By Kelly Westhoff
When Kristen O’Meally and Lamia Haley launched their toy company, Kids for Culture, they never imagined that one year later they would be collaborating with Walmart.
“This is a story about the power of hashtags,” Kristen said. “A buyer from Walmart saw our products on Instagram and sent us an email through the contact page of our website.”
Kids for Culture hadn’t even been in business six months. Before she replied to that message, Kristen Googled the buyer’s name and email address to see if it was real.
Kids for Culture started with four products: a deck of ABC affirmation flashcards, a memory game, stickers, and a deck of emotional literacy cards that feature faces displaying different feelings. All the products are specifically designed for preschool-aged children. Flashcards and game pieces are large and thick, making them easy for small hands to grab and difficult to rip. Not only do the products showcase kids with a variety of skin tones, but they also make use of bold and soothing colors to attract children.
Before launching their products, Kristen and Lamia—sisters raised in Kentucky—tested them in the real world. They gave the flashcards and game pieces to their nieces and nephews. Lamia had a young child at home with whom she shared the cards. And Kristen, the director of a preschool, brought the items into her classrooms. There, she said, “kids, educators and parents all gravitated towards them.”
Among the Kids for Culture products, Walmart was most interested in the ABC affirmation flashcards. Each card prominently features one letter of the alphabet along with a positive affirmation: “A is for Amazing—I am an amazing person,” “B is for Believe—I believe in myself,” “C is for Change—I can change the world.” Kids for Culture started selling the affirmation cards on its own website. Just a few months later, the cards were also available on Walmart’s website and earning positive customer reviews.
“Walmart was a fan of the affirmation cards, and they asked us to put a spin on the product,” Lamia said. “They wanted a product pair that included a plush toy. They really left it up to us as to what this would look like. We did get some feedback, but it was minimal.”
Kids for Culture created two new products for Walmart, which are packaged as a gift set—a 16-page ABC board book that echoes its ABC flashcards and is filled with positive affirmations for young children, and a line of plush baby dolls in three different skin tones called Positive Pals. Each doll bears a positive message on its soft belly: “I am Amazing,” “I am Kind,” “I am Loved.”
Many small business owners dream of collaborating with big retailers to sell more products, and Kristen and Lamia’s partnership with Walmart has enabled them to get their books and toys into the hands of more kids and families. But beyond that, it has provided an opportunity to introduce a broader audience to the Kids for Culture mission, which is ultimately diversity in literature, media, games and toys.
“We really want children to see themselves reflected in our products,” Kristen said. “But we also want them to be exposed to others. We don’t just highlight one race or one demographic or one culture. Our products are an opportunity for children to be introduced to diversity.”
Photo credit: Kids for Culture
About the Author
Kelly Westhoff is a freelance writer who always enjoys talking to women business owners. She finds their energy contagious and their stories fun to share.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded independent publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all.