What happened when a small local business entered Oprah’s gift guide?
An idea that came to Matthew Goins as a new parent has now turned into a full-time career–even land a spot in one of the most famous annual holiday giveaway roundups, Oprah’s Favorite Things. Puzzle company Jigsaw puzzle was created by two Howard University alumni, Matthew and his wife Marnel, after they felt there was a lack of a diverse representation of children in toys, especially puzzles.
“PUzzles are a fairly timeless educational tool and almost all children play with them, ”says Matthew. He says when they bought their first puzzle for their own children, they were disappointed with the variety of choices. “I couldn’t find what I thought was a good representation of what should be reflected in my children.” So Matthew, who already had a passion for arts and crafts and had studied pottery, began making puzzles for his own children, using cardboard, high-resolution printed pictures, glue and scissors.
He soon realized that his supplies weren’t giving him the quality he wanted, so he found a manufacturer who could produce commercial grade cardboard. After his wife took a job that brought them back to the Washington area, Matthew took a leap of faith and decided to make a living out of his hobby. “I knew I was on to something, ”he says. “My product, at the time, was bought by many mothers and they have been very supportive of me online. Matthew also says his mom followers even encouraged him to attend DC’s annual “momference” hosted by Motherhued neighborhood a leading organization for Millennial Moms of Color. “This pole of women has always supported me [and my products] and gave me the acceleration I needed.
Now, almost three years later, the company, which is still based in its basement, is featured in one of the most popular holiday giveaways. “UsernameI’m not sure how we got an interest in Oprah, ”Matthew says,“ but I put a lot of energy and effort into social media, where I speak passionately about our products. We are actively on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn so someone must have seen something and referred it [Oprah’s] team. ”When asked what his reaction was when he found out his product was going to be showcased, all Matthew could say was“ Wow ”.
Oprah’s Favorite Things for 2020 debuted in mid-November and includes 72 different gift ideas to buy on Amazon. One being Puzzle Huddle. However, Matthew says he is not yet selling on Amazon and that it was a new experience for the company: “Oprah has partnered with Amazon to [the gift guide] and it gave me the opportunity to sell [Puzzle Huddle] On the platform. I had a dedicated account representative which helped shorten the learning curve and was a great transition to selling on Amazon. Before Oprah’s gift guide, Matthew only made sales on his website, which he prefers. “I can surround you differently on our website,” he says. “I can get a lifetime engagement with a customer a little differently than just clicking ‘add to cart’. Which is great, but not so hot.
Even before Oprah’s surprise pick, 2020 had been surprisingly profitable for Puzzle Huddle, Matthew says. “Our sales have doubled from last year due to a number of factors.” In March, they saw an increase in sales, he said, as parents were at home with children who had switched to distance learning. He also says that in June sales rose again, due to the Black Lives Matter movement, adding that there had been a surge of support from the DC area.
Now that the holidays are approaching, are the puzzles still in stock? Matthew says he’s sold a lot of products, not only because of demand, but also because of the challenges the pandemic has caused with factory cleanups and other hurdles. But Matthew says they still sell what they have in stock, including the puzzle of the future artist. “We’re a home-based business, so to keep up with the orders we had to rely on family and friends to help us with the packaging,” he says. “Right now, we have two days behind shipments. For a family business, it’s not too bad for the holidays. Especially in 2020.