Community interview- Rene from Nubian Princesses

This month in our community interview series we have had the pleasure of sitting down with Rene, the inspirational creator behind the Nubian Princesses.

Rene has created a unique range of products with the goal of not only celebrating the rich and diverse history of Africa but importantly she has designed products to inspire, educate and to let little girls know that they are beautiful the way they are. 

Rene passionately believes that all children should feel represented and valued regardless of their heritage – this is exactly what the Nubian Princesses do. We are so pleased to have Rene as part of our Tree Shepherd community. Have a read and then go and visit her website or visit her when she is at our market….

Without further ado, meet the wonderful Rene!

Why did you start your business?

I started my business because of an experience with a four-year-old girl that left a lasting impression on me. One afternoon, we visited a newborn mixed-race baby. After seeing the baby, she expressed a desire to have the same skin colour and hair. Despite my reassurances that she was equally beautiful, I could sense a feeling of letdown in her. I was deeply moved and confused as to why she would feel this way.

A nagging question kept echoing in my mind: What am I going to do about this?

This experience inspired me to design a line of African Princess dolls to inspire, educate, and encourage young girls. I wanted to let them know that they are beautiful the way they are. I understand the importance of education and believe it is essential to start early in helping our children develop a strong sense of self. Only then can we raise adults who are healthy and balanced within themselves. The Nubian Princesses was born from this mission to let every child know they are enough just as they are.

Where do you see your business in five years? Ten?

I have designed four African Princess dolls, each representing a different corner of Africa. In the next five years, my goal is to launch all four princesses, each accompanied by a unique storyline that highlights her cultural background and personal adventures. These stories are crucial as they add an educational element, teaching children about the rich diversity and heritage of Africa.

 In the next ten years, I envision The Nubian Princesses becoming a globally established and renowned brand. By then, I hope we will have expanded beyond dolls to include books, educational materials, and multimedia content that continue to inspire and educate.

I plan to venture into building schools that align with our educational ethos. These schools will not only focus on traditional academic subjects but also emphasise cultural education, self-esteem, and leadership skills.

 My aim is to create a lasting impact, fostering a generation of children who are confident, knowledgeable, and proud of their heritage. By integrating education into every aspect of our brand, we aspire to be more than just a toy company—we aim to be a catalyst for positive change and empowerment.

How does your business look different now vs. when you first started? Is it what you expected?

When I first started, I had one product, which took seven years to develop from conception to production. Our first princess, Kiraa. Now, the business has grown significantly. We have four products, with a fifth on the way as we prepare to launch our next princess, Sigi’s storybook. I see the range continually expanding, and I am excited about the progress we’ve made.

 As for whether it is what I expected, I’m not sure if I had any specific expectations at the outset. I was simply thrilled to share what I had created. Initially, there was just the joy of bringing my vision to life. However, the reality of running a business quickly set in, and I realised the need to understand and manage all its aspects. It’s been a steep learning curve, and I am still learning every day. Despite the challenges, the growth and development of my business have been incredibly rewarding, and I am optimistic about its future.

What have been some of your biggest learning experiences in running a business?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of patience. Anyone who knows me understands that patience is something I’ve had to develop over time. Running a business has taught me that things often take longer than expected and that perseverance is key.

Another significant learning experience has been understanding the value of finding the right people to work with. There are many individuals and businesses out there who will make promises, but finding reliable and trustworthy partners is challenging. It’s crucial to surround yourself with people who are not only skilled but also share your vision and values. Learning from other business owners and their experiences has been invaluable in navigating these challenges.

What will you never compromise on with your business?

I will never compromise on the core values and mission of The Nubian Princesses. Our primary goal is to help girls understand and embrace their true selves. We are deeply committed to fostering a sense of self-determination and empowerment in the new generation of Black girls. It’s essential to remove any feelings of alienation and awaken the curiosity and strength that already exist within them.

Our passion lies in ensuring that every product and initiative we undertake aligns with this mission. We aim to inspire, educate, and uplift, helping young girls develop a strong, positive sense of identity and self-worth. This commitment is non-negotiable and remains at the heart of everything we do.

How do you deal with fear and doubt?

I don’t doubt the potential of The Nubian Princesses because I had a clear vision of it even before it became a reality. When it comes to fear, I don’t let it stop me. Instead, I choose to lean into it, understanding that facing my fears head-on leads to growth and ultimately, freedom. Embracing fear as a part of the journey has been essential, as it helps me push boundaries and achieve what I once thought impossible.

What do you do when things don’t go to plan?

When things don’t go to plan, my initial reaction is to let out my frustration. I might even scream! After that, I take a step back and allow myself some time to regroup. I believe that there is always a solution, even if it’s not immediately apparent. Once I’ve had a moment to clear my mind, I look for the best alternative and work towards implementing it. This process helps me manage my frustration and approach problems with a fresh perspective, ultimately leading to effective solutions.

How do you set your business apart from others in your industry?

The Nubian Princesses stand out because our focus goes beyond just manufacturing Black dolls. We prioritise education and cultural representation, creating a unique model that isn’t widely available. Each doll comes with a rich storyline and educational content that aims to inspire and empower young girls. This emphasis on combining play with learning and cultural pride sets us apart from others in the industry. Our mission is not only to provide toys but to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures, which makes The Nubian Princesses truly unique.

Lastly, could you share with our community your feelings on Tree Shepherd and how we’ve helped you achieve your goals.

My association with Tree Shepherd happened by chance early on in my journey to promote the Nubian Princesses brand. While searching for ways to introduce my brand to the public, a family member spotted an advertisement for a local market in our Tesco and sent me a picture of it. I applied online and participated in my first market, feeling incredibly nervous and unsure if I was fully prepared. Despite not having everything perfect, I learned valuable lessons from other traders about what I needed and how to present myself.

The Tree Shepherd team has been instrumental in helping me build confidence in myself and my brand. Through their training, support, and guidance, I found a community genuinely invested in my success. They are always there when I need them, especially during tough times, and I know I can always reach out to them. Their step-by-step assistance has been both amazing and humbling, especially in a business world where such genuine support is rare. I was initially unsure if people would like my brand, but with Tree Shepherd’s help, I’ve grown to trust in what I offer.