August 02, 2012
By Chida R. Warren-Darby
Special to the NNPA
The San Diego Voice & Viewpoint Newspaper
Dr. Lisa Williams is a petite, beautiful brown skinned woman, with a broad endearing smile. She’s genuine, compassionate, soulful, and is the creator of Positively Perfect Dolls. No this isn’t a story about a woman who all her life desired to make dolls and sell them to little girls, and this isn’t a story about a woman seeking fortune and fame. This is a story about a woman who had the greater desire to fill a need. “I don’t create dolls. I show the beauty in our children. I see myself as healing generations,” says Williams.
A visionary leader, award winning speaker and author, Dr. Lisa (as she is affectionately known) is the CEO of the World Of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (World of EPI), LLC. The World of EPI was formed with the mission to be an expression of joy. Williams is also known for her ability to motivate executives, future leaders and audiences of all sizes. In addition to winning numerous teaching awards from major universities such as Penn State, Ohio State and the University of Arkansas, Williams is the first female to hold a multimillion dollar endowed chair in her field, the first African American female to graduate from the Ohio State University’s Marketing and Logistics Department, and the second woman in her discipline to become a full professor.
Williams has dedicated her life to educating and developing future and current leaders. Major corporations and President Clinton’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection have sought her advice. Williams’ research has practical and global implications and as such she has spoken to audiences in the United States, Belgium, Austria, Canada, London and Australia.
With numerous accolades under her wings, Williams has triumphantly created a flight path to success. But while on her journey of enlightening people through education, she realized that God yet required more of her. After publishing her book “Leading Beyond Excellence,” Williams developed a partnership with Walmart, in which her books sold extremely well. It was something in her book that showed Walmart, she could offer something to their customers that they had been longing to do, which was to sell children’s books that reflected multiculturalism. Williams believed she could tackle the job and was successful at helping to produce “Brandon’s Really Bad, Really Good Day,” and “Amelia Asks Why?,” both books depicting African American children in a manner that young children of color could relate to. In a review of “Amelia Asks Why?,” one parent wrote “This book is perfect for my African-American daughter named Amelia. However not only does it work for her because of her name, she enjoys the story. She is learning about her surroundings and this book has encouraged her curiosity. In addition it gets her to clean her room.” Another parent wrote “The topic is appreciated and timely. My 2 year old daughter loves this book. We have read it often over the last year and at this point, we are using tape to keep it intact. I personally love the illustrations.” After great sales, and tremendous feedback at this level, Walmart decided to throw Williams another challenge, and that was to create dolls! “Walmart understands and is sensitive to the needs in our community,” she said. When beginning the process to create the dolls, Williams said that she wanted to find value in the project for our community. “I wanted to do something that was respectful to our community and our race. [Walmart] was saying ‘We think you understand the community, and we want you to do a line of multicultural dolls’.” Williams believes that this venture was an avenue to promote a ministry of positive self-esteem.
From concept to production, Positively Perfect Dolls took approximately a year to complete. While the process was extraordinary, Williams shared that by no means was it effortless. “When I tell the story it sounds like it was easy. It wasn’t easy.” Williams didn’t have distribution, and she didn’t have experience. “I had to create a learning curve overnight. There was no other company I could go to, to get help,” she said. Williams had to negotiate with suppliers, which proved difficult because she didn’t have a reputation or any years in the business. She also learned that Walmart doesn’t do business with every supplier, so qualifying a supplier also proved arduous. While maintaining her residency in San Diego, Williams set out to develop a relationship with manufacturers in China. “I don’t speak the language, and I got no support from banks,” she said, even though she could prove she had Walmart’s support. “I had to use all of my personal resources,” but finance are not her driving force. Through it all, Williams said it was a labor of love. While birthing this product, Williams shared that the biggest change she has encountered was having to grow more spiritually. “I have all these degrees and education, and for a long time I leaned on that. When God brought this to me, it required education, but it also required other traits that I had to develop. It required me to have a meditation and prayer life.” Williams said that she had to tap into God’s infinite knowledge and well of wisdom to see what He’d have her to do. She said she’s also learned to walk by faith and not by sight. “When I started we weren’t making any money. I was doing the books because I believed in literacy in our community. When I did this people thought I was crazy saying ‘you have a doctorate, why are you doing this?’,” she said. “But I viewed it as a higher calling, in which I could do more and give more.” In a time when many are looking to change careers, start businesses and do what they love best, Williams understands that you have to do what God is telling you. “You don’t always do what makes sense, but what’s in your heart,” she said. “When I would take a step, things and information would appear, info I needed would appear.”
Williams shared that as a youth, there weren’t any African American dolls. All you saw were Barbies. “You go through life thinking that Caucasian girls were the model of beauty,” she said, “and that [African Americans] were somewhere down at the bottom of the totem pole. Our skin is gorgeous, coming in so many deep hues.” Williams believes if she would’ve had a doll like this as a child, it would have taught her greater confidence. At many points on this journey, Williams said she wanted to give up, at times thinking it all was too hard, or that she didn’t have enough help. But at every point when she wanted to call it quits, she was reminded of why she needed to press on. “I saw that Anderson Cooper special, and cried,” she said, referring to “Black and White: Kids on Race.” Reflecting on the one particular episode, Williams recalled seeing a little girl who thought her skin was ugly and ashy. “She pointed to the white doll and said ‘she’s pretty,’ that was a sign to me.”
Since hitting the shelves, Positively Perfect Dolls have sold out. Consumers thought the dolls were very positive, cute and fun, and enjoyed their joyful expressions. Positive affirmations were printed on the dolls’ clothing, and people loved that. Williams’ next line of dolls are scheduled to release in August. The line has expanded from infant dolls, to include a few more, totaling 9 dolls. New to the family are Angela and her sister Brianna. “I wanted to have older girls and preteen dolls, which is the DIVA Collection.” DIVA stands for Dignified, Intelligent, Vivacious and Attractive. “That’s how I see these girls. These dolls aren’t sexy. You’ll never see them in a sexy outfit,” asserted Williams. “Our little girls are growing up too.”
Williams hopes that when she leaves this earth, she’s left something positive, and left a child feeling beautiful. This thought is what drives her to get up every morning, and hope that if one little girl looks in the mirror happy at who she is, because she played with a Positively Perfect Doll, she’s done her work. Williams is a strong believer that “play” helps to strengthen little girls in regards to dealing with life’s issues. If they can find positive reinforcement in a toy, then hopefully those good thoughts will segue into their day-to-day thinking when it comes to their self-esteem, thoughts toward themselves, and even others. For more information on the Positively Perfect Doll Collection visit www.positivelyperfectdolls.com and or visit your local Walmart store.