Today we’d like to introduce you to Brittany Rhodes.
Hi Brittany, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Hello beautiful people! My name is Brittany Rhodes and I am the Founder and General MATHager of Black Girl MATHgic. Black Girl MATHgic is a movement created to increase math confidence, agency, enthusiasm, awareness, and fluency in children, with a focus on girls and black children, who are disproportionately impacted by math anxiety. Our flagship product is the Black Girl MATHgic Box, which is the first and only monthly subscription box designed to increase math confidence and decrease math anxiety in girls on a 3rd-8th grade math level. We also offer a one-time K-2 Bundle Box and other complementary math confidence products on our website, conduct workshops, and do speaking engagements. We have had the honor of being featured in Black Enterprise, Forbes, BEYONCE.com, Good Housekeeping, BuzzFeed, and more.
So how does one create a consumer-facing business focused on MATH, a subject most people love to hate?!? Well, I’m one of those people who loves math! I have been a math tutor/mentor/cheerleader for almost 20 years. I have a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Spelman College and an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. I started tutoring math when I was a freshman at Spelman. I learned very quickly that a lot of people have strong, negative feelings about math. It has always been my pleasure to help people see that math can be fun and that math is something we all are capable of doing. We are all math people!
After spending about a decade living in other states, in 2012, I decided to move back home to Michigan to help with Detroit’s revitalization. A couple of years later, I met a young man (now my husband :)) who introduced me to the wonderful world of subscription boxes. I immediately fell in love with the model. A couple of years after that, I began tutoring at a local nonprofit, Downtown Boxing Gym. It was there that I saw math anxiety on full display (because in this environment, I was working with a number of kids from all across the region whereas before I was primarily an in-home tutor working with students one-on-one). Math is about recognizing patterns, and this pattern of kids feeling defeated in math (especially my girl students) was one that I knew needed to be addressed quickly; math anxiety not only negatively affects our students’ grades but also limits their future career options and earning potential. Armed with my own experiences and a mountain of research, I founded Black Girl MATHgic.
Since launching in 2019, we have shipped thousands of boxes to over 35 states and Canada, and shown hundreds of girls (and even a few boys!) that they have what it takes to be math stars.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
As with any entrepreneurship journey, there have been a few bumps along the way. One of the biggest obstacles at the beginning was getting started – literally! Sometimes it’s easy to fall in love with the idea and the research but struggle with the execution. I overcame this obstacle by entering a pitch competition and joining a launch program for subscription boxes.
Another big challenge I faced, especially during the first year or two in business, was dealing with criticisms and hurtful comments from people who were triggered by the fact that BGM puts a spotlight on affirming black girls in the math space. I came up with templated responses packed with research that I could use to educate people. I also put in some of our literature that the box focuses on helping black girls because they are doubly marginalized in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), but that we serve people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds! Our customers and supporters come in all colors and hues.
Of course, the pandemic affected business, as well. We did see an uptick at the beginning of the pandemic as families scrambled to keep their children productively engaged at home, but we also lost customers who had to cut costs way down and simply couldn’t afford the monthly subscription anymore. We also missed out on achieving a big 2020 goal, which was to build out our schools and districts’ box program. We are just now getting back to working on that and hope to see some of our efforts come to fruition soon.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Black Girl MATHgic is math confidence, multiplied! Our flagship product is the Black Girl MATHgic box, an award-winning, co-curricular box designed to help girls build their math skills AND confidence. Each box is thoughtfully curated to address the phenomena that contribute to high math anxiety and low math confidence, especially in girls. These phenomena include lack of representation, stereotype threat, mainstream culture influences (ever noticed that on TV shows, the kid who’s good at math/STEM is typically the “uncool” kid?!?), and the idea that math is rigid, inflexible, and has no application to daily life. As such, every box is based on a real-world theme that kids can relate to, and the story of a woman mathematician with a woman mathematician. Other items include a positive math affirmation, 3-5 items to bring the theme to life (including at least one screen-free manipulative like a math game, book, or activity), a math activity booklet based on the theme, custom sticker sheet, and Caring Adult Guide. We put everything in a fun purple box that kids are so excited to see on their doorstep!!!
Any big plans?
We have so many ideas and plans; where do I begin!?! Writing children’s books focused on building math confidence, building out our schools and districts’ box program, growing our team, branching out to a full apparel and accessories line, creating new educational products and programs, and so much more! We are also actively working on launching our boy box – stay tuned!
- Website: blackgirlmathgic.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/blackgirlmathgic
- Facebook: facebook.com/blackgirlmathgic
- Twitter: twitter.com/blkgirlmathgic
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm9nBm_lgAkJJzy1txAWcGg
Becca Bond Photography