I’ll never forget last Christmas, the first time my child really got into playing with Barbie type dolls, and my mission was to find us some brown ones. The task was easier said than done, and it took the help of family and friends to find a least one doll with curly hair in a sea filled with blonde Barbies and Kens. ”It shouldn’t be this hard,”I thought as we searched across the city. Even Disney’s Doc McStuffin seems to only be playing with white baby dolls, maybe her cartoon parents are having the same problem as the rest of us.
Such is the reality of Black parenting.
Brown Toy Box is a company that aims to solve this problem for parents. For just 34.99 a month, Brown Toy Box is delivered to subscribers full of culturally affirming toys. The box is not one size fits all either. The company has made sure that there are different toys for different age groups and genders. For founder Terri-Nichelle Bradley, the Brown Toy Box mission is apparent “I would go store to store and try to find Black Barbies, or buy little birthday invitations or Christmas cards, and it would be so frustrating to not see Black faces” she says. “I wanted to come up with something that was about teaching kids that they are more than the images they constantly see, and that their history and future prove that they are going to be the next renaissance for us. So we really need to build them up,” according to Bradley.
More and more households are now subscribing to the Brown Toy Box in part due to their partnership with Mocha Moms, a well-established non-profit and online community of Black moms and community activists. Ten percent of proceeds for each initial subscription of Brown Toy Box goes to Mocha Moms and members who are also business owners have an opportunity for their products to be a part of Brown Toy Box. According to Bradley, helping other entrepreneurs is the company’s secondary mission. “In the past people had all of these great products and didn’t know how to market them or reach their target consumers. It’s almost like a teachable moment on wholesale and retail, I’m bringing other entrepreneurs along with me as we grow.”
Bradley is more than qualified to help other business owners, especially when it comes to branding and marketing. With a background in public relations and multi-cultural mnarketing, she understands the power of a strong brand and doesn’t plan on stopping with a subscription service. Her plan is to fully extend into an online store this year, and eventually go global. Similar to Brown Toy Box, the store will feature products made by Black owners as well toys sold by mainstream manufacturers like Hasbro and Mattel. “It’s important to encourage companies to continue to develop and create products for Black children. If I could, I would love to source 100 percent from small business owners because they have great products, but right now, were not at a point where the price could be where it needs to be for that to happen.”
In a world that often doesn’t see their value, Bradley’s ultimate goal is to make it easier for moms to show their children just how invaluable they are. “If were spending our money, we want things that look like our kids.” And that’s not just a wish, it’s a mission, one that she intends to accomplish.
Elizabeth Aguirre is a Digital Writer and Retail Design Project Manager living and working in Chicago, Il. When she’s not tweeting about social justice issues, she can be found meditating or blogging at cultureofthechi.com.