9-year-old Turns Writing Affirmations on Her Backpack into Budding Business for Kids of Color

The biggest struggle for most entrepreneurs is simply taking the first toward getting started on their idea. That’s not the case for Addison Captain, CEO of Cleveland-based accessory company Brown Backpack.  For her, she’s been attempting to launch her business for as long as anyone can remember.

Addison, 9, got a head start on her entrepreneurial dream by drawing pictures of what her business would look like, creating accessories out of string and Play-doh to sell to family, and even encouraging her little sister, Adrienne, to pretend to be her customer for practice. All that preparation paid off as she is now the frontwoman of a fast-growing family business that her mom, Steph Captain, 36, founded and guides.

Addison has a deep love for affirmations. She has written her own sayings, slogans, and positive quotes all over belongings, so it was not a stretch at all to want to put those motivating messages on her own line of backpacks, bags, pillows, wall art, and more. When asked why she chose the items that are in the store she confessed, “I would get my markers and write my favorite affirmations on things I wasn’t supposed to like my backpack or on my clothes, and it didn't make my mom too happy. So, I believe making real products with my messages already on them to inspire kids would be the best thing I could do.”

At a very young age, Addison made a name for herself as an award-winning orator, speaking primarily on the topic of civil rights in front of leaders from all over the globe. In the process of learning to share her positive message, she also encouraged a lot of kids with her self-confidence and tenacity. She said, “So many people would say they liked hearing my speeches because it made them feel like they could be brave to chase their dreams too.”

 Brown Backpack was originally founded as Steph’s publishing company for the diverse, affirmational children’s book “Far Beyond the Treetops”. After the book’s release, Steph had no plans to do anything more with the entity.  Addison begged her mom to let her use the artwork and encouraging theme of the book that was originally written for her and her sister to create things that she felt could inspire other kids to chase their biggest dreams. Her plea worked in her favor, and her mother gave her the green light to move forward with creating her online store brownbackpack.com featuring backpacks, books, gifts, and toys for kids of color. Addison has been working tirelessly to learn everything she can about product design and development and relies on Steph’s business and marketing savvy that she accrued from her undergraduate endeavors at Howard University, graduate studies at Syracuse University, and throughout her career in the digital industry. The mother-daughter duo has loved every minute of making their own dreams come true.

“When you have a child who loves to learn and is passionate about doing good things for her community, it’s nearly impossible to deny helping them reach every goal they set forth to achieve,” Stephanie said.

Addison says, “I love to make things that would make my friends smile and feel good about themselves. It’s important to me that kids of color who look like me be able to have something that makes them feel beautiful and important in the same way many of my other friends do.” 

In addition to making her own products, Addison also added her own curated Amazon selection to her website that features dolls and toys that are specifically made for children of color. She says, “I love to look at Amazon for cool toys that I like, so I made a list of my favorite things so that other people can save time trying to find the right things for kids.”

All the products that are available on Brown Backpack are designed, approved, or curated by Addison. Her stamp of approval ensures that the recipient will receive something that celebrates their character, culture and color.

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