Q&A: How this small-business owner leveraged Twitter to share her brand's mission

By Nicole Godreau and Lindsay Crider

When Yelitsa Jean-Charlies (@TheYelitsa), founder of Healthy Roots Dolls (@RootsDolls), Tweeted a side-by-side picture of herself with one of her company’s dolls, she didn’t expect to get almost a million Likes on Twitter. Or to triple her mailing list. Or to sell out of the doll.

But she did. And perhaps more importantly, she also sparked a conversation about diversity in children’s toys and media, helping to raise awareness and push forward an important mission: making sure everyone loves their healthy roots.

Twitter Next brand strategist Nicole Godreau (@nicolegodreau) chatted with Yelitsa about how Twitter has helped Healthy Roots Dolls generate brand awareness and push the conversation about diversifying children’s play forward.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Yelitsa Jean-Charles and I am the CEO of Healthy Roots Dolls, a multicultural children’s product company. Our first line of products are dolls that empower young girls of color through hair play. I am a first-generation Haitian-American and alumni of the Rhode Island School Design.

I never had a doll that looked like me growing up. Research has shown that toys impact how we think, act, and perceive ourselves. So when girls of color can’t find dolls that look them or make them feel beautiful, it negatively impacts their self-esteem leading them to dislike their hair or color of their skin. As a children’s illustrator, I know toys and children's media are a solution to this problem.

What is the mission of Healthy Roots Dolls?

Healthy Roots Dolls brings the beauty of our diversity to the toy aisle. Our mission is to make sure no one feels less than because of the kink of their curl or the color of their skin.

That’s why I created Zoe, the first Healthy Roots Dolls, and the first doll that teaches natural hair. And while there are Black dolls available, we go beyond just painting a doll brown. 

To date, I’ve raised nearly $500,000 for Healthy Roots Dolls and helped thousands of parents provide their children with a product that makes them feel seen and beautiful.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. Kidding!

I wake up pretty early these days and unfortunately, have the bad habit of checking my phone as soon as my eyes open. I start with my email inbox to make sure there are no fires I need to put out, and then I check Twitter for any recent news.

After that, I get ready for my day with yoga when I feel like it. Then calls with our PR Agency, Chief Operating Officer, customer service team, and any other vendors. I try to fit lunch in when I can which is typically ordering my favorite tacos.

I handle all things digital and marketing right now so I review the content calendar for social media, write copy, work on email marketing, and then work with our contractors and freelancers on our product photography and other marketing materials.

It’s a lot of work, but worth it!

How does Twitter fit into your marketing mix?

Around 2017, I started to take my personal Twitter and brand more seriously and saw it as an opportunity to engage with my peers, share my thoughts, and learn from others. I’ve always prided myself on speaking my mind and sharing my story. Authenticity has always been important to me and Twitter was another way for me to do that.

No one knows your story unless you tell it. We’ve had a lot of opportunities come through me just being myself on Twitter. My goal isn’t to promote my business or push people to sell. I just talk about the things I like, don’t like, and what I’m passionate about. 

My brand’s Twitter is all about positioning as a positive outlet to amplify our customers, our mission, and our values. So basically cute kids and really great stories.

What are a few Tweet examples that you think really capture the brand? 

We want our brand to be warm and approachable while showing off the joy that we want children to get from our products. 

Your Tweet went viral after sharing a picture on Twitter of yourself and your doll, Zoe. The Tweet currently has been Retweeted more than 100,000 times and has close to 1 million likes. How do you plan and create Tweets that will resonate with your audience?

Oddly enough, I don’t really plan most of my Tweets. Being actively engaged on Twitter has shown me that the content that connects the most with people are often totally random or simply genuine. To me, Twitter is about being in the moment and that viral Tweet was a collective moment of shared joy during a challenging social and political climate in our country.

I think about how I’m feeling, read the room, and respond appropriately if it feels right. I just happened to be on my air mattress, felt particularly positive that morning, and wanted to share a little bit of the happiness I was feeling.

What results have you seen with Twitter?

We’ve tripled our mailing list and generated a lot of great organic leads for media and new partnerships. Most importantly, we’ve generated more brand awareness and pushed the conversation about diversifying children’s play forward.

Any final tips for fellow small business owners on Twitter? 

Tell your story! That’s really all I can say. You can’t force anything and there is no special trick. It’s just you, your brand, and your product.

Other than that, be consistent and LISTEN.

What are you planning next and how can the Twitter community support you?

Zoe officially restocks on healthyrootsdolls.com in October. Share the love, talk to your peers about why #representationmatters, and love your curls.

Ready to advertise on Twitter?