Bakani ‘John’ Johnson has found a niche in the market for her black dolls. Not only are these selling like fat cakes locally but have entered the international market as well. She is shipping her products to countries such as Germany among others. She had to quit her fulltime job as a lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) to fully focus on the business. Hers has been a long journey to finally have a product that she can hold in her hand. As a former Clinical Social Worker, she used dolls for demonstrations and at one point she felt she needed to do that with a black doll. “We were always given so many dolls to work with but there was never a black doll. I went to all the stores to look for black dolls and there was nothing; that startled me because I never thought about it that way,” she said. That led to her curiosity, and she started asking people questions where some despite being black will just say that a black doll would be scary. Johnson’s dolls have been given characters and names; the other one is a daughter of a Kenyan and a Motswana in order to show that Africans are one and together they can make so much impact. She is called Amani and aspires to be a doctor. There is also Arefa who is a story teller and a writer while Aya is more about fashion and wants to be a fashionista. “They are also dressed in the local German prints and shawls in order to share with the world the story that Botswana has, and this will help all these young people learn to appreciate their culture and the African roots,” she said.
The project has generated excitement with some people showering her with their congratulatory messages. “People who sell the brand in their stores have revealed that the dolls are bought more by people who are not of African descent, and that makes it interesting for me to find out as to why buyers are not Batswana mostly,” she said. She is also worried about how the dolls are presented. She wants parents to hand the dolls to the children in either black and white without influencing the children’s taste about them. Johnson has involved a few people in the crafting of the dolls from those that design the clothes to those that do the hair and packaging. She is very committed to end up creating an empire that will hire many people because the project is thrilling to many and has a lot of potential for growth. She wants a situation where the dolls will have ambassadors so that the young ones can appreciate the mortal presentations of the dolls just the way they experience the princesses that they always see at places like Disney. She believes that she will build the momentum that she wants and is open to ideas to help develop the brand even further.