Being a mother may be a full-time job, but Makya Vandiver-Hawkins has turned motherhood into a full-fledged business. After moving to Minnesota, Makya was inspired by her young daughter to create Smarty Pants Kids, a children’s educational toy store.
Smarty Pants Kids offers a wide variety of children’s toys hand-picked by Makya. The store’s inventory ranges from Spanish-language materials to environmentally friendly toys to items for special needs children. Smarty Pants Kids also offers a board game rental program, which allows families to take a board game home for a short period of time without having to pay full retail price.
Since coming up with the idea three years ago, Makya has put her heart into every aspect of her business. “My heart will always set Smarty Pants Kids apart from anyone else in the world,” she says. “I do everything that I do for this business with passion – not as a businesswoman, but as a person, a mother, and a loving human being.”
With a loving mother at its core, Smarty Pants Kids takes a unique, personalized approach to its inventory, its customers, and its community service. The store offers only educational products and hosts free events for local children. When it comes to customers, Makya knows her regulars by name and goes out of her way to make the shopping experience pleasant for visitors of all ages. She once made a makeshift “bed” for a customer who walked in with a sleeping baby in her arms.
As a local business owner, Makya relies on the community around her and supports her fellow small businesspeople whenever possible. Professionally, Smart Pants Kids participates in Neighborhood Toy Store Day, a nationwide celebration of locally owned toy stores. “If I want support full circle, it needs to start with me,” Makya says.