22-Year-Old University Of Houston Student Datreese Thomas Launches Doll Company To Empower Black Girls
Photo Credit: Datreese Thomas / The Melanie Dolls

22-Year-Old University Of Houston Student Datreese Thomas Launches Doll Company To Empower Black Girls

The coming of age story can lead to a beautiful destination.

Datreese Thomas dived into a journey of self-discovery after experiencing growing pains during her freshman year at the University of Houston. Datreese Thomas’ season of becoming led to her first business venture, The Melanie Dolls. The student turned entrepreneur wanted to empower Black girls in their journey of becoming.

“I wanted to help Black girls feel beautiful, gain courage, and just develop self-love. I do that by providing a product that helps young Black girls individually see themselves better. I truly believe the company I created is a clear reflection of the journey that I had to go through with myself,” Datreese Thomas told AfroTech.

One-Woman Show

At just 22-years-old, Datreese Thomas is a one-woman show. The economics major created The Melanie Dolls from the ground up and currently sustains the company with her own funding.

Thomas applied for various grants but had no luck, and refused to keep her ideas on the table. Over the course of a year, Thomas saved money from her internship to put toward The Melanie Dolls then successfully launched her business in 2021.

“Honestly, I have not acquired any support. I am like a self sustained small business right now,” Thomas said. “I’ve tried to apply for grants and different things to help with my business, but I’ve never ever been able to acquire any of that. I had to make a decision to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this.’  Me saying I’m gonna do this, is me giving everything.” 

Thomas Designed The Doll To Reflect Her Black Experience

The Melanie Dolls has released one product offering and it speaks for itself. When unraveling the Breonna doll, you will be delighted by the stylish all-Black attire designed by Thomas and the bountiful hair paired with elegant earrings. Thomas’ inspiration for the adorned look stemmed from her real-world experiences as a Black woman and an opportunity to pay homage to the Black Panther Party.

“I was inspired by the Black Panther party and I know that they always wore all black. I loved what they stood for and the values they stood on,” Thomas said.

She continued: “The hair is my Black experience in life, so they’re hairstyles I’ve worn in my life or that I’ve seen a Black woman wear before.”

Doll fanatics can look forward to the official release of the Breonna doll in March 2022. There will be more in store, as the company will also launch the Angela doll at an undisclosed date this year.

The Melanie Movement

Drawing from her experience as an entrepreneur, Thomas recognizes other Black creators face similar obstacles. Thomas plans on using a portion of her profits from the company to launch her nonprofit, The Melanin Movement. It will financially empower the creative talent brewing in Black communities.

“I just know that there are so many creatives out here with genius minds and great ideas, but they just don’t have the platform or resources to get them out there.  I’m taking my own money and I’m going to create economical freedom for other Black people who want to be entrepreneurs,” Thomas said.