Following the birth of his daughter and the realisation that the toy industry was in need of better representation and diversity within its product roll-out, Patrick Adom sprung onto the jigsaw puzzle scene with Very Puzzled. ToyNews talks to the entrepreneur about the importance of exploring cultures through play and the wider plans for his business.
For Patrick Adom, the founder of Very Puzzled, the puzzle company with the primary goal of introducing children to a world of diversity, a jigsaw puzzle is more than just a picture that needs piecing together, in much the same way that his company is more than a toy business.
For Adom, play – and particularly jigsaw puzzling – is a medium through which children and families can explore parts of the world vastly underrepresented in modern mainstream entertainment, while the Very Puzzled puzzle range are the tools with which cultural enrichment can be facilitated and encouraged today.
Having sprung into life back in 2018, the Very Puzzled business made its intentions very clear; to counter the lack of diversity in the toy market and ‘highlight the majesty of Africa and the African Diaspora through an initial range of eight jigsaw puzzles exploring Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, South Africa, London, and Kenya.’
“Having a daughter opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in the toy market and in other sectors,” Adom tells ToyNews. “I was interested in creating a product that would allow her to explore and learn about her heritage. I believed that if I had this need, then there would be other parents in a similar situation and that this would be a viable business.
“Systemic injustices are mainly formed in childhood, it’s important our children are exposed to the beauty and strength of diversity.”
“Our puzzles should be used as a way for families to sit down together and have fun and meaningful interactions.”
It’s with a raft of ten additional lines that Adom and the Very Puzzled outfit recently took to the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo, in order to raise funds and awareness enough to break into the mainstream toy space. The mission is still very much underway.
“The reaction we have had from the smaller, independent retailers has been exceptionally validating as they’ve been really positive about our products,” says Adom. “The retailers we work with have had great feedback on our products from their customers, and so place orders on a regular basis.”
The range initially really took root within the home school community, but has since – according to Adom – starting picking up better and better traction and momentum among the wider African Caribbean community here in the UK. On top of this, Very Puzzled is also seeing significant sales in Germany where the firm currently has three stockists. From here, Adom has set his sights on entering the French market, planning for a warm reception to its Mali, Cameroon, and Senegal themed puzzles within the region.
“We are currently living in a moment of history that has been shaped one way or another by the personal views of some placed upon many. Very Puzzled jigsaws are a catalyst towards a greater understanding of the people in our global community.”
“We also have a monthly newsletter that goes out to our stockists which they appreciate and we give them previews of upcoming puzzles, and often get orders for these before they are available,” he continues.
Here, ToyNews speaks to Patrick Adom, founder of Very Puzzled, about the importance of creating a platform for children to experience and enjoy diversity through play.
Patrick, hello. It’s great to see Very Puzzled beginning to gain some traction within the children’s sector and retail. Why do you think it’s so important for Very Puzzled to add its voice to the sector?
We are currently living in a moment of history that has been shaped one way or another by the personal views of some placed upon many. These views which have led to systemic injustices are mainly formed during childhood and therefore it is important that our children are exposed to the beauty and strength of diversity.
Very Puzzled jigsaws are a catalyst towards a greater understanding of the people in our global community.
What have you had by way of reaction from, or engagement with, the toy space so far?
As a company we are still relatively new to the sector and as such most of our interactions have been with customers and the shops that stock our puzzles. Though we haven’t interacted very much with many of the trade bodies or organisations within the sector this is something we’re very excited to do in the near future.
The feedback from our customers and companies that we have interacted with has been very positive and encouraging, so much so that we’ve recently been able to secure licensing deals with big name brands and have been privately commissioned to create bespoke puzzles. Such opportunities have been very exciting and have validated the work that we are doing here at Very Puzzled.
How did you land upon the idea of presenting the ethos of the company through jigsaw puzzles?
Jigsaw puzzles just resonated with people, it reminded them of their childhood, they automatically got it and understood the need for the Very Puzzled range of puzzles. The concept didn’t need any explanation. We are currently working on other concepts, such as a card game and a subscription box, and we’re hoping that these will be available at some point soon.
So why are puzzles the perfect medium to be presenting the Very Puzzled ethos?
Jigsaw puzzles was a perfect medium because they are something that all members of the family can enjoy, building puzzles together is fun and provides a bonding experience as well as a range of educational and developmental benefits.
Our puzzles are also affordable and don’t require much in the way of time and space so they work really well for most people. The entrepreneur in me has a lot of ideas whirring away for the business, and my ultimate passion is to scale the Very Puzzled concept.
We have a few additional ideas and concepts that we are working on and excited to introduce to the public. Our ethos and mission is what drives us as we want to bring families together to have meaningful interactions that also exposes families to the richness and diversity of our world.
What sort of reaction have you had from the retail space so far?
The reaction from the smaller independent retailers has been exceptionally validating as they’ve been really positive about our products. The retailers we work with have had great feedback on our products from their customers and so place orders on a regular basis. We have a monthly newsletter that goes out to our stockists which they appreciate and we give them previews of upcoming puzzles and often get orders for these before they are available.
Where have you seen the best traction for the puzzle range so far?
Our jigsaw puzzles took root within the home school community however it is now gaining traction amongst the wider African Caribbean community in the UK, there is also significant sales in Germany where we have three stockists.
We’ve set our sights into entering the French market as we hope that our new puzzles for Mali, Cameroon and Senegal will do well within this region.
Reading up on Very Puzzled, you talk openly about wanting to keep production in your own hands and eventually see it roll out from Ghana. Can you talk to us about these wider ambitions for Very Puzzled?
Making our own puzzles is a long term ambition, however it is very important to the Very Puzzled value system as placing our logistics into the hands of the very people that essentially inspired the ethos would be a personal achievement.
This is something that we intend to do once we have a broader range of puzzles and have scaled the company to a reasonable size.
In the meantime, we will continue to expand our range of diverse puzzles with a focus on Africa and the African-Caribbean diaspora. We will also enhance other areas of our business such as working with other companies to make licensed puzzles and collaborating with corporations to make bespoke jigsaw puzzles. We will also be expanding our range to include additional products that complement our jigsaw puzzles.
To date, we have been very humbled by the positive response that our range of jigsaw puzzles has received. We are extremely grateful for everyone that has purchased one of our products, we always welcome and appreciate feedback both good and bad so we are happy for your readers to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.