Rolling out is committed to the growth of our community and the celebration of urban America’s contributions to society, especially those of women. Terri-Nichelle Bradley thrives on the advancement of our youth in society. She contributes by being a civic entrepreneur who has aims to solve civic and social challenges within our community. Bradley is the founder of Brown Toy Box, a company that focuses on inspiring Black children to pursue careers and hobbies where black people are typically underrepresented. Recently chosen to be a part of the 2019 Civic Innovation Residency sponsored by Sarah Blakely, Bradley continues to work diligently to effect positive change in the Black community. Rolling out had the opportunity to chat with Bradley about her business and being a civic entrepreneur.
Explain Brown Toy Box and what it is.
Brown Toy Box creates and delivers themed toys, games and activities for Black children, designed to expose and excite them about to all areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math [STEAM].
What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I want to create a world where Black children know that they are awesome just as they are and that they can be and achieve anything they set their minds to accomplish. Until that world is a reality, I show up ready to change the game in children’s products and media.
Explain what civic innovation means to you.
It means creating new solutions and approaches to solving a problem affecting a particular segment of society.
Explain what it means to be a civic entrepreneur.
A civic entrepreneur is driven not by profit but rather to solve an issue until that problem no longer exists. While that issue may not even be solved over the course of their lifetime, eradicating whatever problem they are solving is what drives and influences every decision they make in the business.
Describe civic innovation methods you apply to your business and life.
My work doesn’t lead with how I can make the most money, I lead with how can I make the most impact. The business model is solid so the money will come, but that is not at all what drives me. The other thing I am intentional about doing is creating opportunities for small Black toy companies and authors that have amazing products but no distribution. We are able to leverage Brown Toy Box to get their products to our shared audiences.
It was just announced that you are 1 of the 8, 2019 Sarah Blakely civic innovation residents, explain what this means to you.
It is very affirming to be a part of the 2019 Civic Innovation Residency sponsored by Sara Blakely. We all are working so hard on the various issues we are trying to solve but like most African American entrepreneurs, I think most if not all of us [have] completely self-funded our ventures. The stats tell the story, Black startups rarely get funded in any meaningful way, and through this residency, 7 of the 8 women being funded are African American!
We are doing the work we would be doing whether we had support and funding or not because we believe in the solutions we are working to provide so much. That said, being a civic entrepreneur is not only very isolating sometimes it can be incredibly expensive. This investment is so meaningful because it feels as though someone not only sees and appreciates what we are doing for the communities we serve, but they also see the very real businesses we have created and are willing to invest in not only us but our businesses as well.
Name one social change you would like to make happen and why?
The issue of representation in the toy aisle is real. Children need to be able to see themselves in the books that they read and the toys they play with. It is equally as important that white children see black children represented positively and not just as stereotypes. I am going to ensure that there are toys, games and digital media that positively represent black children in order to wholly start changing how black children view and treat themselves, as well as how they are perceived and treated by others.
How do you set goals and evaluate your success?
For me, I believe in eating the elephant one bite at a time. So, while I definitely set yearly goals the way I back into meeting them is by setting the quarterly milestones that I need to meet.
Describe the skills that will be essential to future business leaders and innovators.
Resilient, agile, collaborative and visionary are the four skills that I believe every future business leader and innovator will need to be successful in the future.
What are the do’s and dont’s for young women in business?
Let me say, I am old school but … you will never get the respect you are looking for posting half-naked photos on Instagram. Protect your image because you are the face of your organization.
Network — I am sure young women hear that all the time but I don’t mean just go to event after event. Be strategic — identify events where there are people who can add to your work, not just other people in the same line of work trying to do the same thing you are doing. Also, I can not stress the power of LinkedIn enough.
Go for it. If you are afraid to fail then just realize the only failure is either not trying or not learning the lesson. If things don’t go the way you want, dissect the situation, figure out where you should have pivoted, what relationships you should have nurtured, what challenges you need to overcome; then dust yourself off and get back in the game.