Rooted in her African culture, prior to starting school, 6-year old Esi Orijin loved everything about herself. To her, being Black was “normal” and feeling included was a way of life. However, Esi struggled with confidence issues within three weeks of starting private school and being the only black girl in her class.
Her mother, Melissa Orijin, was devasted and needed to find a solution after witnessing Esi’s preference for toys change and her self-love take a dip. Esi no longer loved her skin tone or her curly hair. She wanted only white dolls with straight blonde hair. After struggling to find dolls that truly represented her daughter to show her that she was in fact included, Melissa, together with her daughter, Esi, decided to start Orijin Bees.
Orijin Bees is a brand on a mission to normalize inclusion in toys, starting with dolls. They want little girls to look at a doll and be able to say, “She looks like me”.
Both Melissa and Esi set out to create products that would encourage self-love, self-worth, and inclusion. This story is far from unique. It’s something so many families experience. Children should grow up appreciating their culture and identity without thinking they have to change themselves to fit in. This belief forms the mission of Orijin Bees. A brand to create dolls as diverse as we are, with the different complexions and curly hair textures missing from the dolls you see in most toy stores.
Orijin Bees is a brand with inclusivity at its heart. They’re on a mission to give disadvantaged girls the simple joy of having a doll of their own that looks like them. During a family trip to Cuba, Esi saw a little girl that resembled her doll and asked her parents if she could gift it to her new friend. Touched by gesture and the reaction of both girls, Melissa knew that what she had witnessed was something that should continue, be nurtured, and grow. From there, Orijin Bees created its GetONE GiftONE program where they gift dolls to kids. After all, every girl deserves a doll that looks like them, but not every girl may have the opportunity to have one.
To date, dolls have been gifted to girls through churches, NGOs, schools, orphanages, and directly to disadvantaged families both domestically and internationally. Their gifting program has continued through the pandemic, and Oijin Bees has added gifting dolls to health clinics for them to give to families impacted by COVID-19.
The name ‘Orijin Bees’ is a clever acronym that reflects their mission; Our Representation is Just Inclusion Normalized, Beautifully Empowering Every Soul. Their long-term goal is to maximize their potential to make a real change for these disadvantaged communities. They believe these products will help nurture the next generation and the leaders of tomorrow. The brand also offers educational toys, like their ‘Go Culture!’ card game, which teaches children Adinkra symbols and their meanings.
Orijin Bees want their products to fill the gap in education by teaching black and brown children about their heritage and culture. They will help children to feel proud of their heritage and confident in their self-worth. Orijin Bees represents the future of the toy industry. Dolls are so much more than a toy; they are a vehicle for social change. They are the building blocks for a child’s social development.