With the holidays right around the corner, pretty soon it will be time to start thinking about Christmas presents and stocking up on essentials like wrapping paper and holiday cards. This joyful season can be disheartening for some, however. Black and brown families looking for wrapping paper that represents them can be impossible to find. But if you're one enterprising mom, you find a way to do something about it.
After unsuccessfully searching for wrapping paper that featured a Santa Claus of color for her son's presents, Jackie Rodgers asked friends and family living in other cities around the country if they could look for wrapping paper in their local stores as well. When everyone came up empty, Jackie knew she wanted to create a solution. Together with her husband, Shaun, they founded Greentop Gifts, a brand that gives families of color the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the holiday decorating category. With the introduction of Clarence Claus, a jolly old man from the North Pole with chocolate skin, Jackie and Shaun are changing an out-of-date narrative and creating space for black and brown children to see themselves represented during all aspects of the holiday season.
In an email interview with Romper, Jackie tells me about why it was so important to start this company: "Greentop Gifts started as a passion project. It was something I wanted for my son. I wanted him to have an image of the jolly old man from the north pole that looked like our family. Once I told friends about my idea of Clarence Claus, it became clear that others wanted diverse wrapping paper as much as I did."
In regards to representation, Jackie writes, "I'm very intentional about the images that I show my kids. I want them to see diverse images in all things. It's extremely important to me that they see diversity and understand the importance of it. As Greentop Gifts grows, we hope to continue to show more diverse images for all children to see. Seeing people of different appearances and abilities is important for all children, not just African American children."
With Clarence Claus (named after her dad, Clarence) and Greentop, which is named after her grandfather's restaurant from the 1940's, Greentop Gifts is truly a family affair. Jackie writes, "We hope that Greentop Gifts will be people's source of celebrations when they gather together." I really applaud Jackie for taking a great idea (not just in terms of business, but for social good) and turning it into a success. After all, we all have those "light bulb" moments every now and again, but knowing what to do to take your idea to the next level is the hard part. Jackie's words of positivity ring loud and clear, however: "I remember reading a quote by John C. Maxwell that said, 'Ideas have a short shelf life. You must act on them before the expiration date.' It really stuck with me, and it's what really pushed me to start Greentop Gifts. I had an app idea a few years before I started Greentop Gifts and I didn't act on it. Now, there are a few versions of it today and it drives me crazy every time I see it. In short, don't let your great ideas go to waste."
While I can't personally claim to know what it would be like to walk into a store and see decorations that don't look like me, or not find my skin color represented in all the iconic images that are plastered everywhere throughout the holiday season, I know this: representation matters. Living in a society that is diverse and inclusive is important, most of all for our children and their future. And it starts with all those simple items that we easily take for granted... like wrapping paper.