Feeling pressure is a good problem to have, says Yelitsa

Creating Value


David: And so what are the goals? I mean, if you… What would “not disappointing” look like moving forward?

Yelitsa: So not disappointing is being able to, you know, be the… ‘Cause people are putting a lot of their wants on the company. I don’t know if the word is “wants”, but like their ideals where they’re like, “I would love to see this kind of doll,” or “I would love to see these kinds of products.” 

And you know, so we’re always listening to customers. That’s one thing that, during COVID, we’ve really doubled down on because we’re having more conversations, we’re getting more tickets. And communicating with them is like, “What are our customers looking for? And what are the pain points and problems that they’re having, that I as someone who doesn’t have any children that may not have the same shared experiences as them can listen and develop new exciting products for them?” 

The future for the company is being a multicultural children’s product. So we’re not just making dolls, we’re making all types of children’s products and play experiences. 

So what other value can we create for people? And that’s how I make sure I don’t disappoint them by always thinking forward and seeing opportunities to create value for them.

David: So I actually wanted to ask you about the roadmap for what was next. So it sounds like this is your thing. I mean, you maybe didn’t set out to get into the dolls or toys at the beginning, but now that you’re there, you’ve accumulated this expertise, is this where you wanna set up shop for the time being as far as your businesses go?

Yelitsa: My life’s purpose is to do meaningful work. And I know that when I was applying for art school, one thing that I said in a lot of my college essays was about how artists have a unique responsibility in the work that we create to educate, empower, and influence. And so that’s what I’m doing with Healthy Roots Dolls. 

So even if I wasn’t doing Healthy Roots Dolls, I would be doing something that would be meaningful, and addressing the issues that we’re facing in this world. So I do Healthy Roots Dolls because I see that it’s working and I’m gonna keep doing it as long as it works.

The responsibility of artists, according to Yelitsa

Marketing and Creating Meaningful Content


David: The exposure recently has been, as you said, not entirely normal. There are viral tweets going on so this is definitely a bit of an anomaly right now. But before this craziness that you’re in at the moment, what was the marketing strategy for the normal time? How were you trying to get Zoe and the accompanying products to the markets with a more normal marketing approach?

Yelitsa: Yeah, so we use Shopify, obviously.

David: Awesome, awesome.

Yelitsa: Shopify allows us to use a lot of apps and the integrations that help us get people to convert and get people into our funnel and make our website really great. So what we were doing before… Our partnership with My Black Is Beautiful was definitely the catalyst for the way that we were marketing and reaching people, so that relationship was a big part of it. 

And then also the way that we were creating content, so we were running ads, of course, Facebook and Instagram, and doing lead gen, and also email marketing, creating meaningful content for people’s inboxes to help them understand our product, and our mission and our value. 

But that’s pretty much it. Some influencer marketing, some organic press, but really just our customers telling their friends that they love this doll.

David: What is meaningful content? I think that that’s a great way to put it. But I’m curious what that looks like to you. When you say meaningful content, what is that?

Yelitsa: So our inbox… The emails that we send customers are not, “Get this. Buy one, get one, half off. Going out.”

David: Discount code.

Yelitsa: No, we actually don’t even offer discount codes. We have a rewards program, and I think that just speaks to how much people believe in the value of our product, that they are paying full price and they’re signing up for the rewards program and getting points so that they can get discounts on future purchases because they’re investing in the business and the mission… Not the mission, but the brand that we’re building and the experience that we’re creating. 

So our emails, we… We’re talking to parents. We’re talking to people who care about representation, about cute kids, and so we put that in the emails. We know that kids are at home right now, so they don’t really have anything to do, so sending them an email for a TikTok challenge with their Zoe dolls so that they can do something really fun and cute and sharing it with our audience. 

So that’s what I mean by meaningful content is educational information in regards to hair care, empowering messages for parents to share with their children, and fun activities for them to do with their dolls.

David: I wanna circle back and ask you about your parents. Now that you’ve accomplished what you’ve accomplished and that you have so much cool stuff, presumably, coming up… Coming down the pike, what do they say? Thinking back on you enrolling in art school and the angst that they had over that compared to what’s going on now.

Yelitsa: That’s really hard because I don’t think my parents really know what I do. To be 100 percent candid, they just know that I don’t ask them for money and that I buy them things.

David: Right.

Yelitsa: Like, “Mom, do you wanna go to Paris? Cool, okay.” That’s basically it, ’cause my parents do not… They’re not a part of American culture in the same way that other people’s parents are necessarily… They’re not consuming, besides CNN, they’re not following Forbes and da da da da da. So in order for me to explain to my mom the viral tweet, I would have to explain Twitter, and then I have to explain social media, and I have to explain the Internet. 

But no, my parents are very proud. They are very proud of what I’m doing, and I sent my dad… He works in a nursing home, and I was like, “Dad, I forgot to send you a doll.” He was like, “Yes, please send me one so I can put it in the common space, so people can see the beautiful product that you made.” I’m like, “Aww, he said something nice to me for once. Look at him. Thank you, Dad.” 

So that’s my relationship with my parents and the work that I’m doing. They typically will come to me and say things about it when their friends say something first, so I’m like, “Oh, now you’re happy. Okay, your friends know about this project.”

David: That’s good if they’re bragging about you.

Yelitsa: Yeah, definitely.

Yelitsa’s Book Recommendation


David: Yeah. So one last question for you, Yelitsa, then, I’ll let you get out of here. I’m curious if there’s one thing or a couple of things that you think everybody listening should read, or watch, or listen to, or subscribe to, just any cool content, anything that you find particularly educational or inspirational that you think people should not be living without.

Yelitsa: So I definitely recommend Arlan Hamilton’s book, “It’s About Damn Time.” That’s something that I’ve recently purchased. Even though she’s my investor, reading the story is different. It’s different. Arlan’s whole purpose is… She’s not investing in under-represented founders, she’s investing in underestimated founders. 

She’s looking for grit. She’s looking for people who have, despite not getting the opportunities and the capital that other people have, have made it happen regardless, just like she did. 

So that’s a really inspiring book that I recommend.

David: Great. Yelitsa, we can leave it there. Again, the website is Beautiful website, great content, great images. It’s an awesome, awesome store, so thank you so much for taking the time to chat.

Yelitsa: Thank you for having me.

Want to Learn More?