Picture this: You’re in the second grade and your teacher walks around the room to pass out a sheet of blank paper. She then asks each student to write what they want to be when they grow up. You think about President Obama, Halle Bailey and Guion Bluford, and with no hesitation, you jot down your top three: President of the United States, a mermaid and an astronaut.
Representation has made dreams like those a reality and Andrea Harris-Lyons owner of ANNA + POOKIE, a diverse party supply brand wants every Black and brown child to dream, imagine and celebrate themselves.
“Representation is so important because people mirror what they see and if they don’t see things that look like them a lot of times they don’t know that they can be that too. That’s why it is aspirational for a child to see themselves sitting in the Vice President’s seat or as a Supreme Court Justice,” Harris-Lyons said.
By creating party supplies with plates, cups and napkins highlighting Black and brown kids as superheroes, pirates, mermaids and ballerinas ANNA + POOKIE makes finding diversity through party planning attainable.
While each design and illustration is unique, Harris-Lyons voiced that her favorite themed party supply is their ballerina collection, which is inspired by her 6-year-old daughter Lillian.
“We used my daughter as a prototype for the ballerina when working with the illustrator so that one holds a very special place for me and it’s also ironically my best seller,” Harris-Lyons told The Atlanta Voice.
Family plays a large role in not only why Harris-Lyons started ANNA + POOKIE, but also how she decided on the brand name. Just like any other kid growing up Harris-Lyons and her sister had nicknames, hers was Pookie and her sister was Anna.
“They’re nicknames that my father gave us when we were very, very young. And so, when I thought about a fun kid company, I thought about a time in my life when I was celebrated and when I had the most fun; it was the times when I was Pookie,” Harris-Lyons said.
Coming from four generations of Atlanta-based entrepreneurs, Harris-Lyons knows that entrepreneurship isn’t always easy but that the business spirit runs deep within her family and now within her. “I’m carrying on that tradition.”
From her mother running a daycare, both of her parents owning a store, her grandfather operating a cab company and her great-grandmother managing a few shops, she has witnessed how rewarding it is to provide something essential to her community. “One of the most rewarding parts is the feedback that I get from moms, dads and families when they see, buy and review my products,” Harris-Lyons told The Atlanta Voice.
“To hear them say, ‘this is something that we needed so much in our community’ or for them to say, ‘I wish I had this when I was a kid.’ It’s gratifying for me to hear that, and it lets me know that I’m on the right path.”
This November ANNA + POOKIE will celebrate four years of meeting Black and brown families where they are with who they are, represented across their party supplies.
As ANNA + POOKIE continues to expand, Harris-Lyons looks to what inspires and interests her daughter and her friends’ kids too.
Currently, all of the brands’ items can be purchased at annapookie.com. “We need to show a realistic representation, especially to children of what the world looks like. So now my child and others won’t ever have to live in a world that doesn’t do that, they get to see themselves every day when they turn on the TV.”