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Yelitsa Jean-Charles Wins Startup Stampede’s $100k Grand Prize For ‘Healthy Roots’ Dolls

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Yelitsa Jean-Charles, the founder of Healthy Roots Dolls, took home Startup Stampede’s grand prize of $100,000 in marketing services from McKinney on Monday (May 7) at Durham’s American Underground startup hub.

Healthy Roots is a toy company that creates dolls and storybooks that teach natural hair care to young girls of color. Yelitsa says the dolls come in different skin tones, facial features, and hair textures to show the beauty of all black girls.

“I created this company so girls could have the dolls that I didn’t have growing up,” she told Essence.

Startup Stampede, a business incubator and pitch competition, helps the curated group of promising young companies better position themselves to earn a piece of the fast-growing consumer products market. Nine promising CPG companies participated in the two-month long event, sponsored by American Underground, NC IDEA, and McKinney.

“The Startup Stampede created an open and supportive community,” said Yelitsa Jean-Charles. “This made it possible for me to ask the questions and get the feedback I needed from people who had my best interest in mind because they were personally invested in my success and want to see everyone flourish. I’m excited about working with McKinney because, as a creative, I have immense respect for the work they do and what Healthy Roots can learn from them.”

Jenny Nicholson, a Creative Director at McKinney, says she was drawn in by Yelitsa’s intense hustle and is excited to help young women of color embrace their natural beauty.

“It was amazing seeing people present companies they’d borne from their own vision,” said Jenny. “As a mother of a young girl, I am excited to support Yalitsa and to help young women of color embrace their natural beauty. As an advertiser, I was attracted to the power of her story and the intensity of her hustle.”


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