DALLAS -- Brooke Hart Jones needed a gift for the pre-school daughter of a college friend but what she wanted to give wasn’t out there. So, she created it.
Three years later, Dallas-based HBCyoU Dolls is having a successful second holiday shopping season selling 18-inch dolls that pay tribute to the traditions and culture of historically Black colleges and universities.
The pandemic gave Hart Jones time to try something new, to bring to life one of the many ideas that she only had time to think about until she was furloughed from Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s where she was a merchandise buyer.
“You don’t realize how much time you spend in the car until you stop,” Hart Jones said. “I was a former toy buyer, a lifelong doll lover and an HBCU alum, so I thought, why don’t I try this?”
The Dallas native and Kimball High School graduate is a third-generation alum of an HBCU. She completed her degree in finance from Hampton University in Virginia and later took merchandising classes at the University of North Texas before she joined JCPenney in Plano as a merchandising trainee.
Hampton is now one of seven HBCUs so far where the company has received licenses to create school-specific cheerleading captain dolls and letterman and graduate plush bears. The other HBCUs are Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, FAMU, Clark Atlanta and Tuskegee.
The dolls target ages 3 and up and all have names, interests and leadership positions at an HBCUs such as student body president, majorette, cheer captain and member of the royal homecoming court.
“The subculture message is beyond the beautiful skin and hair. You play hard and maybe a cheerleader, but you’re also a physics major,” Hart Jones said.
The timing was right for the HBCU dolls with increased awareness after the tragic killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed. There was a need to fill the equity gap, demand in the market and retailers were more compelled to support Black founders, Hart Jones said.
She started out making dolls at home and selling them online. “They weren’t as polished as our dolls you see today, no fancy packaging.”
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