I am always on the lookout for educational, cultural toys to teach my kids about our Hindu religion in a fun, captivating way. When I attended Brown Girl Magazine‘s “Mimosas with Mom” event in New York (thanks for hosting Trisha Sakhuja!), I was thrilled to meet fellow mompreneur Rupa Parkeh. Her company, Umani (named after her daughter Uma and son Niko), creates beautifully-crafted, simple learning tools that introduce our Indian culture to new audiences with modern flair. Rupa told me about her first product launch, the Jai Jai Hooray flash card set, which showcases the nine deities of Hinduism in a SAY-SEE-LEARN framework enabling anyone to be a teacher or student. I thought the concept was brilliant and bought a set for my twins.
Rupa and I stayed in touch as she relocated from New York to Houston and she included me in a focus group for her next launch, The Goddess Power Tower.
Wasn’t that inspiring? I’ll give you a second to wipe your tears and blow your nose. This commercial pulls at my heartstrings too and makes me think of all the strong women in my life, especially my nani who taught me to follow my sanatan dharma, or “the right way to live.” The Goddess Power Tower poignantly conveys how each goddess in Hindu mythology is a mother (Mata), and is synonymous with virtues we should aspire to, like Sarawasti Mata symbolizes wisdom and Durga Mata is a fearless warrior. We all face mom guilt from time to time and underestimate ourselves and our abilities, but the truth is, we are real-life goddesses and make an impact on our children in so many ways.
I was honored to be a part of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheisaGoddess campaign where nine women were featured to represent the nine goddesses. Rupa chose me as her real-life Parvati, the ambassador of motherhood and fertility; You can read more about it here and check out photos here.
I am so pleased to have met Rupa and convinced her to share her story on Musings of a Mompreneur. ;) Originally from Buffalo, she attended Northwestern for undergrad and earned her MBA from Wharton. Her husband Emre is Turkish American. Rupa has been working in tech, design, and innovation for the past 15 years and aims to help children, and adults alike, learn and play better.
What does motherhood mean to you?
Being a mother to Uma and Niko has been such an honor and blessing. They are growing up to be such clever, funny and creative kids. Our first and second thoughts nearly everyday that we wake up as parents are: “wow, I hope we make them proud” and “how long before they realize we have no idea what we’re doing?!”
When did you become a mompreneur?
I come from a family of business people. We talked about customers and clients at dinner; we geek out about ads. Everyone in my family is sort of a sucker for good marketing.
Umani and Jai Jai Hooray was inspired by the family I’m starting to grow. Both my husband and I are connected to our culture, but we’re not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and suddenly you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When Uma was a baby, I searched for tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India nor any other culture. We saw a gap in the market and went for it. Umani was born.
You believe that every day is Mother’s Day and designed the Goddess Power Tower to serve as a reminder.
Absolutely. Moms, by definition, can do more! It’s astonishing to think about the amount of thinking, feeling, planning, loving, dreaming and nurturing a mom can do all at once.
Celebrating mom just one day out of the year isn’t enough! We thought it would be really fun to create a toy that makes it easier for families to treasure mama. Afterall, for little ones, mom is the center of their universe–she IS a goddess. (Unfortunately, I think that wears off fast as they become tweens!)
Our favorite part of the Goddess Power Tower is the poem that builds when you stack each block. It’s an ode to mommy that should resonate with any family, regardless of their cultural background.
We loved your mom Rashmi Parkeh’s feature. How did your mom inspire you to start your business?
My mom started her small business when I was 6 months old. She is a force of nature–at 69 she has more energy than I think I will ever have. She is also our families culture keeper. Even before we had children, I always wondered, “how do I bottle up my mom and all of her tips and stories?” Umani and Jai Jai Hooray are a first step toward doing that.
Who is your inner Goddess?
Great question! What’s really cool about the Goddess Power Tower is that it brings to life that women have so many personas. On some days, I feel like a warrior (Durga) and other days I’m more calm and fluid (Ganga).
What are your hopes for Umani for the future?
Toys, books and media are simply not diverse–certainly not in the United States. We want to help families feel more culturally connected and we’re only just scratching the surface. We’ll be experimenting with digital learning and play in the coming year. Stay tuned!
What are your top tips for mothers and mompreneurs.
- Be patient with yourself. The chips are unfortunately still stacked against moms so we have to create our own opportunities AND set our own pace.
- Get better at vocalizing what you need and want in real-time. With your colleagues, boss, spouse, friends–be transparent about what you’re feeling, what you need and what could help you. Moms are optimizers not festerers!
- Make time for date night, girls time or solo sanctuaries. If we’re lucky, life is a marathon. Newborn and toddler years are exhausting. Don’t burn out when you’ve just begun!