29 July 2020
Olivia Thompson is the founder of Akila Dolls, that provide a range of diverse and disability baby dolls, launched nine months ago. After Olivia left her full-time job in a law firm to become a carer for her then seven year old daughter. It was on a shopping trip with her daughter, Amira, that they both noticed the lack of diversity and disability dolls in the high street shops. With only a few savings Olivia began work on the doll illustration, packaging and concept book. During a global pandemic and homeschooling her daughter in June 2020 she successfully raised £6,000 through a crowdfunding platform to begin the manufacturing of the doll prototype. In the early stages of the business, Olivia used Business & IP Centre Leeds and one of their IP sessions.
I love waking up on a Monday knowing that I’m working for myself and doing something I am really passionate about. No more rushing out of the house before 7am trying to get my daughter to her childminders house before I start work. My daughter is now at an age where she can generally sort herself out in the morning. We’re currently coming out of a three-month lockdown due to COVID-19, so my daughter has been at home since March. I try to get started on work by 9am each morning, using my dining table as my work desk. I always start my day by checking my work emails and seeing what appointments or commitments I may have that day. After responding to some emails I post on my social media accounts my morning motivation quote and check my notifications. I receive an email from Leeds City Region Enterprise arranging a meeting for next week to discuss innovation support so I can develop my product further. My work day ends at 3pm as my daughter has her piano lesson at 3.30pm
Work again starts at 9am after getting my daughter ready for the day. I post on my social media every morning with a motivational quote and any new updates I may have for my followers to keep them updated on my business development. I usually plan my posts ahead, so that I can keep organised. I reply to any comments or messages I may have received. This helps gives my businesses page maximum exposure and to also stay connected with my followers. My daughter has an appointment at 10.30am with our family support worker Mel, after not seeing her in over four months it’s lovely to get back into our routine and have a good catch up. It’s also important for Amira to start getting out of the house and socialising with other people. She had a lovely morning painting and telling Mel all about her upcoming birthday. I spend the afternoon researching fabric manufacturers in the U.K. Myself and my friend Sophie designed an exclusive range of fabric swatches a few months ago for the dolls clothing and accessories.
The day starts like every other day, unfortunately, Amira is not having a good day. After calming her down we go on a trip to the park and anything work-related is put on pause until she’s in bed. It’s times like these when she really needs me and I’ve got a busy work schedule I have to prioritise what’s more important, obviously, that’s Amira.
Today I have a meeting booked in with student from Leeds University who is doing her masters dissertation on nascent entrepreneur facilitation in the black Caribbean community in the U.K. We had a lovely talk discussing social capital access for black entrepreneurs and whether its use has seen elevations in ones entrepreneurial success. I finish my day having a meeting with my website designer Shaun.
On Fridays, I plan the Instagram (@akila_dolls) and Facebook (@HelpSupportAkilaDolls) schedule for the week ahead. Instagram is becoming a big part of my business, within the last three months I have almost 600 followers. I check my calendar for the week ahead and make sure all my meetings are scheduled in. By planning ahead it makes my life a lot easier, especially with Amira’s autism, you never know whether a day will be good or bad. Tonight is an extra special night for me as I am finally able to go out and celebrate all my achievements these last few months with my best friend Chloe.
Once the weekend arrives it’s time to spend time with my daughter and family. We enjoy going on a drive to the countryside, and just switching off. Anything work-related will wait until Monday.