Businesswoman who opened Dalston shop selling hand-crafted Black dolls welcomes grant to help deal with demand

Sandra Monero. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sandra Monero. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A businesswoman who opened a boutique selling her hand-crafted Black dolls has been awarded funding to help expand after attracting interest from around the world.

Sandra Monero with her dolls. Picture: Guinness Partnership

Sandra Monero with her dolls. Picture: Guinness Partnership - Credit: Archant

Sanda Monero, of Stoke Newington, first began making the dolls as a form of therapy after losing her mother, father and brother but when people began asking if they could buy them, she saw a business opportunity.

She opened Monero Kids Boutique in Balls Pond Road last year after spotting an empty unit and deciding to make a go of it professionally.

Sandra sells eco-friendly children's clothing, educational books and, most popular of all, her "gratitude dolls".

Growing up, like most Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children who loved playing with dolls, Sandra did not have any that represented her. Ranges like Barbie's "fashionista" dolls show that is starting to change, but Sandra believes her own dolls go a step further.

The three Monero Dolls on sale at the boutique.

The three Monero Dolls on sale at the boutique. - Credit: Archant

"My dolls tell a story," she explained. "They have Afros, one has a beauty spot on her lip and another has a birth mark on her left cheek."

Sandra's dolls instantly proved popular with the community, but since sharing her story with the Gazette in February, her business has gone from strength to strength. She is now selling dolls internationally, and has had them exhibited at Hackney Museum during Black History Month.

The Aspire Award grant from her landlord, housing association Guinness Partnership, will go towards paying for business tools and a new sewing machine, helping her on her ambition to create a doll for every Caribbean island.

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"I was over the moon when I heard," Sandra said. "It's made a huge difference as it gives me more time to get on with the creative side of what I do. My dolls tell a story, celebrating the different Afro-Caribbean cultures. With 26 Caribbean islands, there are lots to choose from."

Sandra is also now running children's workshops with Hackney Youth Services.

She continued: "I have had grandparents buy the dolls from their islands for their grandchildren to play with and to use them to talk about their home and their heritage.

"The award is giving me the chance to grow my business but is also part of something much bigger."

Guinness CEO Catriona Simons said: "We wish Sandra every success and hope that she keeps us updated on the progress of her doll-making venture."