At just 9 years old, Zoe Oli is already behind a fledgling business that's hoping to make a change for young Black girls around the country.
Zoe, and her mom, Evana, started Beautiful Curly Me — a line of Black dolls featuring curly and braided hair. The duo says there were inspired to create the toys after Zoe began questioning why her hair didn't look like the hairstyles of the other girls at her school.
"When I was six years old, I did not like my hair and I wished it was straight like my classmates," Zoe, the CEO of the company, tells PEOPLE (the TV Show!) in Friday's episode. "I asked my mom, 'Why isn't my hair straight and pretty like my classmates?' And so when I told her about this, she wanted to do everything to help empower me."
When she looked at the toys she had, Zoe also noticed the dolls didn't have hair that matched hers, either.
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"I asked [my mom], why doesn't the doll have hair that looks like mine?" she recalls. "We should have dolls that have curls and braids, so other girls can see themselves and their dolls and feel beautiful."
"I told her I wanted to make dolls that have curls and braids, and I wanted to start a company," Zoe added.
Evana says hearing her daughter's concerns was an eye-opening experience.
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"It was such an awful feeling," she says. "What mother wants to hear their daughter doesn't like their hair, doesn't like what they look like naturally. And so, that really hurt me."
"I sprung into action and I just was trying my best to do everything possible, to just make her feel beautiful because she is beautiful," she continued.
Now three years later, Beautiful Curly Me has expanded to providing books, face masks and clothing.
Through a recent campaign, the Gift-a-Doll initiative, the company donated 10 percent of all their proceeds to charities that focus on girls, according to their website. Next, they're aiming to donate 5,000 dolls and books this year.
"You are beautiful and you are smart," Zoe says of what she hopes young girls around the country remember. "You can do anything you put your mind to."
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