Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jenn Mariani, Founder of Keke Kid, located in Saint Louis, MO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Keke stands for Keep Every Kid Engaged, and we created a grab-and-go bag that engages your children with educational and fun activities anywhere, anytime, all in one place. Our mission is to provide your children (around ages 3-6 years old) with activities that target different emerging skills: social/emotional, fine motor, pre-academics, and creative. We want to help make life easier for parents by providing activities that work just as well for travel as they do at home. We also offer a pouch subscription which provides new fun and educational activities to your door quarterly, so you can rest assured that your kids will never tire of their bags!
Tell us about yourself
I was a music therapist for Saint Louis Special School District as well as a contractor for a private company. During this time, I was able to work with fabulous teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. When my girls were out of the diaper bag stage, and I was tired of carrying a giant tote bag with broken crayons and half-eaten granola bars, I started looking for a screen alternative that addressed different emerging skills but was also fun and compact. I couldn't find what I was looking for, so I made my own. I would take the bags I created to restaurants, on airplanes, doctor's appointments, and I found my girls loved rotating activities, and it kept them occupied. I am motivated every day by the emails and feedback I have received from all of our customers. I love hearing how our bags helped a caregiver out while they were traveling, eating, or even trying to finish a Zoom call. It makes my day to see kids everywhere enjoying their bags.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We launched in June 2022, and to see it grow has been really incredible. Two of my biggest passions are parenting and education. To be able to turn an idea I had for my own kids into an actual company and see it being used all over the country is truly amazing. We have also been featured in Real Simple, Wired, and Good Housekeeping, which has been such an honor.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing for us has been brand awareness. I personally do not have a big social media presence. It's also just me and my small team running this business. At launch, we reached out personally to influencers and people we admired in hopes that their kids would genuinely love the bags and want to post about them. The best part is that we have found that once our product is in their kids' hands, they genuinely love it, but it's a lot of hard work to reach the right people.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Believe! I truly believe our Keke bag is an amazing product, and I am lucky to have a team that feels the same. There has been so much thought into every inch of the bag, activities, packaging, branding, etc. Because of this, I am extremely proud of our small, growing company. You have to be your own biggest cheerleader because some days you will question everything. Which leads me to my next...
- Don't give up. There are many stages of launching and running a business. We're a very young company, and I am definitely still learning. And at every stage, there is bound to be a roadblock. But trust the process. There were times early in the conception stage of the bag where I would hit a roadblock and think welp, it's over, and this isn't going to work. But I kept pushing through, and what I thought were the worst roadblocks ended up being the best detours.
- Be hands-on! There isn't a bag or subscription that goes out that I don't have hands or eyes on. There isn't a decision that gets made without my input. At this small stage, I am the eyes and ears for every decision because every decision is a direct reflection of me and my small business!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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