Dr. Lisa Williams spent decades building her credentials and working as a highly sought-after academic — then she gave it all up to make toys. The decision is arguably one of her proudest moments. Today she’s the owner of The Fresh Dolls, a brand that offers an array of Black dolls to children and collectors. Dr. Williams is featured in the latest episode of SheEO, a series made by EBONY in collaboration with Walmart, that showcases the groundbreaking stories of Walmart’s Black women business partners. Hosted by actress/producer/entrepreneur Marsai Martin, each episode explores the personal journey a businesswoman has taken to achieve success.

Known for her candor, Dr. Williams speaks frankly about the challenges she faced when starting her brand. “I knew nothing. I had no money, no mentoring, no guidance, no internship, no education. I just had this passion. So, I started looking on the internet… and I ended up finding a factory,” she says. “So, me, passion driven yet silly, hopped on a flight to go to China.” The entrepreneur breaks down what it was like sourcing goods in a foreign country, making hard decisions about her products, and perhaps the biggest hurdle of all, financing.

She confesses to putting all the things she worked hard to achieve — career and financial stability — on the line for her business.

“Venture capital options were not viable for me, so I did what most people do,” she shares.” I leveraged my retirement. I leveraged my home. I leveraged my credit. I leveraged everything to get the money to do these dolls.”

The risk was worth the reward. Dr. Williams adds that fear of the unknown is one of the biggest deterrents for entrepreneurs. She advises those who are truly ready to jump. “I would just say to people don’t try to figure out the how because if you try to figure it out you get stuck on that treadmill, and you’ll never get out,” she offers. “Just take one step at a time. Once you realize the power that resides within you, and it’s a lot of time lying dormant, once you awaken that then you can do anything.”

Listen to Dr. Lisa Williams' episode of SheEO.