As an African or Caribbean parent, it can be quite challenging to find items such as books and toys that are representative of your child’s heritage. However, it is important that children see themselves reflected in the books and toys that they interact with to ensure that they have a healthy sense of identity, confidence and knowledge of their heritage. This is a challenge that entrepreneur Patrick Adom set himself to solve. That’s how he came up with Very Puzzled, jigsaw puzzles parents and kids can get stuck into, learning about Africa as whole, or a specific country on the continent or in the Caribbean.
Independent Toy Awards 2020 winner, Very Puzzled has a very simple mission – provide children and young adults of African Caribbean heritage with products that are reflective of their culture and heritage. The brand has been praised on BBC Focus on Africa, Toy News magazine and the Strategist magazine. I spoke to Patrick about the inspiration behind the brand, his favourite puzzle and his future plans (spoiler alert – football clubs!). Plus, he was kind enough to provide a special discount code for our readers – read about it all below.
Tell us about your business / brand
Very Puzzled offers children and parents of all backgrounds the opportunity to explore and learn more about the richness of Africa and the Caribbean. Our aim is to allow families to spend quality time together, bond and create memories. Our wonderful range of map jigsaw puzzles include Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Jamaica, Ethiopia and London. We are expanding the list to include Senegal, Cameroon, the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago and India.
Which items in your collection are your favourite?
Haha, that’s like asking a parent to pick their favourite child! Of course I am proud of all of my puzzles. But if I had to pick I would go with Jamaica one, as it was the first gender balanced puzzle, as it features almost as many women as men. It is important to ensure that we have an equal representation of women on our puzzles. Plus, Jamaica was also the first Caribbean puzzle in our range. It has been very popular and we have learned that the size of a country’s population does not equate to the amount of sales, as Jamaica outsells all our other country puzzles for countries that have a larger population than Jamaica.
Who is your target customer / audience?
Our target customers are African and Caribbean parents with young children between 3 and 16 years old. Our puzzles have been very popular with parents that home-school their children. Before, I wasn’t aware of how popular home-schooling is and how many African and Caribbean parents home-school their kids. The work that they do is very impressive and the dedication that they put into bringing up their children and an environment that they create to allow their sons and daughters to fulfil their potential is amazing. Our puzzles also really appeal to parents that want to ensure that they provide an educational toy for their child that at the same time allows the whole family to bond together and learn about their heritage in a fun way that sparks lots of conversations.
What inspired you to start your own business?
My daughter is my main inspiration! Her birth gave me a sense of purpose and as she was growing up, I saw a lack of diversity in the books, toys, clothes and films that she interacted with. This saddened me, but I didn’t want to just complain about the situation nor did I want to accept it. I thought about what I could do to make a positive impact, and I was encouraged by other businesses such as Hello Nana Dolls, Biankah and Friends, Nia Ballerina and decided that a jigsaw puzzle would be a great addition to the products that were already on the market.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, I think it’s something that is in the nature of my family. My mum once had a shop, my sister has a fashion label Ohema Ohene and my two brothers are very enterprising as well. From an early age we all have had jobs so that we could buy the extra things that we wanted that parents were not going to get for us.
What tips would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
I would encourage anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur to go for it, as one can learn a lot when starting a business. I am still relatively new to running my own company and I continue to learn all the time. It is a very challenging journey and as the saying goes it is a marathon, so be prepared. I can often be impatient so you need to have what it takes to stick to your goals when things get difficult.
Who are your role models or mentors?
My family are my role models, especially my mum for having the courage to move from Ghana to the UK in order to provide a better life for her children, for working so hard to raise my siblings and I. My daughter is also a great role model for me, which sounds strange, however I believe that if I am not learning as much from her as she learns from me then I am doing something wrong. She absolutely understands the meaning of life – she is full of energy and always wants to make everything into an adventure, so even everyday activities become fun with her and that is something that we lose as adults. I love the way she connects things using reason and logic, but at the same time she does not take things seriously. She gives me a whole different perspective on life.
What’s next for you and your business?
We have a range of football puzzles for football clubs that are coming out, which include Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and West Ham. Plus, we are in discussions with other companies about creating a range of licensed puzzles, such as Airbnb. Our key goal is to be stocked within the large retail outlets such as John Lewis, Sainsburys, The Entertainer etc.
To find out more about Very Puzzled, check out their website https://verypuzzled.com and use special code GLAM20 to get 20% off, or follow on Instagram @veryverypuzzled .