With close family ties to West Africa – in particular, Cabo Verde and Ghana – Melissa Orijin and her husband taught their eldest daughter to be proud of her roots.
Their efforts worked until their daughter became the only black girl in her class at school and her confidence started to drop. This experience led her to dislike the texture of her hair and the color of her skin and, in turn, to favor Caucasian dolls. Orijin’s efforts to find a doll that looked like his daughter in the local department store’s toy aisle proved futile. Then a pioneering business idea emerged when Melissa’s husband, Archyn, suggested, “Why don’t you just make the dolls you want to see?”
How an Epiphany Became a Booming Business
This epiphany turned into a passion project for Melissa. She says her then four-year-old daughter Esi inspired her to start Orijin Bees. The company is a collection of dolls authentically representing Black and Brown children. “From their facial features, variety of skin tones and range of curl patterns, our Baby Bee dolls are on a mission to encourage self-love and inclusion during play,” says Orijin.
Launched over three years ago, Orijin Bees has caught fire with retailers and celebrities. The toys landed on Oprah’s list of favorite things in 2021 and were included in Amazon’s “Toys We Love” for 2021 and 2022. “Celebrities have also shown love for the dolls,” says Melissa Origin. Earlier this year, Orijin said Kandi Burrus suggested making Orijin Bees the “next big brand for kids” during a livestream. And Keke Palmer featured Orijin Bees while reporting on Women’s History Month with Amazon. “Everyone loves Keke and having her include Orijin Bees on her roster means everything to us,” says Orijin.
Expand offers to reach new customers
Orijin Bees now offers over 20 different Baby Bee dolls for kids three and up. The company recently launched Nu’Bee Plush Baby Dolls, a line representing newborn babies, and a new red-haired doll has been a hit. He plans to unveil a male version of Baby Bee Dolls this year.
Although the company is successful, starting Orijin Bees was no small feat. Orijin says she stumbled to become an entrepreneur in the toy industry, adding that her business is really an extension of her purpose as a mother. She continues to learn and gain experience as her business grows. In fact, one of her biggest challenges, she says, was leaving a stable career in financial services to operate Orijin Bees full-time.
“I was so nervous but I kept walking in this direction, one day at a time,” Orijin says. “Those nerves still haven’t gone away, but I’m relying on my faith to carry on.”
Challenges after launch
Another challenge was managing the overwhelming flood of orders after making Oprah’s favorite things list last year. She says it took extra logistical planning and forecasting to prepare for a successful holiday season. “We sold out several times, but we had systems in place to restock quickly so as not to disappoint customers,” says Orijin.
The budding entrepreneur invested $50,000 to start her business. Orijin says its start-up costs included manufacturing, logistics, product sampling and marketing payments. At every stage of development, Orijin points out that she has grown her business by keeping children at the forefront of strategic decisions.
The value of being an entrepreneur mom
Her research and project management skills proved extremely useful in her entrepreneurial activities and helped her overcome challenges. Being a mompreneur has been critical to the brand’s success by helping to fill the gaps in the industry that she shares with other moms. “Not only are mothers not getting enough credit to overcome the challenges of raising children,” Orijin also believes they are simultaneously playing the roles of CEO, COO, and CFO in their household.
She expects the company’s revenue to hit the seven-digit range in 2023. To further support growth, Orijin plans to increase product distribution to other national retailers and online stores, s to expand into international markets and sell more accessories and clothing for dolls and children. .
Grow with Amazon
Orijin Bees’ expansion has been largely driven by product sales in Amazon stores since 2020, says Orijin. She notes that showcasing her products in front of millions of potential customers around the world has
proved invaluable. “Customers who may have never heard of our brand can learn more about our products when shopping in the Amazon store. Otherwise, we would have missed these potential new customers.”
Last year, Orijin Bees began participating in Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator (BBA), a four-year, $150 million engagement program to help create sustainable diversity and provide opportunities for growth. to black-owned businesses.
“Programs like BBA give Black-owned businesses so many resources to support us and help accelerate our growth. From resources to specialists, advertising credits, media exposure and other opportunities, we are very grateful to have been selected to be part of this program,” says Orijin.
So what are Orijin’s growth aspirations over the next five years?
By 2027, she wants Orijin Bees to be a household name and reach over nine-figure revenue. “Five years ago I wouldn’t even have thought it would be a possibility, but I’ve learned that if you follow your goal, work hard, have the right team and have faith, anything is possible.”