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Top of Their Class: Purpose Toys’ HBCU-Inspired Dolls Debut at Target In First Big Step Toward Taking on the $102.5 Billion Market

Move over, Barbie. Black toy startup Purpose Toys has debuted a line of HBCU-inspired dolls. 

HBCYoU Dolls are now on the shelves at Target for $34.99.

The culturally-relevant dolls were initially created by Brooke Hart Jones with the aim to “share the magic of Historically Black Colleges and Universities by advancing the concept of higher learning to young children in early play.”

DeeDee Wright-Ward, founder and CEO of Purpose Toys

A Hampton University alum, Jones partnered with Black-owned Purpose Toys to bring the dolls to a larger market. Jones founded HBCYoU Dolls in 2020 as a way to highlight historically Black colleges and universities. Each 18-inch doll has textured hair and comes in a range of melanated skin tones.

They also wear the logos of select HBCUs such as Clark Atlanta University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tuskegee University. There are three characters, “Hope Student Body President Doll,” “Homecoming Queen Doll Nicole,” and the “Cheer Captain Doll.” The dolls, marketed for children ages 3 and up, feature removable varsity jackets, HBCU T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers are interchangeable with the other dolls in the HBCU line.

Brooke Hart Jones, founder of HBCYoU Dolls

Besides repping a certain school, the dolls also represent a field of study or interest as well. One doll is pre-med, while another is captain of the debate team.

“At Purpose, our product is more about bringing culture to the toy aisle and less about simply offering skin tone/ color. Any company can provide dolls of color. Through HBCU and Brooke Hart Jones, Purpose aims to not only uplift but highlight talented entrepreneurs and celebrate our amazing culture through toys,” DeeDee Wright-Ward, founder and CEO of Purpose Toys, said in a press statement.

Purpose Toys was founded by entrepreneur and brand specialist DeeDee Wright-Ward with a mission to partner with promising Black toy creatives, such as Jones.  

Wright-Ward is also a toy designer herself. She created Naturalistas, is a line of natural hair fashion dolls designed as “A Celebration of Natural Coils, Curls and Crowns.” Naturalistas Dolls retail for $12.99 and feature seven aspirational characters, all with authentic hair textures.

The Naturalista brand also offers two “Crown and Coils” and “Crown and Curls” Styling Heads, each at $29.99. According to Purpose Toys, Naturalistas is the first toy line to offer specific Natural Hair textured styling heads, with special 3C and 4A hair textures.

“The African American community is a nuanced, multi-dimensional group with varying sensibilities and experiences. Through Naturalistas and HBCU Dolls, Purpose Toys ushers in the perfect opportunity to honor the uniqueness and multifaceted nature of not only our community, but African American culture. While ‘diversity,’ ‘representation’ and ‘inclusion’ are slowly becoming the corporate norm, more work needs to be done to bring cultural nuances, authentic brand stories, and Black ownership to the toy aisle. We hope to affect positive change not only in toy development, but in business overall,” said Wright-Ward. 

Resides provided culturally relevant dolls and toys, Purpose is hoping to carve out a niche in the growing and often-crowded doll and toy market.

In 2019, the global doll, toy and game market reached sales of nearly $102.5 billion, having experienced an increase of 7.1 percent since 2015. The sector is expected to grow to $128.0 billion in 2023.

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