P: I’m Patrick, I’m 40-something years old and I live in London. I was born in Ghana and grew up there until I was seven, when I moved to the UK. I’ve spent most of my life here, studying and now working. I’ve worked in IT ever since graduating from university, advising clients on different software. My main job is looking after my daughter; that is my main purpose in life. Everything I do is to support her, making sure she can fulfil her ambition and purpose.
I also have my own ambitions. I started my own company about 18 months ago called Very Puzzled, making puzzles for kids. I’m now trying to expand into manufacturing other toys. We now also have posters and t-shirts that kids can colour in. My goal is to get kids away from screens, to be interacting again with parents and loved ones. It’s mind blowing the things we can learn from our kids, too.
P: As my daughter began to grow up, I realised that her background was not reflected in the things she was watching and playing with. I thought that was quite sad, because it just sends a message that maybe you’re not important. If you don’t see yourself reflected in things around you every day, then it doesn’t help with your self esteem. I had to search out black dolls; my dad helped me to get some books from Ghana with black characters. It’s still not nearly enough.
Whenever you hear about Africa, it’s about war or famine. It’s never something positive. My daughter has been to Ghana lots of times and she loves it; I wanted to be able to share that with her, but also with other people as well. Even if you’re not there, you can learn about the culture through our work. That inspired the ‘Ghana’ puzzle we have produced.
Whenever you hear about Africa, it’s about war or famine. It’s never something positive.
J: In your opinion, What are some of the challenges faced by parents in the UK raising children of African or Caribbean heritage?
P: There is a lot of challenges. There are negative stereotypes of black people; drug dealing and knife crime and things like that. But that’s not just a London thing, and it’s not just black people.
Everyone is busy too; I know it’s challenging to make time. But it’s on you to take the initiative and educate your children; to give them a balanced view of who they are and where they come from. Learning needs to be fun; nobody wants to be beaten over the head! We also need to give our kids a sense of self-esteem because when you feel good about yourself, everything is easier.
J: What are three benefits that puzzles can have for children. Why should parents buy your Very Puzzled puzzles?
P: There’s a lot of research out their on the benefits of puzzles for both kids and adults. They help with hand-eye coordination, with cognitive awareness and logical reasoning.
Completing a puzzle also creates a challenge, but a sense of achievement. When I tell my daughter it’s time for bed, and she wants to save the puzzle and not put it away as she has spent a lot of time to complete and she feels proud of her achievement, that’s a great feeling to have! She feels like she’s accomplished something. The trick is having something that is challenging enough, but not so difficult to put together that it defeats the whole purpose. It has to be fun.
They are also great for learning and interaction! You can sit down and chat: how was your day? Where’s Ghana? Where’s the capital of Ghana? Who is this person or that person? Your kids also share things with you, it’s quality time.
P: I always try to keep a positive mindset and to see challenges as opportunities. The first designer that worked with me on the puzzles quit, after he found he could earn more money doing something else. I had to find another designer.
I worked with a manufacturer in China to make my puzzles. I later found out that they had copied my designs, changed the names to French, and started selling my puzzles with another company! I’d like to start making my own puzzles, with a small machine, to manage this risk. It takes a long time to make the puzzles in China and ship them here.
Cash flow quite difficult. Sales through shops; they’ll pay 60, 90 days later. That’s a challenge. But learning all the time; that’s the thing I value most. Learn about how to run a business and make it more effective every day. That’s the way you grow.
P: My biggest achievement is definitely my daughter; she’s my everything. I want to make lots of puzzles, sell lots of puzzles, and make lots of money! But being able to inspire my daughter is the main thing for me.
Being able to inspire my daughter is the main thing for me.
She comes with me to meetings sometimes; she comes along if I have a market stall; she comes to interviews with me, too. Hopefully she’s been inspired, she’s seen the process!
She’s only seven years old but she’s already talking about writing her own book. I thought she’d be inspired by the age of 15 or 18, but it’s already happening! So even if I don’t sell any puzzles, her being motivated and inspired is the best thing I could hope for.
P: I think the jigsaw puzzles will still be at the core of my project. We have six puzzles at the moment – Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa and Jamaica. I want to expand; I’m looking at London and New York puzzles, looking at cultural sites and people from music to sports, designers to authors.
I want to expand to other projects, too. Imagine Top Trumps games with an African – Caribbean perspective. Heroes from the past, historical kings and queens, reggae artists. Fun ideas like that.
J: You mentioned you were born in Ghana and given some of the negative (and mostly inaccurate) narratives that have been developed in certain political debates around migration in this present time, what would you say are the benefits of migration that you wish others would see?
P: I am a migrant and I believe migration is a good thing. We always talk about the Protestant work ethic, but what about the migrant work ethic? People come here to work, not to claim benefits. They work to make money, support their families back home, and then often returns o their own countries. Some people do come and stay forever. But most want to come and then return back home.
Immigrants contribute to the economy of the country they go to; they also contribute to culture and wider society. One of the UK’s biggest exports is entertainment; migrants make a big contribution to that. They also do the more menial jobs that locals wouldn’t want to do anyway. They come in and regenerate areas that had been neglected.
Immigrants contribute to the economy of the country they go to; they also contribute to culture and wider society.
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