012: Jennifer Pierre (Founder at Melanites)

Jennifer Pierre on Innovation City

“I believe in the power of the pen. I believe crafting stories really does change people and change lives. That’s my favorite part.” — Jennifer Pierre

Welcome to Innovation City, powered by Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami.

Tyler Kelley and Michael Johnson of SLAM! Agency, a new media content marketing company, interview innovators, disruptors, and creators, to see through their eyes just how business is changing in the modern world.

Innovation City gives you an inside look at how and why business and culture are changing so rapidly, thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community.

Jennifer Pierre is the founder of Melanites, a toy company that designs diverse dolls, toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Melanites’ mission is to show positive representations of boys of color to inspire kids to dream big, stand tall, and cultivate curiosity, adventure, and fun! Find them online at @BrownBoyhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jennifer’s years of mentoring, tutoring, and volunteering with countless children showed her first hand the way that many boys of color maneuver through life, and the way that society cultivates children based on race and gender. She created Melanites to break through the glass ceiling society cultivates in the minds of young boys of color about what they can be when they grow up and how they are supposed to express themselves.

They discuss:

  • Her first character and doll, Jaylen the Thinker, and his first storybook, “Jaylen & the High Five Machine
  • The other characters Jennifer has developed; Aiden the Maker, Sid the Doer, and Marcus the Performer
  • Celebrating brown boyhood
  • The importance of positive representation and offering different points of entry
  • Kids’ questions in the toy aisle; “How come nobody looks like me?” and the glass ceiling put on boys’ dreams
  • Encompassing different diasporas; Jaylen is African-American, Marcus is Caribbean-American, Sid is Indian-American, Aiden is biracial.
  • Challenging gender stereotypes and racial stereotypes
  • How Jennifer tackles the problem of hyper-masculinity in boys’ toys
  • The market power of Black Panther
  • Jennifer’s marketing background
  • Building a brand from the ground up
  • How crafting stories can change lives
  • Working with 3D-printed prototypes at Babson College
  • Connecting with Dora the Explorer as a kid
  • American Girl
  • Build-A-Bear
  • The importance of building an experience
  • The joys of entrepreneurship and building something you believe in
  • Overcoming early challenges
  • Building confidence