Let’s Talk inspiration, dreams and making magic.
Remember when I shared about those amazing dolls from The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder? Thanks to Disney connecting Black Disney Moms to her team, I had the opportunity to have a virtual chat with Dr. Lisa Williams, CEO and Founder of the World of Entertainment, Publishing and Imagination™ (World of EPI™), a Black woman-owned company responsible for bringing multicultural dolls onto the market globally for kids to have true representation in their play. The brand includes Positively Perfect, The Fresh Dolls, and the Fresh Squad.
The story of how the World of EPI™ got started is heartbreaking and empowering, a true example of taking something negative and using sheer determination, curiosity, and drive to make a positive difference for others. Dr. Lisa was affected by seeing a documentary where a little Black girl was given an option to play with a white doll or black doll. The little girl chose the white doll because while looking at the skin of the brown doll, she stated it wasn’t pretty, it was nasty like hers. It really was at that moment that the World of EPI™ was born and Dr. Lisa began a journey on what would change the toy industry, in the best way possible. She wanted to show brown and Black children their importance, to boost their esteem and confidence in themselves, to see beauty in themselves through their toys and dolls.
Our conversation was refreshing, inspiring and exciting. I had a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyed hearing more of Dr. Lisa’s story, what drives her and how she cares for herself while being a Boss, Mom, and inspiration to others. Through this conversation my hope is that you feel inspired to continue to live authentically towards the calling and dreams that tug at your heart. Grab your favorite beverage and/or snack and join us on this journey. 🙂
From Academia to Toys
Dr. Lisa began her educational journey in business statistics with a desire to study business relationships and trust. There was nothing in the marketing curriculum at Ohio State with that specific focus; the only concentration that looked at business relationships was supply chain. Her academic accolades include being the first African American female tenured professor at Penn State University and the first African American female to earn a PhD from Ohio State in Global Supply Chain Logistics with a concentration in marketing.
Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate.
We talked about Dr. Lisa’s exit from full time academia into the business of toys, and touched on what imposter syndrome looked like as she navigated and pioneered her journey into the toy industry. Even the most successful people experience moments of not feeling as if they are enough. However, for those of us that may feel like we must know everything before we embark on a dream, let this be your reminder that you absolutely do not. As Dr. Lisa shared, having no idea how to do things the “right” way allowed her to create a new way with a new approach. Her realization that she COULD, came with time and from what she initially perceived as weaknesses. In fact, not knowing “all the things” became one of her strengths because her perspective and thinking was different. She learned through trial and error to build The World of EPI™ and of course there were mistakes along the way, but that didn’t deter her or her team.
Mistakes aren’t separate detours, they’re stepping stones on the way to success. You just keep moving through.Dr. Lisa Williams
Throughout her journey Dr. Lisa has overcome obstacles and continued to grow in knowledge. And, while she can’t turn back time, she graciously shared what she would tell her younger self, and it’s something that we all can take to heart. She’d tell herself to surrender efforts and intentions (work and then worry), and to always work from the intention that comes from the heart, relax, breathe, surrender, and trust. We really must trust that there is a magical, powerful force in the universe that works out good for everyone.
This advice resonates with us as parents but also is something that we should be teaching our children, too. It’s never too early to start empowering them to follow their dreams, take action, and believe in themselves.
One of the themes that continued to rise in our conversation was about living authentically. We chatted a little bit about Disney Dreamers Academy and the positive impact it has on our youth’s confidence and desire to live authentically.
Throughout all aspects of her life, Dr. Lisa lives authentically. She shares that when we are authentic and live our lives in the core part of who we are, it resonates everywhere. She explained that to live authentically she spends time in self-care, relaxing her mind, and the thoughts that run through it. She finds that when she is in a place of inner peace, she is truly expressing her authentic self, which is the space from which she creates all aspects of her life.
As a child and self-proclaimed “bookworm,” Dr. Lisa didn’t “play” with dolls in the sense of dressing them up and acting out scenarios, but she did have a time in life where they existed – as her students. She eventually transitioned from dolls to plush toys, mostly because she couldn’t relate to the dolls, and only could create stories about them. She shared that the impact of dolls that were white, was that she wasn’t quite good or pretty enough, none of them looked like her. So naturally hearing a story of a little girl being disgusted with her own beautiful brown skin hit Dr. Lisa in her heart and she knew she wanted to be part of the change to show kids their beauty through toys.
Dr. Lisa truly seeks to bring diversity and representation not only at the forefront of her company but deeply embedded within. Her team is diverse with members representing numerous ethnicities to provide insight, lived experience and a voice. Additionally, she garners the input from the communities that are represented in the dolls and toys, to truly be authentic in that representation.
Motherhood and Business
Dr. Lisa is multifaceted and wears many hats, an important one being “Mom.” I was curious as to the timeline of everything in relation to child rearing; many of us in the Black Disney Moms group are entrepreneurs and business owners. We love to hear how others navigate parenting while growing a business or pivoting a career. When Dr. Lisa launched The World of EPI™ her kids were still young, approximately four and six years old. To a certain degree, they were her target demographic. They were able to be part of the process and their thoughts and experiences, along with her team and the community, helped to shape products. It’s amazing to do a complete career shift from employee to entrepreneur, while raising young kids. It’s definitely not easy, but it is a thing of passion and heart.
To accomplish tasks and reach goals, it’s important to reconnect with our inner power. Dr. Lisa practices meditation before her feet hit the floor every morning. It’s a time of peaceful state to commune with the Divine. Throughout the day she takes moments to reconnect, and she reminds us that the inner power is in our hearts not our heads.
Raising our Black Children to Dream
In our Black Disney Moms group, we talk about raising our Black children in the world. Amidst the fun, magical talk, we talk about ways to keep our kids’ innocence despite the trials they face early in life living as a Black person. Generally speaking, our Black community understands that in the corporate world we are often the “only” or “token” in the room. Many of us pioneer as the first in various ways, like Dr. Lisa garnering accolades as the first African American, first female, or first person in many areas. I was curious to hear her thoughts on encouraging our children to continue dreaming, despite being the “only” in a room. We are raising the next generation of Black creatives and professionals.
How do we encourage our kids to dream big and take action? She shares that we should inspire our children to know why they are doing what they’re doing. It means they may be the only one in the room, but our why deserves for us to take that chance. We should help our kids find what makes their hearts sing so they can dream big. There are no real obstacles, there are detours. And even so, obstacles aren’t failures or signs to give up, they’re things to consider on your journey. We should encourage our children to tap into their heart and ask the questions, “What makes them excited that they think about when they go to bed?” and “what is the first thing they think of when they wake up?” They should ignore the naysayers who say it can’t be done, or that it won’t work, as those people are talking about others’ experiences, not theirs. Our children will create their own experiences full of success because they will continue to move forward. There’s nothing that they can’t do. We must encourage them to keep looking within as many times the outward advice will tell us what we can’t do.
The World of EPI™
Disney gives us a path of having our dreams come true. When I asked Dr. Lisa about launching a line with Disney, she shared that working with Disney is truly a dream, they are the creme de la creme. The opportunity is something that she couldn’t have even imagined or dreamed. Not to mention one of the awesome accolades includes her dolls being on Oprah’s Favorite Things! I can hear Oprah saying, “You get a doll, you get a doll, YOU get a doll!”
So, what’s next for The World of EPI™? Dr. Lisa wants to continue creating a safe space for children. She says this line of work is about representation and repetition. Eventually in addition to dolls and accessories, she’d love to create diverse consumer products for home so that wherever our children look, they see themselves positively and beautifully. The organization gives back to the community through jobs and awards scholarships to students within the community.
Overall, The World of EPI™ was born out of passion with a desire to spread love and reflects Dr. Lisa’s heart and desire to see children feel empowered, beautiful, and confident because they see themselves represented. It was such a pleasure chatting with Dr. Lisa, she is an inspiration and truly embodies the magic of giving. I hope that each of you take time to check out The World of EPI™’s website and see the beautiful dolls and products that they have created!
Fun Facts about Dr. Lisa
- Favorite DIsney Film – Black Panther!
- Favorite Characters – T’Challa, Shuri, Ramonda and Okoye
- Favorite Disney Resort/Park – Disneyland, although loves WDW too, they’re just different.
- Dream Disney Day – She’d go to Disneyland Paris and be immersed in the energy to savor every moment. Part of her would run through the park like a kid, and another part would just savor it like a good piece of chocolate.
About World of EPI
World of EPI™ (Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration) is a growing multi-million dollar powerhouse and leading multicultural toy manufacturing and design firm. In 2003, Dr. Lisa Williams founded the company to create dolls so children of all ethnicities can grow up seeing their beauty from the start. For instance, the Positively Perfect Dolls brand gives special attention to all the doll features and skin tones; The Fresh Dolls intentionally feature fuller hips and thighs, and a more realistic waistline. Multiple doll lines and collections represent African American, LatinX, Asian, Caucasian, and other ethnicities. Today, the World of EPI dolls can be found in stores across the globe, including giant retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and Walgreens.
Be sure to keep up with Dr. Lisa and the World of EPI™ on Social: