Young entrepreneur making waves in her own style

You’re never too young to make an impact on the world – that’s certainly what 12-year-old London girl Alyssa Ottley-Awuah seems determined to prove to the world.

Alyssa was only six years old when she asked her mum, Yvonne, why none of the characters in her games looked like she did. Together, they set about creating Frobelles, the UK’s first Afro-hair championing dress up game which has a significant fan following in this country, and which has just launched into the US market, taking its mission of ‘educating and empowering curly-coily haired kids’ to the next level. 

The game was created as a fun but educational and empowering solution to a problem, since research shows a lack of representation in the content consumed by young children can really damage their self-esteem.

The success of the venture saw Frobelles CEO Alyssa being named Young Entrepreneur at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards (sponsored by NatWest) at a ceremony that saw her stand up and make an acceptance speech in front of a room full of guests at the Walkie Talkie.

Yvonne said:

“Alyssa was only six when she came to me to ask why her game characters didn’t look like her. The main reason I took the idea and worked with her to develop it was because I wanted her to understand the impact of being able to see the characters she was looking for, and to show her that it’s possible to make a positive impact no matter how young we are, what we look like or what stage of life we’re at.

“Her generation are operating in the digital space and working on Frobelles is something that could set her up now for a life using this kind of technology. And there are always going to be children seeking answers to the same questions she asked, so this means we are able to give something back to the community.

“Children naturally want to see themselves in the games they play, it’s a part of how they start to form their identities. I spent a good while looking for games that had diverse characters with Afro hair, but it was really slim pickings… what I found was either the characters were black but had little to no afro-hair options, or, in the case of a lot of games, afro hair styles were being depicted in a culturally appropriated way.”

Frobelles is an empowering dress up game, featuring three sisters, that provides a fun, safe and creative space for children to experiment with their identity and sense of style, whether they want to keep their natural hair or they want to change it.

The ‘story mode’ also teaches them how to care for their afro hair, how to style it, how to do their skincare, and how to get ready for the day, as not every child has someone to take the time to help, and there are a lot of nuances with textured hair. 

Six years on from the original idea, Frobelles has become a vibrant community with sisterhood at its heart. It has its own fan club, range of merchandise, regular offline events and has surpassed 100,000 downloads in the UK. It has two Black History Month campaigns with the Apple AppStore under its belt, as well as a campaign with GooglePlay and inclusion in the Startups 100 for 2024.

Conversations are now happening with an agency to distribute Frobelles via browsers so that the youngest fans, who may be too young to have their own mobile phones, can gain access without borrowing their parents’ devices. 

Alyssa, a talented young artist, and Yvonne, who has experience in graphic design, worked together to bring the original designs to the game. Alyssa still enjoys working on drawings for new stories and hair styles.

“Even though everything goes online in the end, I like to draw with pencil and paper first,”

she said.

“It feels like you can put more personality into your drawings than doing them digitally. I just think about what styles I like and how to do them and what the different ways and styles of doing your hair are called and add them to my characters.”

As Alyssa has grown, the content of the game has grown with her, remaining age appropriate but evolving as Alyssa’s interests in fashion and storyline content have evolved. She’s also become increasingly involved in the tech side of things, often guiding Yvonne on area such as YouTube and social media.

“I have some graphic design experience, so when she first asked the question, I made a comment to Alyssa that we should create our own game – and of course she leapt at the opportunity. I soon started to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew,”

said Yvonne.

“She was only six and so she was working at her level, but I had to learn to speak to developers and explain what we wanted in a way they could work with and although I have creative design experience, it was a lot to learn in a fairly short time.

“Now, though, it’s interesting  because she’s teaching me things. This is a digital generation growing up today and she’s so good at looking at what we can put out on social media and how we do it, I can’t keep up. It’s all so fast, from ideation to production, but nothing seems be an issue for her.”

Inspiration for styles and designs also came from friends and extended family, and one of the most satisfying things for Yvonne and Alyssa is how Frobelles has opened up the conversation not only within the black community but among the wider community as a whole.

“People still feel a little bit uncomfortable about asking black women about how they do their hair and what the names of styles are,”

said Yvonne.

“If you can find out the names of the styles, and refer to them by their actual name, and show an interest, even if you can’t do that style with your own hair, then we are breaking down some barriers, and we’d love to delve deeper into that.

“We live in a four-generation household and for my mother and grandmother to see what we are doing, when they never knew anything like that when they were young women, means they’re very proud of what we’ve created.

“The main characters are three sisters but we’ve also introduced the FroBoys into the storylines and try to expand the stories out into more characters and situations. We’re excited about launching in the US, and I think our community are ready for us to expand so we are looking at potential partnerships and collaborations with brands and platforms, so who knows what might be next?”

Find out more about Frobelles at


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