Debra Raney, the founder of Little Muffincakes, didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. “I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “It just sort of happened.”
Little Muffincakes came from an observation Debra kept making – it was something her daughter, friends, and family kept being confronted with: none of the princesses on TV and on store shelves looked like her. They were all White.
Debra heard about people buying princess bedding and “painting it brown or doctoring stuff up.” Even as a young kid, Debra remembers thinking: “this is something that should be manufactured and sold.”
Her childhood home was filled with African art, celebrating her family’s culture and appearance. Yet when it came to decorating the nursery, there was practically nothing available for kids.
Debra became a mom to twin girls and a boy. It was a new generation, yet the situation remained unchanged – finding characters and products that reflected what her kids saw when they looked in the mirror was close to impossible. Seven years ago, when Debra’s daughter was having her own baby, there was still very little for her new grandson’s nursery
In the baby department, 31 years after becoming a mother herself, the story was frustratingly the same. “I was staring, searching, and wishing,” she said, but “there were still no products that represented children of color.”
Enough was enough. It was time to make a change, and Debra decided she would do it herself. She enrolled in quilting classes and began to learn to piece her own characters together. A friend of Debra worked in retail and urged her to dream on a larger scale. “I jumped in with two feet,” Debra remembers. “I decided to be the change I wanted to see.”
In the summer of 2017, Little Muffincakes was born. Their mission is to provide high-quality merchandise that reflects the diversity and beauty in children. Their curated collection of bibs, pillows, diaper covers, backpacks, and more are products inspired by Debra’s children and grandchildren. There are a number of gorgeous collections and characters, including an Ashton collection, inspired by her grandson.
“I don’t want any parent, guardian, aunt, or uncle to feel how I felt in that baby department,” Debra explains. “We seek to provide children with the building blocks of self-acceptance to foster high self-esteem from birth and beyond.”
Debra worked in accounting, so she knew a lot about the numbers of business. Yet, she says, “you can work in the office for a thousand years, but it’s different when it’s your turn.” Debra put money on her credit card and invested her time, money, and hustle in her dream.
The venture was entirely new territory; she learned by doing. Debra gave herself a crash course in manufacturing, fabric, and retail. She partnered with an artist she admired and felt a jolt of pure excitement when she saw her vision rendered: “It was exactly what I wanted.”
In 2020, Target reached out to Debra. She had loved shopping at Target since middle school, and she dreamed of seeing Little Muffincakes on the Target shelves. Yet they asked for more product in 90 days than she could possibly produce on her own; “I was just a party of one,” said Debra.
Buyers at Target introduced Debra to Kids2, a global company that designs solutions for early-stage parents and families, in 2021. They formed a licensing relationship through Kids2 Direct, which leveraged Kids2’s design and manufacturing expertise. Kids2 invests in and partners with parents across the globe who are creating great solutions and products and helps them deliver it to families everywhere. You can learn more about the parent collab here.
A few months later, Little Muffincakes began shipping to Target. For Debra, seeing her products displayed beautifully in a store she loved was a dream come true.
“It’s been a big transition,” according to Debra. “I consider myself a boutique, and now I focus more on cost and scale. I’m learning a lot, and the partnership fits my vision for Little Muffincakes.”
The Little Muffincakes collection launched on Amazon.com and in Walmart stores and online in 2022 and continues to grow. As a mother and grandmother, Debra is deeply “aware of how important it is that our children see positive and encouraging images that look like them.” Little Muffincakes brings those images into the hands and homes of families every day.
“My baby needs this; all our babies need this,” Debra says. We couldn’t agree more.
It takes a village!
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