Just a week after her son was born, Desriee began designing flashcards that would show the true diversity of the world. “Whenever he napped, I worked on the business. I also found that I was wide awake when I was breastfeeding at night, so I worked on it then too,” she says.
She launched the business seven months later in September 2020, after having put £1000 of her own savings into manufacturing the educational flashcards. Her products, which also include children’s jigsaw puzzles, books, posters and greetings cards, are stocked at the London department store, Selfridges. They’re also sold online and in shops such as Melanin Magic, the first UK store dedicated to educational toys and books for Black children.
Desriee, who is based in Essex, uses Starling to run her business. The name ‘Little Omo’ was inspired by her Nigerian heritage: “In Yoruba, the word ‘omo’ means child.”
The secret to growing a community through social media
Much of Little Omo’s success comes from Desriee’s approach to social media. “You need to create a community – not customers,” she says. “A community will stay around you, customers can leave at any time.”
As part of this, she has put herself and her son at the centre of her brand. “In the beginning, I wasn’t going to share my face. But after two months, I changed my mind and started being more open about being a single parent and a Black woman.
I do Instagram stories with no make-up on, I do Reels when I’m taking my son with me to the Post Office – I do things that people relate to and make them see that I’m a real human being.”
She also balances the type of content she posts. “I aim for 70% indirect selling. For example, I might be playing with one of the puzzles with my son and film a bit, adding some of the benefits of puzzles to the caption. Or I might film myself doing a toy rotation in his room, explaining why I do that. It’s not, ’Go and buy this, it’s 20% off’ – it’s much more real than that.”
Working towards better representation for people of colour
The response to Little Omo’s inclusive product range has been phenomenal. “Parents and grandparents often thank me for creating products they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up.
Back in the day, Woolworths and WHSmith didn’t stock toys that looked like me or books about Black children. I remember in the Biff and Chip books, there was one Black character and I would always be so excited to get to those pages so I could look at them,” she says.
Last year, Desriee wrote and self-published her first book, Isaiah’s Extraordinary Mum. The story includes lots of illustrations, made by Abira Das, and explores the unconditional love between a mother and child.