Brand Spotlight: Anna + Pookie

Welcome to Flourysh 5 where we spend time getting to know the masterminds behind the Flourysh brands. This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Andrea Lyons, founder of Anna + Pookie, to learn the story behind this party supply brand created for black and brown children.

We’re going to take it back to when you were a child because that's the inspiration behind this brand, right? You were telling me your family loved birthdays. So tell us about the tradition that you have in your family with birthdays. 

Absolutely. So, my grandmother was an only child and she had seven children and so, no matter what the circumstance was, no matter what was going on, my grandmother and my mom always made sure that we celebrated birthdays. It could be just a box cake that my grandmother made. She would make sure that we would get candles. We would sing happy birthday and blow out the candles. 

When I started thinking about what I wanted to call my company, I thought about a special time in my life. And that was a special time in my life when I was Pookie and my sister, my older sister was Anna. So, I named it just that. I've always loved the ring of the two names together. And, you know, it just was a good feeling for me. I wanted to bring that same essence to my company. So, that's why I named the company Anna + Pookie..

And, I imagine then, there wasn’t a lot of representation on party details, party stationary, and cups and plates. So, where did the inspiration come from for you to say, “I’m not only going to bring this tradition of celebration, but I want to see beautiful black and brown faces on the product.”?

It honestly started about 21 years ago when my sister was pregnant with my nephew, we were looking for party supplies for the baby shower that had black babies on them. Couldn't find anything. Two years later when she had my niece, we still couldn't find anything. Fast forward to 2016 when I had my daughter, there was still nothing. So, I honestly just got frustrated from looking and trying to piece things together or having no variety. If there was one, it may have been, you know, a black princess, but she's in the background and the other white princesses are in the foreground.

One day, I said, I'm going to do it. And I went, found some illustrators whose work I liked and just started doing the research. I have no background in party supplies. I have no background in stationary but I spent a lot of late nights Googling. because I do work another job. And I have a six year old. A lot of late nights just doing research and just getting it done. I found someone to print them for me and went to print and thank goodness for my husband and for my mom who both gave me angel loans to get the business started.  I ordered products and hit the go button in November 2018.

And so, you now have a whole array of products that you offer. Can you go through what people can purchase if there's an upcoming birthday, an upcoming celebration. What can they find on Anna + Pookie? 

All of them are my favorites. And of course, I'm going to say that, but this [ballerina stationery] is my very first illustration that I got from my illustrator when we first started talking about it. She did this design based on a picture that I gave her of my daughter. So, this is the ballerina. And it's even hanging on my daughter's wall in her bedroom. 

My second favorite is mermaid, because who doesn't want to be a magical mermaid? It's just beautiful. And what I try to do is you never will see the same design. So, you have the ballerina, but you have this [ballerina shoe] cup because I just didn't like matchy matchy things.

We have a princess theme, which I think is beautiful. I've had some adults use these for bridal showers. So those are beautiful. And then earlier this year, because I was getting a lot of parents asking what about the boys? What about the boys? So, we develop a pilot. It's complimentary to our mermaid and we've also done superheroes for boys and girls this year. So, we just have a lot of variety and I'm looking to do more things in the coming years. But that's what we have right now. And, we have a couple more things. But yeah, it's been an awesome journey. 

What has been some of the feedback that you're getting from your customers? I'm sure they're returning customers once they're with you. They're with you. But what I'm curious about is what they're telling you about what the children are saying when they arrive to the birthday party and they see kids that look like them all around them?

The one comment that I get, that I love the most is when parents are unboxing, getting ready for the power parties and the girls or the boys open and are like, “Oh my goodness. They look like me.” you know, because we don't see that representation in the party aisle. I mean, if we go to any Walmart, any target, you just don't see it. So, for them to have that joy, to open up this package that they get from us and say, “oh my goodness, it looks like me” is one of the best compliments. And the best feedback I get. The second thing I get a lot from people is that the illustrations are beautiful, and they are. My illustrators are just the best and they do a really good job.

So not only are they representative of black children, but they're also giving them something that's beautiful, something that is not an afterthought and something that is not thrown together. We take a lot of time working on our illustrations. 

Yeah. They are heroes. They're princesses, they're mermaids. They deserve to see that reflected in society. And so, we just thank you for taking this idea and bringing it to life because you're bringing a lot of joy and you're bringing a lot of affirmation to kids, to black and brown kids that really truly need it. Welcome to Flourysh. Thank you so much.

And I want to thank you all too for offering this platform for small business owners. It's been an honor for me to be accepted and have my products on the platform. So, I appreciate you all. Thank you so much.