If you walk down the doll aisle at any toy store, you’re bound to see plenty of princesses and pop stars, but where are the CEOs and technology experts?
Two sisters, Jenae and Gina Heitkamp, are working to get dolls on shelves that represent a new range of career aspirations. Through their Kickstarter campaign, they hope to create iBesties – “modern dolls for modern girls.” The dolls each come with a workbook that teaches girls about business and technology, as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.
“The idea came when I was working as a school counselor in Los Angeles with inner city children,” Jenae tells PEOPLE. “I realized that many of the girls I worked with didn’t know about, or have exposure to, more modern careers based in technology or entrepreneurship.”
“At the same time, my business partner and sister Gina was getting her MBA and noticed that she was among only a handful of women in her program,” she continues. “We both found ourselves at this place in our lives where the light bulb went off.”
The Heitkamps originally crafted a workbook to expose girls to modern career paths, but realized they could make more of an impact if they brought their workbook characters to life as dolls.
“Most people are shocked to learn that in this age of technology and tablets, over 90 percent of girls ages 3-10 own dolls,” says Jenae. “This is a great opportunity to bring new concepts of technology and entrepreneurship into familiar play patterns, because these really are exciting careers and we want to convey that.”
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The dolls that they have created are ethnically diverse and come from different family backgrounds, and each have their own business or technological skill.
“We wanted to bring female characters to the market that young girls could not only relate to but would also aspire to be like – smart, savvy and modern,” says Jenae. “There’s been a big push recently for girls to get involved in STEM fields, but unfortunately it hasn’t trickled down to the mass market yet.”
“iBesties plants the seed that these type of jobs are adventurous, fun, challenging and attainable,” she continues. “The same way that dolls have inspired young girls to be fashionistas or pop stars, our dream is for young girls to dream about coding, start-ups and being business owners.”