10-year-old CEO, Kayana Williams, raises money for charities through a family-run social enterprise.
KK Emmay is a little kid with a big heart who believes no idea is too small to put into action. Ever since she can remember, she has celebrated her birthdays by going door-to-door with her two younger sisters requesting donations for important causes. Earlier this year, in support of their daughter’s philanthropy, Williams’ parents bought her a button machine for her tenth birthday. She was encouraged to fundraise independently by selling buttons and magnets while raising awareness for local charities.
Although she appreciated the gift, there was a steep learning curve. There was no instruction manual for the machine and Williams says there was a lot to figure out before she could launch her business, Pushing Buttons. In the process, she learned soft skills including attention to detail, patience, communication and time management.
“It was really hard coming up with designs. We were drawing on paper and pushing them and trying to figure out how these pieces worked and how they were put together to completion. It was sort of like a puzzle.”
The family business, (based in Cambridge, ON) involves her 8-year-old sister Kayla as the graphic designer, her mother as the project manager and when completing large orders her father is in charge of quality control. Her maternal grandfather runs his own heating and cooling business and has taught her the importance of a strong work ethic while taking care of herself and others. She says she loves collaborating with her family and thrives on their support.
“If you have someone that believes in you or a team of people that believe in you, it kind of boosts your confidence. If you don’t succeed you are going to try again because you have these people that are going to empower you no matter what.”
Pushing Buttons has been contracted by both large scale retailers and small businesses including Amazon, Sunny Boy Farms and Sybils Logistics.
The company has also partnered with Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation where the ‘I Love To Read’ button was sold in-store with proceeds donated to the charitable organization.
KK recently placed second in a pitch competition for small business owners, organized by the Afro-Caribbean Business Network in Brampton, Ontario. During her presentation, she shared some of the challenges faced as a young person, while highlighting the timelessness of her product.
“The government only funds people over the age of 16 and under the age of 30. So my mom is too old and I can’t necessarily hire a 19-year-old to work for me right now. Buttons have been around for over 100 years and they never seem to go out of style. They’re great marketing tools and also allow people to express themselves without using words.”
Unlike other business owners, KK does not have a cell phone or access to her Instagram account. Her mother, Shian Mohammed says she is responsible for empowering her daughter while keeping her safe – especially in the virtual world.
“As much as we want them to grow and flourish we have to be careful. Especially on Instagram. Some of the things I’ve seen have been horrible coming through her DM’s. There was an instance where recently I had to go report something to the police. So everything comes through me first. I don’t understand how some kids have access. I can just imagine what they’re seeing. But I think parents should be filtering everything before it gets to them. Once I’ve dealt with the situation we talk about it. So that she understands that it’s real and then she kind of gets why I am the way I am. She needs to be aware of these dangers. Then she doesn’t question it as much cause she knows.”
The confident self-starter not only runs a family business but after school, she participates in a myriad of activities including enhanced mathematics, basketball, volleyball, and singing. She’s also a correspondent for DCY Opportunities Magazine, a Detroit-based publication where she receives media access to various business conferences. One of which included the NAACP ACT-SO event (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) where top-performing African-American students were celebrated at a gala event held at the legendary Fox Theatre.
Being in environments where Black excellence is normalized and celebrated, gives KK the tangible opportunity to visualize her own success. She is of mixed Caribbean heritage with a Jamaican dad and Trinidadian mom. Mohammed states that as an Indo-Caribbean woman with bi-racial children living in Cambridge, Ontario – she is aware her children occupy spaces that aren’t normally welcoming to people of colour. Aside from networking opportunities, trips to Detroit with her daughter does wonders for her child’s self-esteem.
“The kids that she meets there, they are all Black kids that are chess champions, cello players, they’re fencing. These are the activities that kids are participating in. Why should we be limited? What’s the stigma? I love when she’s down there. She meets kids that are just like her.”
In the coming week, KK will be in Toronto where she’s participating in PitchItTOCity Hall. The event provides startups with a platform to market their product, drive brand awareness and polish their presentation skills.
Although she’s made huge strides early in life, her rocket logo symbolizes no limitations to her success. She wants to continue inspiring children by opening a store and also plans to be a teacher when she grows up. She shares wisdom beyond her years to those who wish to follow in her footsteps.
“Anything is possible if you have a good mindset and you work hard. Be creative. Think into the future. What is something that will benefit us? Not necessarily what we need now but something that we’ll need later on. You never know what’s gonna happen next.”
Know a Black Canadian business we should feature? Email us: info at byblacks.com.
True Daley was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec and relocated to Toronto in the 90s where she was a fixture in the hip-hop journalism scene as a freelance writer for various urban publications.
She's also worked as a morning news anchor, actor, late night TV host and commentator on pop culture and politics with appearances on Flow 93.5, BET, HBO, CBC and MuchMusic.
Currently, the proud Parkdalian is a community worker and filmmaker with an unhealthy attachment to vintage clothing. Follow True Daley on Instagram @truedaley