by The Bloom Report | 31 Mar 2022
Biographies and Interviews
What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?
I am the founder and CEO of educational toy company, Brown Toy Box. I’m active in the Atlanta education and business community as an equity advocate in the Learn4Life Network, a member of the Junior League of Atlanta, and serve as the Atlanta chapter chair of Women in Toys.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
My mission is to disrupt generational poverty. Brown Toy Box is purpose-driven and centered around celebrating Black and Brown children. Our mission is to introduce STEAM to Black and Brown children and provide early exposure to career opportunities and inspire them through play. At Brown Toy Box, we do this in 2 ways. The first is through retail, selling our STEAM kits and toys. The second is through our work with Title 1 schools. Title 1 schools are high poverty schools. We created versions of our STEAM kits for schools in effort to make sure we reach kids who are just as smart and deserving, but who just don’t have the means. We get to expose them to STEAM activities and careers as well. Some of my top media highlights include Bloomberg News, The Tamron Hall Show, Techstination, and named to Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Female Founders 100 list.
What has been your biggest achievement?
I’m so proud of the work that we have accomplished at Brown Toy Box. A big win was getting into Target stores. Our 6 STEAM Kits can be found in target stores and online at Target.com. This is fabulous for the affluent moms who understand the benefits of STEAM. Both Black and White moms who want a more diverse toy box than they had growing up. Black moms who are like, ‘I want my kids to have access to STEAM and we know what those careers can do for their lives.’
A recent win is our partnership with DonorsChoose, an education nonprofit that will expand our in-school offering with the goal of reaching 100,000 kids at Title 1 Schools.
What was your biggest failure?
When first starting the business, I failed. I didn’t have the business acumen. But I was committed to my idea and knew in my heart that I was creating something worthwhile. So I sought guidance from mentors, participated in incubator programs, and gained the necessary knowledge that comes with entrepreneurship and starting a small business.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Stay Curious. It’s a phrase that I live by and is part of The Brown Toy Box ethos. We even use it as our brand hashtag. We develop fun things that cultivate kids' curiosity. What I say is, you don’t always have to be the smartest kid in class, just be the most curious.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives. I was at a crossroads in my life. I was working in a career that I did not enjoy, felt disconnected, and I was trying to find my purpose. I literally had an aha moment. I was hiking at Stone Mountain, a mountain in Georgia, and I asked God what do I do next? What I heard was, look at your life. And upon reflection, I knew I needed to start my own toy business and help educate young minds.
What are you working on now?
We plan to roll out 50 new toys this year, which as a small company, is aggressive for us. We are very intentional about what we create. We test in schools, make sure it’s what teachers like, parents like, and what kids like. I’m very excited about what we have in the works.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
Living in my purpose keeps me motivated and going. Knowing I can make a difference in children’s lives is hugely important and motivating for me. If a child is inspired by and pursues a STEAM career from playing and engaging with Brown Toy Box products, that would be a dream come true.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I’m excited to see that STEM and STEAM Toys are gaining popularity in the toy industry. As much as we rely on technology, it’s also just as important to develop unplug play. Especially during the pandemic, I’ve had parents who look for activities that don’t rely on a tablet. Our STEAM Kits are perfect for tactile play. We do see the importance of technology and continuing learning online. So, we are planning to expand our online education content as well.
What advice do you have for people starting in the industry?
Community is so important. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to learn from mentors and have gained guidance while on this journey of founding a small business as a Black female entrepreneur.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing young children learn and play and interact with Brown Toy Box products. It puts a smile on my face to know they are having fun while learning.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I am dedicated to making a difference in solving generational poverty. I’m committed to reaching young Black and Brown kids and expose them early to STEAM careers, which are the careers of the future. We believe that it’s all about early and recurring exposure to STEAM. Blacks make up less than 5% of the workforce, but for most of the STEAM careers, they make up less than 2%. So we believe it’s all about early and recurring exposure to STEAM. Kids need to be exposed to it and then play, test, and participate in activities, classes and eventually lead to STEAM majors. We want to be that first part of the STEAM pipeline to get kids on the road to STEAM careers of the future.
What and/or who inspires you?
Many people inspire me. I’m in awe of people who put their purpose and their passion to work. Of course, my children inspire me each and every day. During the pandemic, teachers have inspired me through their tenacity and commitment to educating children. As a business, I’m inspired by companies like Melissa & Doug who really are making learning fun.
Where were you born?
I was born in Minnesota.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up in Minnesota in the 70s. Had a supportive family. In school, I was a minority, being 1 of a few Black girls in the advanced placement classes. I was always a hard worker.
Who might be role models for the work you do?
I look at Mr. Rogers as a role model, he’s so inspirational. He was so many people’s first teachers. He purposefully made learning fun. My favorite thing he said was, “play is the work of childhood.” And that deeply resonates. Brown Toy Box takes that same concept to heart. For me, it was how do I introduce kids to these STEAM careers that are the future of work in a way that is fun and leverages play to do it.
How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?
Being clear on my purpose and aligning my business goals with my mission. Knowing that I’m making an impact on disrupting generational poverty by serving underprivileged kids keeps me going.
Do you have any kiddos?
I have 4 wonderful children who inspire me every day.
The toy and game industry clearly has….
The Toy industry clearly has a need for more representation. It’s so important for Black and Brown children to see themselves represented and expose them to careers that perhaps they wouldn’t have thought possible.
I’m lucky that….
I’m lucky that I have such an amazing team. We have weathered and fought through the supply chain issues that impacted delivery delays, sourcing, and so much more. I’m grateful to have gone through the Google for start-ups program and received a Black Founders Fund Grant, to have launched during COVID, and especially for my hard working team. I’m lucky that I can be a job creator for others as well. I’m very intentional about making sure I can do trade or business with other Black women owned and Black lead organizations and companies so that we can see our dollars circulate in this community. We can be the change that we seek. For me, Brown Toy Box is an economic driver just as much as it is a tool for educating and disrupting generational poverty.
We have so many wonderful things in the works. I can’t wait to see Brown Toy Box grow this year and beyond!
About Brown Toy Box & Terri-Nichelle Bradley, Founder & CEO - Brown Toy Box
Initially developed as a classroom resource for children in lower socio-economic communities, Brown Toy Box launched commercially in 2021 at Target and independent specialty toy stores and retailers nationwide. Terri-Nichelle Bradley is active in the Atlanta education and business community as an equity advocate in the Learn4Life Network, a member of the Junior League of Atlanta, and serves as the Atlanta chapter chair of Women in Toys. Bradley is also a recipient of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Leaders in Corporate Citizenship- Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Prior to starting Brown Toy Box, Bradley led a communications consultancy working with Fortune 500 companies in campaigns designed to connect with the African American community and served as the VP of Corporate, Crisis, and Public Affairs for the world’s largest global PR agency. With more than 20 years of experience in PR and marketing with a specialty of marketing to African American moms, Bradley was awarded the 2019 Civic Impact Award, was recognized as a 2019 Atlanta’s Top 100 Business Women of Influence by the Atlanta Business League, acknowledged on the 2020 Who’s Who in Black Atlanta list of influential leaders and most recently named to Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Female Founders 100 list.
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