A Chat With...Saffron Jackson, Founder and Creative Director of Zuree Ltd
Saffron founded Zuree Ltd, a company that creates black and ethnic dolls, toys and other accessories in 2016. She trained as an English and Literacy teacher in Jamaica and the UK and taught in both countries for over 16 years and held positions such as Vice-Chair of the Jamaican Basic Schools Foundation (JBSF) and Head of English at Moatbridge School. She now serves as Adviser to the Chair of the JBSF. In addition, she previously served as a Youth Leader for the Jamaican Diaspora Future Leaders UK.
We chatted with Saffron, a mother of one, whilst she had a rare spare moment at home.
Tell us about your brand?
Zuree Ltd creates and sells black dolls, toys and accessories. It’s an online business based in the UK that has been in operation for about two and a half years.
What inspired you to start your own venture?
My daughter was actually the inspiration behind the brand. In fact, I created the dolls when I was pregnant with her because I couldn’t find any on the high street that would represent her. This was back in 2015. I never had black dolls as a child and I knew the importance of these things especially as an educator myself. It was such a surprise to find no black dolls readily available and even after extensive research, it was just as bad across the UK. So, I decided to create my own and that’s where the journey started.
Tell us about one highlight of your entrepreneurial journey.
It has to be the time I did all these interviews right across the world, with the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, Evening Standard, The Jamaica Star, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Jamaican Observer, it was endless. Then there were the radio station interviews in Canada and America – it was amazing! Never in my wildest dreams had I thought something like that would’ve been possible when I had conceptualized the idea of these dolls.
What is the best part about what you do?
It has to be creating a product that is actually important for the development of our children. Then there’s watching the way people receive the product, the reaction of children and adults when they see my dolls, especially the ones that talk. This is one of the USPs of my brand because I created the first talking Jamaican doll. Her name is Toya and she is still a bestseller even after two and half years!
Seeing children embrace these dolls and their culture, loving these dolls and telling you how much they appreciate them has to be the best part of what I do. At least I know that the product is accepted and appreciated.
What’s one key challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you tackle it?
Financing the business was a challenge especially as a young, black woman with a product that many in the mainstream market said was not in demand. The banks were not interested. I must say that the help of family and friends and especially one cousin of mine who really believes in my brand, got me through. My cousin is literally the backbone to this. He’s helped me so much along the way. Some of my close friends have given the little they had because they believed in me and my brand. I’m just grateful for these people, extremely grateful.
What’s next for you and Zuree Ltd?
I want to see Zuree right across the UK, in schools and in fact right across the world. I want it up there with Barbie and Bratz. All girls are beautiful, and all girls should be represented. I will not stop till I take the brand to the next level.
On a day off, what would you do?
Day off?! I’ve never had a day off! Not since I started anyway. Probably that’s an exaggeration but I rarely have a day off. It’s tough being a young entrepreneur and being a mom so I tend to keep going.
The first thing you do when you wake up is…
Give God thanks for helping me to see another day. But the truth is, soon after that, the first thing I do is pick up my phone! It’s sad – right after prayer - to check my emails for orders and so on. My phone is a part of my body because I do everything with it.
And the last thing you do before going to bed is…
Gosh! Now that you’re asking me these questions…I realise that it’s my phone again! I do everything for the company, so after my daughter is in bed, I’m back on the phone doing business!
Three people you’d like to have a chat with are:
Oprah Winfrey – I grew up watching Oprah and wishing that one day I’ll be the Oprah of The Caribbean!
Michelle Obama – another strong, formidable woman, a great wife and excellent at what she does.
Diddy - I like Diddy! I like how he has grown and made himself into a real entrepreneur. I admire him for that.
It’s been great hearing about you and Zuree Dolls Saffron!
Thank you very much for having me!
You can find out more about Zuree Ltd at:
LinkedIn: Saffron Jackson
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