With school re-opening this week, many parents hit the malls and online retailers to purchase everything from notebooks to backpacks to get their little ones ready for the school year.
But with diverse products hard to find, parents in search of items that featured Black characters and culture may have found checking items off their list a bit more challenging. Enter KID SWAG, the online resource making it easy for parents to find toys, clothes, notebooks and other items with positive images of all kinds of beauty. KIDS SWAG founder, Kimberlee West, took some time to share the story behind the platform and how she keeps it all going.
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What were you doing before you started kidsswag.ca?
KIDS SWAG is my passion project. I launched kidsswag.ca in November 2016 while on maternity leave with my second child. I returned to work in February 2017 as Product Marketing Manager for a Tech firm. I now wait until after my two girls are asleep to work on KIDS SWAG in the nights and coordinate with my husband and extended family to attend pop-up events on the weekend.
What made you feel like you had to create this website? What was the inspiration?
It wasn't until I was pregnant with my first child that I realized how hard it is to find books, games, party supplies, toys, and clothes that would reflect her beauty and provide positive reinforcement of her Black culture and heritage. I started buying everything I could find and would share my triumphs on Facebook. The immediate likes and inquiries into my purchases made me realize I was not alone.
I initially wanted to write a book or create a cartoon, but over the years--my eldest daughter is now 5--I've become quite resourceful in finding cute and diverse items that I no longer felt the need to create. I realized there was a strong need to help other people find. It was during a discussion with friends that it was suggested I should create a place to make it easier for parents to find the products I had sourced. Not only is it hard for you to stroll through a local store and find an item with a black image it's equally as hard for a Google search to render you your desired results.
KIDS SWAG brings together brands around the world. Brands are provided an additional platform where their products are marketed to their target customers. Customers are provided a one stop destination to shop and the convenience of paying just one shipping fee instead of separate transactions across multiple sites.
What's been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge has been time. I work full time, I'm married and have two girls. When I started KIDS SWAG I had a 9-month old that was still breastfeeding and only wanted to be with me. Three months into starting KIDS SWAG I returned to working full time in a demanding career, while now having a 1-year-old that still didn't sleep through the night and a 4-year-old that needed to have precious mommy daughter time. Summer is wrapping up and I had to be very conscious to not sign up for too many KIDS SWAG events on the weekend or spend too much time in the evening on the computer instead of with my girls and husband.
It can be thrilling to see the immediate impact of a new marketing campaign or new post for KIDS SWAG but it's important to not get so caught up that I am missing out on my life and the two girls that are the main inspiration for my business.
What keeps you going?
Impact. KIDS SWAG is not about selling products. It's about ensuring children see that they belong, that they're special, that their type of beautiful exists. I am on a mission to make representation the norm online and in our physical spaces. The feedback I have received online and in person confirms that I am on the right path. My girls and their wondrous oblivion and sheer joy of life propel me forward. I see every day how my eldest lights up when she plays with the doll that looks like her or wears the t-shirt with the Black superhero girl that has the same hair as her. The more she sees these images the more confident she will be in this world. Instead of subconsciously feeling inadequate because of the images on TV or in books, she is consciously confident and loves her hair and beautiful tone. I want this for all kids. I am operating on the premise that a confident child will become a successful adult.
How difficult has it been to find products to feature on your site? Where/how do you find them?
It hasn't been difficult at all. I've been on this path now for 5 years because of my daughter. I have a long list of products that I will slowly but surely add to the store. Since launching KIDS SWAG the list is getting longer as the products have found me or come up on a feed I'm following on Instagram or Facebook.
What criteria do you use to determine whether to feature something?
Every product I carry has been a featured product throughout the year. It depends on the season and the popularity of a certain product. For example, Swimma Caps for Afro Hair were a featured product in June to kick off the summer season. Mosi backpacks and Lela lunch bags were recently featured during our back to school sale. For Christmas time we have an extra special product that will be featured starting November this year.