Yelitsa Jean-Charles '16 IL
Yelitsa never had a doll that looked like her growing up. The one time her parents gave her a black doll, she burst into tears because it wasn’t the “pretty one”. Since then, Yelitsa has made it her goal to make sure that no other children feel the way she did about her own appearance growing. While in her Junior year studying Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design, Yelitsa redesigned the fairy tale character Rapunzel as a brown girl with beautiful kinky hair. After speaking with classmates and friends. she saw the opportunity to address the demonstrated need for more diverse toys and representation in children’s publishing.
With a grant from the Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship, support from the RISD E’Ship Program, Masschallenge Accelerator program and 674 dedicated Kickstarter backers, Healthy Roots was born. Yelitsa has gone from not knowing how to do her own hair at the age 21 to teaching young girls all about their own.
Since starting Healthy Roots Dolls, Yelitsa has graduated from RISD with a BFA in Illustration and a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. In 2018 she won the Startup Stampede, New Voices Fund Pitch competition, participated in the VFA Accelerator program and was awarded the first Main Street Ventures Wendy S. Lea Female founders Grant.
This year she was accepted to the Backstage Accelerator program in Detroit with an investment of $100,000. Most recently won People’s Choice and First Place at the 2019 Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day for a total winning of $125,000 and as of 2019 has raised nearly $500,000 total for her company.