Bunmi Williams: Promoting pride and knowledge of Nigeria through fun and play
Ethan & Harriet designs and manufactures the finest in children’s interactive educational toys and games. The vision of the company was borne out of a desire to give the world educative, informative ways to learn about landmarks that tells the story of the greatness of Africa, but more importantly, our Great Nation, Nigeria. The CEO of the company, Mrs. Bunmi Williams explains that each of the company’s products develops and builds on necessary skills children need for school and beyond in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
What influenced the establishment of Ethan and Harriet?
Ethan and Harriet is a wholly Nigerian company that designs and manufactures educational toys with a mission to promote knowledge of Nigeria with a broader African content. The idea is to reinforce Nigeria’s history; ‘one game at a time’ because we’ve identified a cut-off between many Nigerians and their heritage and a lack of knowledge as it pertains to history being passed on to the next generation. We intend to bridge this gap by educating children through toys, which would in turn impart knowledge about our history in an engaging and appealing manner. From Nigerian to a broader African context, we aim to promote education and knowledge about our rich culture, history and heritage. Our mission is to help the transmission of our rich heritage to the next generation.
What are your products offering?
Ethan & Harriet is Nigeria’s leading educational toys provider that designs and manufactures unique and engaging toys that teach Nigerian children about their country and their heritage. The Ethan & Harriet Lift n Learn Magnetic Puzzle is a 36-piece wooden magnetic jigsaw puzzle that is fun to learn Nigerian history and geography with. With colorful images associated with each state, plus the capital name and state outline under each piece, this puzzle is a bonanza of facts. The back of the puzzle lists additional state facts, including state capitals, land size, motto, year created and more! This beautiful map includes bright and colourful illustrations that children will enjoy putting together alone or with friends.
It is great for developing problem solving skills. Ethan & Harriet Family Floor Nigeria Puzzle is a colourful jumbo cardboard floor puzzle that features the Federal Republic of Nigeria map and will teach children the 36 states. This colourful map is 2 feet x 3 feet when assembled, with extra-thick pieces and an “Easy-Clean” surface that keeps it looking new. It is made using the highest quality materials, tested to be safe and durable. Great fun for kids and the entire family as everyone will have fun learning the states on this colourful, informative jumbo floor puzzle. Puzzle pieces are coated on both sides for added durability. It helps develop matching skills.
How appealing is the game to kids and adults alike?
The response has been so amazing to say the least. A lot of people are able to identify with it because of the value it presents. It is surprising that a lot of kids do not know that Abuja is the capital of Nigeria, but they can tell you everything about Europe and America. It is really not their fault; children come into the world like a plain white canvas, whatever you teach them is what they imbibe. There is nothing wrong in learning about other cultures but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of our history and heritage. We run the risk of going extinct, if the supposed leaders of tomorrow know nothing about our history and heritage.
Having identified this gap, we pride ourselves as an indigenous company that uses local content to promote the Nigerian Heritage by making toys that appeal to the African family. Our toys are designed with educational merit to nurture creativity and imagination using original, illustrated artwork that captures young minds. We create inventive designs with exceptional attention to detail and make hands on products that encourage interactive learning. Like everything new, you have the challenge of breaking the barriers with something different and getting it across to the people.
What has been the biggest challenge of selling this concept?
The biggest challenge is the fact that it is Nigerian. If what we are selling is American or European product, you’ll see the excitement in Nigerians but part of what we are working on is to make Nigerians to be proud of whom they are and appreciate made in Nigeria. We need to harness that sense of pride that makes us Nigerians. The other challenge is that, though we design our products locally, we are not yet able to manufacture locally due to obvious reasons but we hope to achieve that in a couple of years.
The biggest challenge I’d say is getting people to appreciate things that are Nigerian, made by Nigerians, and for Nigerians. For us, we are not just making toys; this is one of the expressions of our message in terms of transmitting information from one generation to the other. Our vision is to bring back the lost glory of the landmarks in Nigeria/Africa using terms that could easily be understood by Nigerians/Africans and promote the image of Nigeria/Africa around the world. Our focus is to give kids fun and educative ways of understanding indigenous Nigerian/African elements.
On the cost implication of getting the products:
The Ethan & Harriet Lift n Learn Magnetic Puzzle and Family Floor Nigeria Puzzle retail at affordable prices. Our games are very interactive and engaging for both kids and adults and it promotes family bonding while enhancing team building etc. For us, this is like the foundation as we want to let the children know who they are before opening their minds to the other aspects of our rich history and heritage. There’s so much about the rich and huge African and Nigerian story to share. This is just the standpoint as we have so many other things lined up that will be embodied in our other products.
We are open to partnerships with government and its agencies as well as the private sector. For example, at our product launch a few days ago, the Lagos State government was represented by the DG of Quality Assurance, Ministry of Education, the Association of Private Educators in Nigeria was fully represented and we also had a number of private school proprietors and students as well. They all endorsed and commended what we are doing. The availability of the games has been made simple as it can be gotten on our website, www.ethanandharriet.com as well as some online platforms like konga and jumia etc. It is also available in a number of stores in Lagos and Abuja but the details of the stores can be gotten on our website. We are currently working to increase our distribution network and have it readily available nationwide.
What drives you?
The driving force is being able to impact and touch lives. We are also committed to educational development having realized that it is a potent tool for self reliance and economic recovery for any nation. To this effect we developed a Social Impact Initiative tagged ‘Ethan & Harriet Pals’. The initiative was developed with the sole aim to provide an enhanced and conducive learning environment as we hope to change lives, because we know that education empowers children.
By partnering with government, corporate and private entities, this initiative will provide resources to foster a healthy and conducive environment for learning. We would be most appreciative if you would consider supporting this initiative to gift 12,000 puzzles to students across the nation. Join us as we work to infuse constructive and positive reinforcement of Nigeria’s history and heritage in kids, thus growing them into strong, confident Nigerians and ambassadors of the African continent. Ethan & Harriet will donate 10% of the proceeds to providing teaching aids, furniture and sanitary wares for schools across Nigeria.
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