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puzzle huddle

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This Black Owned Toy Business Is Playing No Games During The Coronavirus Crisis

Matthew and Marnel met while attending Howard University for graduate school. Marriage and three young children later, they created a toy business called Puzzle Huddle.

We caught up with Matthew to see how his business and family is being affected by the Coronavirus crisis.

Black Owned Toy Business
Marnel and Matthew

What were your initial thoughts when you learned about the outbreak?

We were concerned very early because our puzzles are manufactured globally and our partners were affected by the Coronavirus in January. We did not expect the health crisis to transition this quickly and profoundly to the United States.

How has it affected your business?

We had several significant televised media opportunities and pop-up events cancelled. Following many school closures, we experienced an increase in sales with parents looking for resources to keep their children busy and learning at home. In cases where we run out of inventory, our ability to receive new products is delayed.

How has it affected your lifestyle?

We have three young children (ages 6, 4, and 3) that have all been affected by school closures. At home we’re doing our best to create learning activities to keep our kids on track academically. Their learning time includes age appropriate math, reading, art, spanish, outdoor activities, puzzles, and public speaking (online using Facetime with family members).

What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business?

We are using our social media channels to highlight educational activities, tips, and resources for parents and students that are affected by school closures. There are so many homeschooling experts on social media and teachers that have gone online. We want to bring attention to those resources.

We’re also making adjustments to our product line and supply chain strategy to minimize specific vulnerabilities in the future. Beginning this summer we’ll have multiple products and revenue generation strategies to help manage our business’ risk profile.

We don’t know to the extent that our community is experiencing job and income uncertainty. We use our social media to give products away on a weekly basis and we hope to continue doing that so we can reach families that may not be in a position to buy our products during the public health crisis.

If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be?

Connect with us through social media and let us know what resources and activities you are using to power through this experience. It’s been amazing watching our community mobilize online to support their children’s learning and care for each other.

There’s also been a lot of comedic relief from parents as they post about their experiences at home managing their children’s day during the school closures. Now is an awesome time to introduce a new puzzle into your homes.

-Tony O. Lawson

Related: Young Couple Creates Culturally Inclusive Toys 

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Young Couple Creates Culturally Inclusive Toys because Representation Matters

Matthew and Marnel are the parents of three children (all under the age of five) who love puzzles!

Frustrated with the lack of diverse images shown on commercially-produced puzzles, they created Puzzle Huddle,  a business that offers pocket sized puzzles for children and toddlers.

puzzle huddle
Marnel and Matthew

We spoke to Matthew to find out more about the business, future plans and balancing parenthood and entrepreneurship.

puzzle huddle

What is the most rewarding thing about your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I absolutely love being able to provide a product that parents trust in their homes in front of their children.

I regularly hear feedback from parents about children opening our products and exclaiming “it looks like me”. Being able to add a layer of cultural affirmation and inspiration in the lives of children is extremely rewarding.

puzzle huddle

Most of my high school and college classmates now have young children. There’s an extreme emotional reward sending products to parents that I knew back when academics and social events where our priorities.

puzzle huddle

What is the most challenging part of the journey?

The most challenging part of the journey is balancing business and the commitment to be very present in interactions with my children and spouse.
 

How do you balance being parent and a business owner?

Attempting to balance parenting and business is a process that I challenge myself on everyday. Children are impressively uninterested in their parents business priorities.

They very easily disrupt any business related multitasking to make themselves the priority of the moment. 100% of the time, interacting with my children is more fun and fulfilling than responding to an email

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

I expect the products to eventually become a standard for children at home and in schools.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Fall in love with process, both the successes and challenges. Also anchor your happiness, self confidence, and self esteem in something other than your business.

-Tony O. Lawson


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