A Naturally Perfect Solution

Photo Credit: Steven Boxall
Photo Credit: Steven Boxall
Photo Credit: Steven Boxall
Photo Credit: Steven Boxall

Angelica Sweeting (BBA '09), Founder, Naturally Perfect Dolls

BY BOB WOODS

Angelica Sweeting and her husband, Jason, didn’t know quite what to do when their 4-year-old daughter announced that she wanted long, blond hair like a Barbie doll’s. The African-American couple assured the little girl that her curly black hair was beautiful, but that didn’t end the matter. “We wanted to create a solution,” Sweeting says, recalling the 2014 episode.

The solution is Naturally Perfect Dolls, a line of 18-inch vinyl dolls with dark complexions, wide noses, full lips and hair like Sweeting’s daughter’s. “We saw how important visual representation is for young girls to cultivate a positive self-image as it relates to beauty,” Sweeting explains. To finance the venture, she launched a Kickstarter campaign in May 2015, aiming to raise $25,000.

“Within 48 hours, we met that goal,” she says. Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, and other media picked up on the feel-good story, and “after 30 days, we ended up with nearly $85,000.” Sweeting was overwhelmed by strangers’ generosity, but also by the amount of work required before and after the campaign. She quit her job, then spent four months research-ing the doll market, producing the

prototype, blitzing her social media network and emailing “bloggers, influencers and anyone possibly interested in our product.” The key to a successful campaign, she learned, is generating pre-launch awareness.

Another daunting task was delivering the dolls promised to her backers, the quid pro quo developed

by Kickstarter and other rewards-based crowdfunding platforms. “We underestimated how much work and money it would take to produce, ship and deliver the dolls,” Sweeting says.

Naturally Perfect now offers four different dolls – all exemplifying girls of color and priced at $85 each. It is on track to generate $500,000 in online-only sales during 2016, with plans to expand into retail stores. Despite the significant effort it required, “I’m a 100% advocate of crowdfunding,” Sweeting says. “It gives people, no matter who or where you are, a chance to start a business.”

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