#PowerWomen – Meet Rupa Parekh Founder of Umani

Mom playing with baby Jai Jai Hooray Indian God's Flash Cards for Kids

Jai Jai Hooray Flashcards c/0 Umani  Playmat c/o  – Baby Jalebi 

I can’t believe Baby Aadhav is three weeks old! Time really does go by fast with a little one. Now that I am a mother, I’m thinking about how we want to instill values and our culture to Aadhav. Growing up, there weren’t many Indian American children in my school. My mom tried to teach us about our Indian culture and religion by taking us to the Hindu Temple every week. Since we didn’t understand Sanskrit, it was hard to follow what the Pundit (Priest) was saying. We learned how to do arti, recite the gayatri mantra, and celebrate festivals, yet it wasn’t until I was in college that I really understood the meaning behind so many of the traditions we followed. As a mom, I do my best to share with Aadhav our culture and beliefs. I want him to not only learn about our religion, but also understand the meaning and history of the Gods, Goddesses, holidays, and festivals we celebrate. When I first heard about Umani and the company’s first product, Jai Jai Hooray flashcards, I knew I wanted to share them with Aadhav. Umani is dedicated to making cultural learning irresistible through beautifully simple tools, toys and experiences.  The company launched it’s first product line, Jai Jai Hooray, to create a tool that made it easy for anyone to be a teacher or student. I chatted with Rupa, founder of Umani to learn more about what inspired her to start Umani! 

#PowerWomen – Rupa Parekh Founder of Umani 

Meet Rupa! Rupa has been working in tech, design and innovation to help people live and work better for the past 15 years. Now she wants to help people PLAY better. She and her family are recent transplants to Houston from NYC.

  • Tell us more about what inspired you to start Umani? I’m an Indian-American married to a Turkish-American, raising two toddlers. Both my husband and I feel connected to our cultures, but are not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and all of a sudden you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When my oldest child was still a baby, I started to search for cultural tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India. Not about any culture. There’s a huge gap in the market and that’s what we’re changing.
  • How is Umani different from other children play & learn companies? Our mission. We want to make cultural learning irresistible for all. That means creating products that kids and adults become obsessed with because they are equally fun and memorable.
  • Tell us more about your design philosophy. We believe in beautiful simplicity. Our first product line, Jai Jai Hooray, has a signature style of bright, vibrant colors. We didn’t want it to be too classical or folksy. We felt it really important to put a modern and fresh twist on the material so that it would be even more enchanting to new audiences.
  • How did you create your first product, the Jai Jai Hooray flashcards? Our second child, Niko, was four weeks old in the spring of 2016. I had been wrestling with this idea for years but unsure of how to start. A close friend gave me a kick in the pants. She said, “You’ve got the vision. You know what to do and how to do this. Just go!” Initially I was going to make a children’s book, but I then I took inspiration from a homemade set of flashcards that my mom made for our daughter, Uma. A designer I had been wanting to collaborate with had some free time and we dove in. Within days we had the first illustration. And from there it grew…
  • Tell us about your latest product, The Goddess Power Tower. We’ve put a twist on a classic toy format: stacking blocks. Who doesn’t love building towers, knocking them down and then nesting them inside one another. The Goddess Power Tower features the fiercest female deities in Hindu mythology and also builds a poem about mama as you stack the blocks high. Given our current political climate, we felt it a time to celebrate the 14-armed superheroes who can save the world: women!
  • What advice do you have for mom’s who wish to start their own business based on a need they see for their children? Prototyping is one of the most important skills to embrace. If you have a concept in mind, figure out how to break it down into bite sizes. For example, maybe you want to make kids clothing but don’t know how to start. Your first step is to figure out how to produce one design. Set a goal of creating something that you could give as a gift. Not the best dress ever made for a child, just a smock that can be worn and wrapped in a box. Was it fun to make? Does the child love wearing it? If yes, you’ll get the confidence you need to keep going. If the child didn’t really like it but you still had fun, take the pattern to a dressmaker and improve it! And if you didn’t feel invigorated through the process, well then maybe you don’t need to make kids clothing. But you’ll be one step closer to finding what you DO love. So MAKE more, THINK less.
  • What’s next for Umani? We want to take our customers around the world! 35% of our customers are non-Indian. It’s an amazing feeling for perfect strangers to say, “Will you do something like this for China, Nigeria, Peru.” We’re just getting started!

Connect with Umani: Umani, Jai Jai Hooray, Facebook

 Rupa Parekh Founder of Umani

Jai Jai Hooray Flashcards Outside coverJai Jai Hooray Indian Gods Children Flashcards setJai Jai Hooray Indian Gods Children Flashcard - Krishna Jai Jai Hooray Indian Gods Children Flashcard Krishna Imani Goddess Tower and Jai Jai Hooray Flashcards Umani Indian Children Gifts - Play and Learn toys Imani power goddess towerMom showing baby Jai Jai Hooray Indian God's Flash Cards for Kids

 

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Comments

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing such a incredible item! As a teacher myself, I know the value of creating and having tools that children or students will enjoy!
    -Robin
    Runwayteacher.com

  2. Mitan Singh says:

    Congrats on Baby Aadhav. Great article – getting the flash cards for Priya!

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