11-Year-Old Black Doll Business Owner Surprised With $10,000 Grant

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Voice

Evana and Zoe Oli, mother and daughter business partners of Beautiful Curly Me, were caught off guard when former Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams showed up at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) to give them a $10,000 check from Verizon during an interview with the local TV show, Atlanta & Company.

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According to the Atlanta Voice, the mother-daughter combo was taken aback by the presentation and questioned its authenticity.

Russell Center staff members decided to surprise two center stakeholders. The money was granted by Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready program and its affiliate, LISC.

Zoe Oli, the 11-year-old CEO of Beautiful Curly Me, claimed that the grant is on track.The young entrepreneur has great plans for how to spend the money. This Christmas, Oli proclaimed, “I’m going to use every cent to expand my company, my social impact, and the line of dolls.”

Williams’ mother told him about her after a brief contact with the young CEO. The three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year underlined the importance of encouraging youth to pursue their dreams.

“She’s a young entrepreneur, doing a lot of positive things. I think it’s important, especially with young people to have a vision, to have goals that they want to accomplish in the future,” Williams said. He believes it’s important whenever community members like him can assist a young person.

According to Verizon Communications Officer Bernadette Brijlall, the telecom giant launched its ‘Digital Ready’ initiative two years ago after noticing that many small businesses were struggling to compete in the current digital economy.

“We saw that small businesses had a need for influence marketing, tax support, how to get a website, etc.,” Brijall said; adding that the project helps “tens of thousands” of small businesses.

Zoe began her entrepreneurial path when she was seven years old. Her mother got her a black doll when she was six years old. “I loved that doll, but it didn’t have curly hair like mine,” she said.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to obtain a black doll with the desired hairstyle in stores, the young CEO created her own; not only for herself, but also for other girls who shared her wish.

Beautiful Curly Me, an Atlanta-based firm, makes three black dolls named Bella, Anika, and Leyla. Customers can also purchase affirmation puzzles, apparel, hair items for girls and dolls, hair accessories, and Zoe’s books.

The business has since reached new heights. According to The Neighbor, on May 3, 2023, Barclays US Consumer Bank’s third annual Small Business Big Wins competition saw Beautiful Curly Me place third, earning a $20,000 cash prize.

Despite the tough competition, more than 14,000 businesses signed up for participation — Beautiful Curly Me was chosen as a Top 10 finalist. Evana said, “We got to see how much people really love and support us. “It was really heartwarming to know we have a true community around the brand and what it stands for,” according to Black Enterprise.

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