My daughter is a CEO at just 11 years old

Distressed by the lack of Black representation in kids' online games, 11 year old Alyssa started her own gaming business to change the situation.

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My daughter, Alyssa, was just 6 years old when she asked why none of her game characters had natural Afro hair like hers. I didn’t really think much of it.  I just thought “I’ll find some other options for her. ” But this wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be.

Hair-raising truths

Either the characters were black but without Afro hair or Afro hairstyles were being depicted in a culturally appropriated way.

Children naturally want to get creative with their game characters, they want to personalise them, like a version of themselves – it’s how they start to form their identities, even from as young as 3-4 years old. 

I panicked – I didn’t want young Black children’s self-esteem damaged by reinforcing European beauty ideals. There are so many studies about Afro hair discrimination and I felt so sad for other families having to go through the disappointment this lack of representation brings.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

I’m a self-taught graphic designer, so I said to Alyssa, “You know what?  We’ll create our own game.” Of course, she jumped at the chance of starting a business! What began as a heartbreaking conversation over the kitchen table, is now a vibrant and growing community with sisterhood at its heart. 

Together, we created three main characters: Coco, Kelli and Krista, all with beautiful Afro hair that could be styled in a variety of ways, including Puffs, Fulani braids, and Bantu knots. We then designed a jam-packed wardrobe and worked with an illustrator to bring the characters to life, before enlisting the help of a freelance app developer.

Alyssa represents the demographic of girls who want to see themselves in the games they play, so her opinion, feedback, attention to detail, and steer on many decisions has been instrumental – she even did the voiceover on the game, and her friends were the perfect testbed. Now at 11 years old, she’s really come into her own as mini-CEO, with a distinct leadership style!

Youth power

Frobelles is much more than just a game though.  With its fan club, offline events, and new story mode, it also teaches children how to look after their Afro hair, how to style it, how to do their own skincare, and how to get ready for school each day, as sadly, not every child has someone to dedicate the time in busy day-to-day life. We didn’t want to just provide representation on a surface level, but offer a safe, positive, diverse, and empowering space, which also has an element of education. 

Just a few years after officially launching the app, Frobelles has surpassed 100,000 downloads, has an engaged community of over 13,000 on Instagram, two Black History Month campaigns with the Apple AppStore under its belt, and a campaign with GooglePlay. Not only this, we’ve also been featured in the national press, won a licensing award for “Best Character and Animation,” been included in the Startups 100, and have been shortlisted for both the DEI and Young Entrepreneur awards – it just goes to show that neither age nor marginalisation are barriers for turning your dreams into reality.

Boss baby

The journey from a simple question about representation to the creation of Frobelles underscores the power of determination, and the impact that even a small initiative can have on challenging societal norms. As we continue to grow, we remain 100% committed to fostering inclusivity, empowering young minds, and proving that, indeed, if you can dream it, you can do it.

Yvonne Ottley - cofounder of Frobelles

Frobelles is the UK’s first afro-hair championing game that’s challenging racial bias and pushing for more inclusivity in the tech world.

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