Olivia Thompson, 29, from Leeds, left her job as a receptionist at a law firm in 2019 after a doctor warned her she was heading for a mental breakdown. Now she is on her way to setting up her own business that sells diverse dolls, with the support of The Prince’s Trust.
Olivia is a single parent to her 8-year-old daughter, who has autism, and was struggling to cope with the pressure she was under. She found it hard to leave her job, where she had great colleagues and a fantastic career, but she had no choice after she was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.
“I wanted to be the best parent I could, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen if I ran myself into the ground at work.”
Olivia started to attend her local jobcentre and became interested in self-employment. She felt it would allow her to work around her childcare needs more flexibly – and she was passionate about her business idea. She turned to The Prince’s Trust in February to help turn her dream into reality.
Olivia decided to create a business that sells diverse dolls representing different ethnicities and disabilities, as she had identified a huge gap in this market.
Olivia has been working with her Prince’s Trust business mentor Chandra since February on developing her business mission and values, creating a lookbook for investors, and working on illustrations and packaging. She also received a grant from The Prince’s Trust to help her pay for her illustration designs.
The next month saw the UK head into a lockdown, which brought additional challenges to Olivia.
“Lockdown has been hard because I lost my support network as a single parent, which has affected my mental health. My daughter’s autism also means she struggles to leave the house, which means I only get outside about once a month.”
However, Olivia has persevered with her work on Akila Dolls. She crowdfunded £6,000 to help get her business off its feet, and her website and social media pages are up and running. She also secured a promotional partnership with Lush Cosmetics, who are promoting black owned businesses.
“My focus now is on looking at investment and partnership opportunities and getting my dolls first prototype made.”