Welcome to part 2 of our exclusive interview with Entrepreneur Academy Alumnus Chi Opara, founder of Dinky Mix.
In this instalment (click), We talk with Chi about the research she is doing for some great ways she is diversifying her business, as well as her personal approach to customer service...
One of the ways Chi is diversifying what Dinky Mix has to offer is by creating activity packs that teach children about Black history in all its richness and colour. There is a history and a heritage that stretches centuries and millennia before the Atlantic slave trade - a history of empires and civilisations that invented and created and built and achieved great things. This is what she is currently researching and preparing for.
“I think it’s good for everyone to know everyone’s history. At the moment, our knowledge of history is very Eurocentric”, Chi explained. “I think Europeans miss out on seeing what happened in other continents and countries. When you put it together as a whole, yeah, of course there are horrible things that happened in the past, and also beautiful things, and it helps to shape children and shape people to really be inspired by different cultures and their history, and hopefully, if you pay attention to it, not to make the same mistakes that were made in the past.
Chi’s background is Igbo Nigerian, from the Igbo people. Story telling is a big part of Nigerian culture, and also is the lifeblood of most cultures across the continent of Africa. She has drawn much wisdom and morals from having stories passed down to her from her parents. “It helped me know who I am, and cemented positive self-identity within me”, she explains. “It means a lot to see the parallels between culture and history, and how I am raised now. This is where I come from, this is me, this is where I belong - it’s important”.
Chi channels this deep value she has for her cultural identity into the work she does, and what she creates. Her aim in this next upcoming phase of her business is to instill this knowledge and value into educational tools, arts and crafts. Another project she is working on is in collaboration with a friend of hers from Malawi. This lady is trying to teach her children her language, Chichewa. They are looking to collaborate to create a children’s picture book, which Chi is creating the illustrations for.
The arrival of Chi’s new baby son converged with the surge in demand for her products. Thankfully, by then, she had already outsourced a lot of the heavy lifting. “I tend to be someone who gets on with things. Life has been busy for a long time anyway, so I was like, ok, one more in the mix, let’s do this!” I already had things set up for when he arrived, so I ad parents and sisters around to support me - the help was there. They looked after the other kids, and let me just rest and deal with the baby. It had been exhausting, but I have the kind of personality that just gets on with it”.
Day to day, Chi’s routine looks like research and development for the business, dealing with orders, and general customer enquiries. She loves to create a personal connection with her customers, getting to know them as individuals.
“They like to come back to me on Instagram and other social platforms to have a chat with me! I get so many messages in my inbox asking how I am and how things are going. This gives such a lovely personal touch. I can now actually answer them and speak to them now, which is great”. This is all thanks to the time that has been freed up since she outsourced her extra work.
At the moment, she is researching what current resources are offering in the area of African history - she is looking at what is already out there, and what the gaps are in the market. She is looking for effective ways to approach that subject with small children from toddler stage to 5-6 years - how to put the information across in a way that is fun and engaging, as well as keeping the essence of the message behind it. “I am journalling, getting ideas down in the sketchbook. This is the bit I enjoy most!”
Chi’s kids love art, but her five year old son has a talent! The first thing he does when he gets in from school is to pick up his sketchpad and start drawing. He is really inspired by the Tinga Tinga art from Uganda, and tries to do his own Tinga Tinga.
Chi and her family have been very fortunate in that lockdown and the pandemic has brought them closer together. They were able to homeschool the kids, and they could spend loads of time out in their big garden when the weather was good. “We took the opportunity to enjoy eachother;s company, and to really teach the kids. It was a challenge, but when they got back to school, teachers said that they had improved over lockdown!”
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