Couple Diversifies Baby Books

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If the mother of invention is necessity, she has a new child in, an online retailer with a focus on diversity. Ethnic Babies was conceived from a need for more representation of diverse ethnicities in baby books.

"After the birth of our first child, we found it extremely difficult to find books with African-American characters," co-founder Yolanda Penn said.

That sparked the idea for Ethnic Babies. "We figured that parents of many ethnicities probably faced similar challenges," said James Penn Jr., the second co-founder and CEO.

The couple says growing numbers of minorities with higher education also influenced their decision to launch the business.

"I remember hearing about growing rates of first-generation college students among minorities when I was in school, and I knew that would impact the number of minority parents who would appreciate education," James said.

Yolanda, who has a master's in education, said the psychological aspects of media was a driving factor in the company's formation.

"The subconscious impact on a child from never seeing faces similar to theirs in positive media can be far reaching," she said. Added James: "If all you see purported as beautiful is a classical European look on magazine covers and other media, it stands to reason that your self-perception would be affected."

The Penns emphasize that their company isn't just for African-Americans or other minorities. "Minorities are an obvious demographic for our company, but anyone who appreciates diversity should welcome and utilize something like this," Yolanda said.

The couple said they will do things to encourage parents to explore books of other ethnicities. They state it will be valuable for any child's social development as our society is becoming more diverse.

"Some of our titles show the richness of different ethnicities, but we didn't want all of our books to have a cultural theme necessarily," James said. "We didn't want all of the books with Asian characters to say 'look how Asian I am.' Likewise for African-American, Latino or whomever it may be."

The Penns also carry dolls and plush toys, and have developed their own exclusive line of hair care products for all hair types.

"A major focus of ours is to offer information and forums for discussion that are valuable to parents," Yolanda said. "We invest time and resources to offer newsletters, blogs, discussion boards, videos and social media - all with the hopes of making a positive contribution to the parenting experience."

Ethnic Babies is exclusively online, however the Penns do have plans for future retail locations as the company grows.
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Couple Diversifies Baby Books

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This article was published on 2010/11/20