Puzzle-maker proves learning can be fun

If you are looking for a game, can’t find it in the shops – why not make it yourself? That was the thinking behind Patrick Adom’s ‘Very Puzzled’ creation – a jigsaw puzzle with an Africa theme designed to make learning fun, educational and accessible to all.

Father and daughter complete the Africa puzzle pieces
Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media

Inspired by his now six-year-old daughter, Patrick wanted to create a puzzle that showed a more balanced representation of the African continent, and encouraged his daughter to problem-solve – instead of watching a TV screen.

“I have strict rules about watching TV and vet what my daughter watches,” Patrick said. “As she has Ghanaian heritage, it was important for her to see herself – as a Black African child – reflected in TV programming, her dolls, and books. So I would seek out shows with Black characters like Tinga Tinga Tales and Bino and Fino but when I didn’t see enough of our stuff available, I decided to make my own.”

Patrick Adom founder of Very Puzzled © Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media

Why puzzles?

“I remember seeing one Africa puzzle which featured a mud hut and other quite stereotypical images of Africa,” said Patrick. “I wanted to show a more balanced and holistic portrayal of the Continent – not just for my daughter but also for non-Africans that may also have this singular perception linked to famine and war.”

Despite having no experience in creating games or a background in starting a business, the British-Ghanaian IT consultant did not let that deter him.  He launched Very Puzzled towards the end of 2017 and within a matter of months had retailers in the UK and abroad willing to stock the puzzle. Very Puzzled jigsaws can now be bought in independent shops across London and Birmingham in the UK, and in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Patrick’s next goal is to get high-street retailers on board, and extend his reach to the African continent – starting in Accra, Ghana.

[Related: Making Culture their Business]

Patrick represents one of a growing crop of Africans in the Diaspora embracing their cultural roots and turning that appreciation into a successful business. Research shows that despite facing greater challenges in accessing finance through the banking sector, black-owned businesses are thriving.

They represent around 100,000 or 4% of of all London’s businesses were Black-owned, according to the most up-to-date figures available from the Mayor of London in 2004. At the time, these black-owned businesses provided over 70,000 jobs and have a total turnover of almost £4.5 billion. (See ‘Ready for Business: contribution of black businesses to London’s economy’).

To date, Patrick has sold around 500 units and started out with an initial start up cost of around £1,500, which came from his savings. These costs covered the production of his initial batch of 100 puzzles, the design of the puzzles, website set up, company registration as well as costs to complete transactions such as a card reader.

Cognitive learning

The Africa jigsaws are developed to suit the age and competency of the users, and are great for building children’s spatial reasoning and logic skills. The 25-piece set is suitable for children aged 3+, the 50-piece set for those aged 4+, and the 100-piece set for children aged 5+. There is enough content in the map for adults and children to discuss the different countries, their location, and provide context to each nation through one-to-one interaction.

A focus on Egypt – puzzle pieces © Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media

“That was an important aspect to creating the jigsaws,” said Patrick. “I wanted it to be something that the entire family could get involved in as it reminded me of my youth in Ghana where many of the activities we did were done as a collective – such as playing Ludo together. Those are my most fondest memories. And I think in the West, we have lost a bit of that.”

“The main consideration for the different variations in number of pieces for different age ranges is to ensure that the puzzle is fun and challenging but not to the point that it is too difficult for children.  The thing that I always wanted to make sure was that the image was as engaging and nice to look at as possible, I wanted the image to be comparable to any other image that a child or their parent may see in any book or elsewhere so that there wasn’t a perception of a difference in quality as otherwise this reinforces stereotypes of Africa being behind, for example.”

Africa puzzle pieces © Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media
Africa puzzle pieces © Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media

As well as marketing the puzzle as a family activity, Patrick is keen to appeal to non-Blacks as he sees it as a way to challenge existing stereotypes about the Continent and her people. And so far, so good, said Patrick.

“The reaction from the public has been really positive. I’ve noticed that people walk past and do a double-take because they are not expecting to see it. They say it’s the pastel colours and the imagery that draws them back.”

African markets

The Ghana puzzle map ©
Adrianne McKenzie | AMC Media

Keen to break into the Ghanaian retail market, Patrick is due to launch a Ghana jigsaw puzzle map for Christmas 2018, and eventually wants to develop other maps representing other African and Caribbean countries. Other plans up his sleeve include developing 300-piece puzzles for older children and a 1,000 puzzle for adults, as well as an online version.  He also wants to eventually shift production from China to an African country.

Want to play?

Patrick has kindly agreed to give away one of the Very Puzzled Africa jigsaw sets to a new MisBeee Writes subscriber [this offer has now closed as we have a winner – new subscriber @jenama2007 – congratulations].

But a 10% discount is still available to others for a limited time only. Just use the ‘misb’ code when ordering your puzzle! Africa Puzzles retail at £9.99 + P&P.

To be in with a chance of winning your very own, sign up now.

To learn more about Very Puzzled, visit them on http://www.verypuzzled.com or visit them on Instagram @veryverypuzzled.

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