She’s going to be in over 1,750 Target stores nationwide!
Amanda Wilson is the owner and CEO of A+X Puzzles, which has become the first Black-owned puzzle being sold in Target. She created the brand in 2019 after noticing a lack of diversity in puzzles while pregnant. Wilson gave birth to twins Adric and Xola ten weeks early, and during their 43-day NICU stay, began creating the first sketches of the widely popular Spaceship puzzle. The bright, colorful puzzles help young children develop fine motor skills and allow them to see themselves positively represented by characters that look like them.
Wilson is a lover of games and puzzles herself. She wanted to be able to give not only her children but Black and Brown children across the nation a chance to see themselves in the games they play. Wilson has worked in the arts and culture sector as an event programmer by trade for over seven years. The creative background helped her create such imaginative images for the puzzles and the stories printed on their backs.
Target contacted Wilson in 2020 about the opportunity to sell her puzzles in stores. The Topeka native says she was amazed and surprised by the news.
"I never saw myself as someone who would make history, but I did. I am proud to say that I am the first Black puzzle company in a major retail store. It is an amazing feeling," she told Because Of Them We Can.
Wilson was encouraged throughout the process by her mentor, Ana Rodriguez, who prompted her to promote herself and her brand. "She always reminds me to stay tenacious and to clearly ask for what I want and need," Wilson said. "I didn't think people cared about who is behind the business, but they do. You are your biggest marketing tool."
The triumphs in history-making also come with challenges, as Wilson experienced while working on the puzzle company and being a mother of two with a full-time job as an event programmer.
"One of the hardest things has been being a one-woman show. I don't have any staff at this time. Since the pandemic, I have been balancing a full-time job, twin toddlers at home with me, and my business scaling so quickly. I've had to become extremely disciplined," she said.
There's also the issue of funding that comes with trying to turn an idea into a profitable business venture. "One thing that has been painfully obvious to me is that 'start up' companies don't need more mentors, we need more upfront capital, and that is something that I've become extremely passionate about, and I'm currently working to help small businesses navigate their way through the different processes," Wilson told BOTWC.
With an international market valued at $9.1 billion in 2019, jigsaw puzzles are constantly innovating in creation, application, and now, more recently: representation. According to Thomas Net, a North American industrial sourcing platform, the top seven jigsaw puzzle manufacturers in the United States with a company-level diversity certification require that a company is at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by a minority or minority group. Of the seven, four of the manufacturers are woman-owned, and none are within the country's top 15 jigsaw puzzle manufacturers based on annual estimated revenue.
Wilson has high hopes for her brand, stating that she hopes to expand into more games and publishing. Wilson also hopes that A+X earning global recognition in the industry can inspire more diversifying with their business endeavors.
"I hope my company inspires other burgeoning Black businesses to keep striving towards their goal. Being the first and only carries weight, and I hope to bring along more businesses in the gaming industry with me. The main advice I will give is to stay prepared. There will be a lot of questions, and people will doubt you but stay the course. No one is you, and that is your power."
With community support and love for her puzzles from around the country, Wilson told BOTWC that seeing her growth is something to behold.
"It is amazing to see, and it feels so surreal. I am filled with gratitude and can't say 'THANK YOU' enough!" Wilson said.
We can't wait to get our hands on one!
Photo Credit: Amanda Wilson