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This Crafty Black-Owned Business Is Making the Holidays More Inclusive

Madia Willis, Jasmine Hudson and J’Aaron Merchant on Shark Tank; a gift wrapped with nutcracker wrapping paper

Holiday wrapping paper comes in a range of styles and patterns, but it can be hard to find diversity amongst the depictions of Santas, elves, angels, and more. Madia Willis, Jasmine Hudson, and J’Aaron Merchant decided to change that when they started the business Black Paper Party in 2020. 

“At Black Paper Party, we believe in the power of celebration and representation,” reads a website mission statement. “We're a group of passionate women on a mission to spread joy, create memories, and foster inclusivity through our cheerfully seasonal products.”

Willis, Hudson, and Merchant all worked at the same Walmart corporate headquarters in Arkansas when they realized they had a shared love of Christmas and crafting. 

After the George Floyd protests emboldened support for Black-owned businesses, the trio of women decided to launch their store. They immediately wanted to set themselves apart by making unique characters like Papa Klaus, Nana Klaus, and Aunt Holly.

A screenshot of the Black Paper Party website
A screenshot of the Black Paper Party online store.

“These are not your average characters painted brown,” Hudson told CNN. “These characters have the nuanced features of the Black diaspora, and they are culturally representative.”

Today, Black Paper Party can be found at major retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens — and yes — even Walmart. In addition to wrapping paper and gift bags, Black Paper Party also sells ornaments, stockings, and kitchenware. 

Hudson said that a day doesn’t pass without someone reaching out to thank them. 

A flat-lay of Christmas stationery featuring Black illustraions
The brand makes inclusive holiday cards featuring Black characters and culturally significant designs. Photo courtesy of Black Paper Party

“A lot of them are saying that this was the first year they don’t have to go hunting for a Black Santa because they can just go in their everyday retailers and pick up items,” Hudson said.

Earlier this month, Hudson, Willis, and Merchant went on the television show “Shark Tank” to expand their business and pitch to the panel of investors. 

The founders hoped for a $250,000 investment in exchange for 5% equity. After some back and forth with “Shark Tank” investors Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, they closed the deal with a $250,000 investment from Corcoran in return for 10% equity. 

“We were pleasantly surprised, and we feel blessed,” Willis told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re looking forward to growing and learning with Barbara.” 

With the new boost in investment, Willis, Hudson, and Merchant said they are excited to broaden their item supply in 2024 with birthday party kits and a whole new line of Black History products. 

“It’s time for the seasonal industry to reflect different perspectives of life,” Willis told CNN. “A lot of retailers were behind the curve.”

Header images courtesy of Black Paper Party

Article Details

December 19, 2023 8:02 AM
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