Shaneisha Dodson, founder of Brilliant Girl. (Credit: Courtesy of Brilliant Girl)

Shaneisha Dodson’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was reading bedtime stories to her niece. She noticed that many of the children’s books available failed to represent Black and brown girls. So, she wrote her own: “The Adventures of Sugamama,” which tells the story of a little Black girl who wakes up in the middle of the night to find that she’s become a superhero. This led to her making an accompanying Sugamama doll, which then led to her making a full-fledged business: Brilliant Girl. Today, the Burbank, California, entrepreneur is working hard to get the word out about her e-commerce store, driven by her belief that every child should be able to see themselves represented in what they play with and read. 

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

How is your business different from others in your industry?

We are a woman-owned small business that happens to be the creator of the first 18-inch black superhero doll, Sugamama.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

Donating more than 125 dolls and books to children over the holidays. And, I plan to increase that number this year by collaborating with several nonprofit organizations. Giving back to my community makes me feel good because I’m able to put a smile on a child’s face, and do something for those in need.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Getting exposure. As a new, small business, it’s difficult to raise awareness about your work and products, because you have to juggle so many other things simultaneously – all while sticking to a limited budget. I’ve addressed this by hiring a publicist and being more present on social media, both of which have helped. 

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

Do your research, so that you can operate every aspect of your business yourself, if necessary. 

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

I pray.

What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?

“The Storm is Over Now” by Kirk Franklin.

Who is your most important role model?

My mother. Growing up, I watched her work two jobs. But no matter how hard times were, she always figured out a way to make things work. Her resilience is what inspired me to pursue my dreams. ◼

Instagram: @the_brilliantgirl
Facebook: @brilliantgirl

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