For a number of years, Thabisile Mthethwa and her husband, Brooks, struggled to find the perfect doll for their eight-year-old daughter, Khwezi.
“This whole thing started when we were looking for a doll for her. One that looked like her and had a name. She kept asking us for one, but we couldn’t find a suitable doll” she says.
This inspired Brooks to come up with a concept, which involved designing backpacks and T-shirts featuring black characters Dudu and Sipho.
The characters were well received and many parents bought the merchandise.
With kids loving the new characters, the Mthethwas wanted to create a cartoon series, but this proved quite a challenge.
Seeing that it was going to take time to get buy-in for a TV series, Brooks decided to work on a book.
“We want kids to watch Dudu and Sipho. The other important element of the brand is for children to learn from a very early age to appreciate and be proud of who they are.
Another important element is for them to be familiar with characters who look like they do, so that they don’t feel inferior,” says Thabisile.
She explains that if children grow up watching other races being depicted as superior, they grow up thinking that they can’t achieve certain things.
The story begins with Dudu and Sipho visiting their grandmother at some village. The kids learn valuable lessons in the book about money and saving.
Getting the book published wasn’t easy, as they had to find a publisher who believed in the project.
As the couple are not yet established entrepreneurs, they are using word of mouth and social media to market the book and other products.
“We are also attending exhibitions around KwaZulu-Natal and the feedback has been great. We’ve also received great feedback on social media,” she says. They hope that this will help to raise awareness of the brand.
They also produced samples of black dolls and are currently in talks with a toy company to help with manufacturing them. “We’ve only done samples of the dolls. We don’t have them available. We are negotiating with a toy company to manufacture them. One of the issues is that we are still small and operate from home. We don’t have enough space to house thousands of dolls,” she says. They have also received interest from a company in Kenya that would like to distribute the dolls and the book.
The book is available here: Buy Now