Taofick Okoya was trying to find a doll for his niece a few years ago. He lives in Nigeria and was appalled at the fact that he couldn’t find a black doll. Barbie has produced dolls of other races but there aren’t many and they are not anywhere near as readily available as the white dolls. So Okoya decided to take matters into his own hands and start up a doll company of his own.
He got a third party company in China to manufacture the doll parts and then when they were shipped to him he would put them together. He then made clothes for the dolls that looked like traditional Nigerian clothing. This made the dolls very unique and business grew very quickly. He sells them in a shop in a shopping mall in Lagos. Each year Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 dolls. He thinks that he has a pretty good chunk of the doll market worldwide and estimates that he holds at least 10-15% of it.
The economy in Nigeria is one of the fastest growing in the world so it is no surprise that the dolls are selling like hot cakes. Little girls who see them in the shopping mall are excited because there is finally a doll that they can have that looks like them. Okoya says that the key is appealing to the demographic in the area that you are selling in. Having the dolls dressed in traditional Nigerian garb makes them very authentic to the area and the culture which makes them more desirable. It allows little girls to be proud of their heritage and show it off with their new toy.
Mattel and other companies like them have not tapped into this growing market but the longer they wait the better Okoya does with his business. By the time they get into the market it will already be ruled by Okoya’s “Queens of Africa” dolls. The dolls sell for amounts up to $22 (3,500 naira which is the Nigerian currency). These make them very affordable to the people who live in the area.