As far as entrepreneurship goes, Aniqua Janee Wilkerson undoubtedly is in a league of her own.
That, after all, is not a bad thing in any shape or form.
“(I’m) a woman who never really liked doing things in the standard way,” Wilkerson told longtime Journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “As a result, I learned to just do My Kinda Thing, unapologetically and proudly.”
To her credit, Wilkerson, 34, has made immense strides as a fledging business owner, all while deeming it absolutely essential to — you’ve guessed it — doing her own kind of thing.
So much, in fact, that this thriving, progressive native of the Bronx, New York ironically established a business called just that — “My Kinda Thing.”
A rather unorthodox business venture that was birthed three years ago, My Kinda Thing is what Wilkerson describes as a “Beautifully Brown Doll Collection,” or a growing number of unique one-of-a-kind dolls, mainly custom made and created largely to promote pride and confidence in children of color in efforts to combat self-hate.
In addition, My Kinda Thing is a handmade business that specializes in — but is not limited to — creating uniquely crafted crochet dolls or, as Wilkerson says, “The Beautifully Brown Doll Collection”.
“What I love most about my business is being able to create unique works of art that capture the wonderfully diverse features of children of color,” said Wilkerson, explaining her mission for her flourishing business.
While her products are geared largely toward children ranging in ages 0-to-12, Wilkerson acknowledged that a large contingent of her customers is adults. Still, she emphasized that the single, most underlying emphasis is to assemble dolls with “children in mind.”
“While my dolls are works of art, they are made durable enough for pretend play,” Wilkerson said. And that’s not all.
A majority of her uniquely designed dolls are machine washable and child safe, pivotal features that are sure to serve as a definitive sales pitch anywhere in the country.
Fortunately for Wilkerson, her up-and-coming business has afforded her to put her dazzling talents on displays in a number of settings throughout the nation.
In November 2015, for instance, she appeared in the Fourth Annual Detroit Doll Show, an event that placed emphasis on the importance of representation, Wilkerson said, let alone one that was comprised of a slew of talented doll makers and creative collectors.
As this veteran Early Childhood instructor recalled, she came away thoroughly enlighten and empowered not just about her passion, divine calling, and purpose for being an educator but, above all, she returned to New York City even more inspired about enhancing and devising ways to better promote her business.
To her credit, nonetheless, she’s undoubtedly come a long ways, with her best and brightest days as a thriving entrepreneur well ahead of her.
“Many of us are taught early, subliminally, that we are too ‘this’ or not quite ‘that,’ creating insecurities in us at the very start of self-awareness,” said Wilkerson, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Lehman College, senior institution of the City University of New York in New York City, where she currently resides. “This self-awareness begins as early as two years old. Can you imagine feeling insecure at three years of age? Children pick up so much in those early years, so just think of what kind of messages they are receiving about themselves when positive imagery of children who look like them are scarce or absent.
“They are often underrepresented in the cartoons and shows we allow them to watch the movies we take them to see and the books we read to them,” Wilkerson continued. “It is important that we understand this subtle programing we are doing to them in the very early stages of their development. It is for this very reason that I create these special dolls.”
Since the inception of her business, Wilkerson, who’s widely known as a crochet artist, has assembled — or crocheted, if you will — more than 100 uniquely designed dolls, many of which were custom made to have significant features matching the individuals they are created for. Interestingly enough, she has even assembled as many as 15 different skin tone options and, according to her, she can also mimic almost any hairstyle and texture.
“Just about every aspect of each doll is customizable, clothing style and colors, eye color, hair, accessories and they can even be personalized with names or initials,” Wilkerson said. “The best thing about my Beautifully Brown Dolls is that each design is one of a kind, just like the children they are created for.
By and large, there is only one in the whole entire world, Wilkerson pointed out because, as she quickly reiterated, “duplicates are not an option.”
Moreover, each custom made, life enhancing, awe-inspiring doll comes with what Wilkerson describes as a handwritten note in celebration and acknowledgment of how wonderfully and beautifully made both the doll and the individual is.
You get the point.
“I am inspired by children,” Wilkerson said.
She has her nieces to thanks, most of all.
“More specifically,” she said, “my beautifully brown nieces are the inspirations behind my doll designs. I wanted to create dolls that look like them. I mean, really like them, with kinky hair, afro puffs, braids, beads, cornrows, etc. I wanted them to see dolls with skin like theirs, a beautiful rainbow of brown tones. I wanted them to look like little girls, not grown women. I wanted my dolls to encourage imagination and creativity by both being a work of art and inspiring our children to be anything they can dream up. I create each doll, adding to the growing store of positive imagery for our children so they can begin to see what amazing potential they have to be awesome.”
Awesome much like a booming business and business owner who, given her well-respected track record, it’s safe to assume that her biggest, best, and brightest days undoubtedly are well ahead of her.
All because she’s in a league of her own.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are an entrepreneur, business owner, producer, author, athlete, musician, barber, life coach, motivational speaker, cosmetologist, tax preparer, model, or pastor/minister who is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.