Dr. Lisa Williams
She’s so Fresh!
Dr. Lisa Williams first made history as an academic trailblazer as the highest-ranking person in the logistics field, regardless of gender or race. Today, she’s making history of a different kind, helping children of all different races who may not feel seen or represented celebrate their beauty with her joyful collections of multicultural coloring books and dolls.
Prior to 2003, Dr. Williams was racking up a string of impressive firsts: with a Ph.D. in marketing and logistics, she became the first Black scholar to receive a doctorate in Supply Chain Management from Ohio State University, first Black Professor to earn tenure at the Penn State University College of Business, and the first woman academic to receive a multi-million dollar-endowed chair. As the holder of two multi-million dollar endowments for her research, Dr. Williams served on former President Bill Clinton’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure, and collected an array of prestigious honors and teaching awards including being named Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year by Penn State University.
Then she encountered a research project that took her by surprise and inspired her to change course: a reprise of a study originally conducted in the 1940s by Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark. These two Black psychologists were a married team of Harlem-based academic activists whose landmark research with Black children began the long process of exposing and interrogating centuries of systemic racism. Mamie Phipps Clark devised “The Doll Test,”which tested the responses of 254 Black children ages three to seven to four dolls: two dolls with white skin and blonde hair, two dolls with brown skin and black hair. By an overwhelming majority, the children preferred to play with the white dolls, leading the Clarks to the conclusion that racial identity is formed by age three, and that the Black children interviewed and studied were manifesting overt signs of deeply embedded racism. In the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which legally ended school segregation in the USA, NAACP lawyers used Mamie Phipps Clarks’ findings and expert testimony in their successful arguments to change history.
Some six decades later, the experiment was repeated with identical results. Dr. Williams was shocked, and in response founded her company The World of EPI, “EPI” standing for Entertainment, Publishing, Inspiration. The first item created was a line of multi-cultural dolls called Positively Perfect for toddlers, followed by The Fresh Dolls fashion doll collections — Simply Fresh, Fresh, Fresh Squad, and Fresh Fairies Doll Collections. These dolls represent African American, Afro-Latinx, Afro-Asians, Latinx/Hispanic, Caucasian, Mixed/Bi-Racial girls, boys, women and men represent cultural and ethnic diversity with more than simply a pigment change: the sculpt of each face is carefully crafted to capture the distinct features of each group with authenticity, respect and love.
Walmart, Target, Amazon, Macy’s, Walgreens, and other specialty retailers eagerly snapped up the collections, suggesting that maybe the chickens have indeed come home to roost, and that the social conditioning of non-Anglo children is in fact expanding to embrace the global reality of the Black, brown, and larger non-white world majority. The Fresh Dolls series was selected as “Oprah’s Favorite Thing” and In 2020, Walmart named her Supplier of the Year. Then Disney and Marvel came calling, and Dr. Williams was called upon to create product for the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Named the Wakanda Forever Fresh Fierce Collection, the collection was awarded a 2022 “TOTY” (Toy of the Year) as Doll of the Year, considered the “Oscar” of the toy industry and the non-profit The Toy Foundation’s highest honor.
What followed next: her “Fresh Inspirations” coloring books which proclaim “Color is Beautiful.” Dr. Lisa loves coloring books as they are great for children of all ages and allow kids to develop their hand/eye coordination while creating vivid and realistic images. For adults, coloring books are a great way to bond with young ones, and can be relaxing and soothing and a great way to wind down from the day.
The EPI vision is one of consciousness and community, and for Dr. Lisa Williams, building bonds and bright futures is literally child’s play.