A young businesswoman, intent on building her brand of multicultural baby dolls, approached a Boston incubator for entrepreneurs of color last year, hoping to protect her company’s intellectual property. Help came in the form of a Boston College Law School clinic affiliated with the Roxbury-based program.
The collaboration helped Fusion Dolls owner Widline Pyrame, a native of Haiti, to win the Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Metro South Chamber of Commerce in May. Companies are rated on their creativity and imagination in the development of their business, demonstration of growth, and a reflection on internal and external social responsibility.
Based on her own childhood experience with predominantly white toys and her desire “to spread diversity, awareness, and encourage our children to love themselves inside and out,” Pyrame created a line of dolls for black and brown children that look like them and that promote self-love, positive emotion, and the development of self esteem.
Based in Brockton, Massachusetts, Fusion Dolls has been expanding its business from initially selling at local markets and popup locations to now operating a successful online store (https://fusiondolls.com/) and an in-person kiosk at the Westgate Mall in Brockton. Since its founding in 2019, Fusion Dolls has sold nearly 2,000 dolls. Customers are mostly young black girls, between 3 and 7 years of age. While Fusion Dolls’ customers are primarily located in Massachusetts, the dolls have been sold to customers in Georgia, Texas, Oregon, Louisiana, California, and New York.
During the summer and fall of 2020, Pyrame participated in the Roxbury incubator program of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll). EforAll Roxbury is the current iteration of Smarter in the City, a local incubator that began working with BC Law’s transactional clinic in 2014. The Law School’s transactional clinics have provided legal services to the incubator’s entrepreneurs every year since its founding.
In 2019, Smarter in the City partnered with EforAll, a larger Massachusetts charity focused on promoting local startups, in order to support more businesses in the community and meet the growing demand from increased entrepreneurship. Since becoming EforAll Roxbury, the incubator has increased the number of cohorts and their size by nearly 50 percent. This past year, EforAll Roxbury had more than thirty entrepreneurs participate in its program.
Most of the EforAll Roxbury businesses received legal help from either BC Law’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Clinic (EIC) or the Community Enterprise Clinic each year.
Fusion Dolls came to EIC last fall, primarily focused on protecting its intellectual property. As student attorney to Fusion Dolls, 3L Mary Bao developed an IP protection strategy; researched, prepared, and submitted two trademark applications to register the Fusion Dolls name and logo; and drafted independent contractor agreements and IP rights assignments to ensure the company controlled as much of its intellectual property as possible.
In the spring, 2L student attorney Jacob Lee picked up the mantel of the IP strategy and shifted the legal focus to obtaining copyright protection for one of the dolls, Adorable Angel, and her related book, Angel’s Hair Journey, where Angel learns to love her natural hair and to embrace her own identity. The trademark and copyright applications are pending.
“The legal representation of Fusion Dolls represents the best of the clinical experience and demonstrates the high quality lawyering BC Law students provide to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators in the community,” said Associate Clinical Professor Sandy Tarrant ’99, who directs EIC at BC Law’s Center for Experiential Learning. “Mary and Jake were focused on meeting the client’s goals and made sure the transition between the students and semesters was a smooth one. We are happy to support growing businesses like Fusion Dolls and to help protect critical business assets from the beginning.”
The EIC’s clients are happy, too. “I’m so excited to be able to work with EIC. Mary and Jake are so talented,” Pyrame said, adding how grateful she was for their help with Fusion Dolls.