The nursery industry has an important role to play in ensuring toys, books and other products – as well as the way they are marketed and advertised – represent babies, children and characters of different ethnicities and cultures.
After all, we want to raise open-minded, inclusive young people and to see babies and children of all backgrounds represented equally. Products such as Crayola’s ‘Colours of the World Crayons’ with a range of skin tone colours were designed to better represent the growing diversity worldwide, while the Barbie Fashionista range includes different body types and a mix of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and styles.
“The product they never knew they needed”
But, as parents mark milestones in their baby’s early life with cards and other mementos, mum of two, Deborah Ajaja, from south-east London, realised she could only find cards that pictured babies with white skin. So, she set about designing her own line of cards for black and bi-racial children and launched her business, Colour Celebrations.
Deborah was featured recently on a BBC news report – and we caught up with her earlier this week to find out more about her motivation for setting up the business and her ‘Colourful Motherhood Campaign‘, created to put a positive spotlight on the motherhood experience raising black and mixed race children today.
“I set up Colour Celebrations after I gave birth to my son. I was looking for representative milestone cards to celebrate his beautiful buttery black skin and honour our culture (we are of Nigerian descent) but soon found there was nothing available. Having spoken with fellow parents, I realised this was a gap in the market and decided to do something about it. I wanted to create something for parents like me who wanted to celebrate all the key developmental and cultural milestones their children would have and thus, the brand was born!”
What’s been the response from parents – and how widely has the product now reached?
“The brand has been received with open arms by parents and loved family members alike. I am often told the milestone cards are the product they never knew they needed. But once you hear about a product that helps you celebrate your baby in all their melanated glory, you are bound to grab it with both arms. The range has now expanded to include milestone cards for children of mixed ethnicity, height charts and toddler t-shirts with positive slogans, expanding our reach to support even more families create positive, lifelong memories. In the last month alone, sales have been multiplied 10x with purchases being made all over the globe.”
While there are products on the toy/nursery market which represent cultural diversity, do you feel there is still progress to be made?
“Whilst there is increasing representation in the products available to our children, I do believe more can be done. It was this exact issue which led me to create Colour Celebrations, one particular milestone card which featured a freckled blond haired, blue-eyed illustrated baby looked nothing like the child I was raising and I felt conflicted. It is important that our children see themselves in the books they read, the pencils they colour in with, the television shows they watch. Brands creating children’s products need to challenge themselves – who is in your R&D teams and how representative are they? A diverse team will engage in diverse thinking and create diverse products, challenging the status quo. The same question can be asked of the advertising and marketing teams. The more representation we have at all levels in all functions, the more likely we are to create products that are truly diverse.”
Will you be expanding your range to include references from other cultures?
“I would love to expand the range to celebrate children of all hues and cultures. My immediate focus however is to expand the range of products for black and mixed race children as this is truly an underserved area, representing 3% of the UK population.”
Why should a retailer stock Colour Celebrations?
“Colour Celebrations is more than a brand, it is a community. Offering fun, colourful and engaging luxury products, it also provides a safe place to learn and embrace new cultures. Retailers stocking Colour Celebrations will become part of the family, with exclusive access to products and information packs which will build cultural learnings to support in-store conversations.”
Tell us a bit more about the Colourful Motherhood campaign.
“The Colourful Motherhood Campaign was created to put a positive spotlight on the motherhood experience raising black and mixed race children today. All too often, the news is doom and gloom with focus placed on unfavourable statistics. But this is not the case for so many parents and I felt it was important to highlight and celebrate the wonder and joy that comes with black and mixed ethnic motherhood. The campaign includes a feature film and a series of spotlight interviews highlighting these parents hopes, fears, wishes and experiences, things that all Mothers can relate to, irrespective of your ethnic background.”
Can you share any specific plans or developments for Colour Celebrations for the year ahead?
“Colour Celebrations is heading into a busy season with imminent new product launches including greeting cards and soft toys. We will also be launching a Christmas shop for the first time this year with items aimed to help families celebrate and partake in all the joys of Christmas in a fun and representative way.”