With a range of finely crafted wooden face puzzles, flash card sets, posters and gift wrap, with more to come, the business founded by first-time entrepreneur Desriee Asomuyide has representation at its heart. While serving children of color, Little Omo sees its ranges as having broader application as well, teaching all little ones ages six months to six years about diversity and inclusion through play.
And it was the non-existence of such products that Asomuyide found when she was pregnant with her son Isaías that prompted her to take the plunge and fill the void two years ago.
Now, a variety of skin tones and hair types appear in Little Omo’s puzzles and cards, which also include body parts, the alphabet, and numbers.
Asomuyide, an Essex-based fashion design expert whose family is of Nigerian descent (Omo means child in the West African Yoruba language) explains: “I realized that the toys that I teach my son would not show anyone like him, but identification is so important in building trust and he would miss it.
“That is the much-needed reset our toys achieve. Our whole food brain teasers, for example, feature foods that black and brown kids are familiar with, exotic fruits and vegetables like okra and bananas. This allows children in general to learn about the diversity of foods and become more open to trying them.”
The radical approach doesn’t end there either because Little Omo is one of the few in the UK domestic toy manufacturing sector. Each puzzle is handmade from FSC certified sustainable wood with the pieces stored in an organic cotton bag.
“We have partnered with the few craft companies in this sector that remain here. All trimmings are disposed of responsibly, the pieces are memorabilia, soft and very comfortable to the touch, and the printing is high quality with vegetable inks. Doing in the UK was very important because it gives me security and control. I am a perfectionist,” says Asomuyide, who had no previous experience in the toy market and spent seven months developing his idea from scratch.
Initially an e-commerce operation, the positive response from parents and teachers nationally and across North America helped pave the way for progress with the Selfridges store in London and online.
This happened thanks to a partnership between the flagship retailer and Untapped Creatives, a platform created by Funmi Scott that features black-owned African and British sustainable lifestyle brands.
“Selfridges marks a huge turning point in raising awareness for us,” says Asomuyide, who has also brought Little Omo to Disneyland in California and will see a major US retailer join soon.
The company forecasts revenues of over £80,000 by 2024 and, alongside the current investment increase of £100,000, will seek a brand expert to grow the business internationally.
Starting this month, it’s hosting pop-ups in London’s Spitalfields and Hackney, with more puzzles on the way, featuring theme parks and markets.
It is also expanding its diversity campaign with products for a larger age group planned to include children with disabilities and of different heights and sizes. Next year, a toy kitchen set designed for cooking exotic foods will be unveiled.
Then, keeping pace with the emerging fashion trend of giving customers the option to rent outfits, Little Omo will create a collection of role-playing game costumes for sale or rent available through the Hurr platform.
As the UK’s first inclusive toy brand to represent children of colour, Little Omo makes history.
“My goal now,” says Asomuyide, “is to create a brand with many characters that people immediately recognize so that kids can say ‘this one looks like me’ or ‘like my friend.'”