From setting up her brand in 2019 while pregnant, after noticing a lack of diversity in puzzles, without representation allowing black and brown kids see themselves in the characters of games they play, Amanda Wilson owner and CEO of A+X Puzzles, today is rewriting the history books, becoming the first Black-owned puzzle being sold in Target. In over 1,750 target stores nationwide.
Wilson welcomed her 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. Drawing from her experience in the arts and culture sector as an event programmer by trade for over seven years, her creative background helped her create imaginative images for the puzzles and the stories printed on their backs.
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, BOTWC reports.
In 2020 when Target reached out to Wilson 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.
Her mentor, Ana Rodriguez, who prompted her to promote herself and her brand was right by her side every step of the way. “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.”
It’s not a smooth journey for Wilson who juggles working on the puzzle company, 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.
Funding of the business venture has also posed a challenge; “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 said.
The future of the brand for Wilson includes expanding 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.”
Commenting on her impressive growth, Wilson is overjoyed by it all:
“It is amazing to see, and it feels so surreal. I am filled with gratitude and can’t say ‘THANK YOU’ enough!” Wilson said in a chat with the site.