Interview with Luckshmi Nirmalananda - CEO & Founder, The Heritage Supply Co.®
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Luckshmi Nirmalananda, the Founder of The Heritage Supply Co.® It started off as a small business in 2019 with a mission to preserve and pass on the language, culture, and art of South Asian ancestral heritage.
The Heritage Supply Co.® makes educational toys and learning resources grounded in South Asian traditions. Their products bridge old world knowledge with contemporary designs to create premium products that are eco-friendly, beautiful, and easy to use!
The Heritage Supply Co.® jigsaw puzzles, games, and toys help to normalize cultural play and diversity in households, classrooms, and playrooms around the world.
Read ahead to learn more about Luckshmi and her company.
What made you create this brand?
I’m Amma to 4 little girls, and they are the ultimate reason why I decided to create The Heritage Supply Co.® When I became a mother, I was so keen for my girls to know, appreciate, and embrace the richness of their cultural identity and language. I wanted them to find joy and pride in their heritage in beautiful and playful ways.
I also felt that there simply wasn’t enough diversity in the children’s educational toy market. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Sydney, Australia after getting married. In my first year here, I taught Hinduism in a local public school and couldn’t find appropriate tools and resources to teach my classes, especially in a refreshing way that resonated with young, curious minds that dared to question the mythology and the mantras. I had to make them myself in the most crude yet creative of ways with a few supplies from the local arts and crafts store and loads of help from the internet!
After my second daughter was born, I decided to create the products that I couldn’t find in the marketplace that I wished my daughters could have to keep them connected to this ancestral language and culture.
What was the inspiration behind the puzzles?
In the “Western” market, it’s common to find beautiful, interactive products and decorative items that incorporate the English alphabet as a first exposure to language for babies and toddlers.
I wanted to create a similar product that bridged these product concepts with our rich South Asian languages and traditions. Our animal-themed alphabet jigsaw puzzles are now available in Hindi, Tamil, and Gujarati.
The puzzles teach the alphabet sounds and basic vocabulary of various animals and plants through a handy English transliteration and pronunciation guide included with the puzzles.
Is there any inspiration behind the art of the puzzles?
The artwork featured in all of our products is custom commissioned and done by South Asian artists. The artwork is also inspired by the art of the cultural groups represented in our products.
For example, our Hindi puzzle artwork is inspired by Madhubani art, which flourishes in several Hindi-speaking regions of India. Ancient cultures have always revered nature, and this is reflected in spiritual beliefs, practices, and art!
Art is powerful! It carries a legacy and wisdom that demands our respect and attention. The custom art in our Hindi products is inspired by this ancient artistic practice. We’ve incorporated this art into our products to help bring you and your family closer to the rich traditions and heritage associated with Hindi!
What are your other products that help introduce little people to the rich traditions of South Asia?
In the last couple of years, we’ve expanded into cultural sensory products that introduce South Asian geography, festivals, and iconography into playrooms.
We’ve also introduced a broad range of memory match card games that showcase heritage Indian monuments, Carnatic and Hindustani classical instruments, and Hindu symbolism and philosophy.
We also recently launched our EmpowHer collection, which includes our first children’s book plus a complementary memory match card game and sticker set. Just Like Me: 12 South Asian Women Who Inspire, Aspire, Empow-Her! is our first children’s board book.
It introduces young readers to the names, faces, and incredible achievements of twelve South Asian women from around the world. There are so many admirable and inspiring individuals of South Asian descent across the Diaspora who are pioneering and leading the way to new frontiers.
The twelve women featured in the book, memory match game, and sticker set represent a wide range of industries, from aeronautics and sports to business leadership and literature. We need to know who they are and the impact that they’re having in the world. Especially our little people! They need to see and know who the movers and shakers are that don't necessarily appear in Western media and pop culture. Not only does it make their own pathways to greatness become more possible, but it also makes them feel even more proud of their own cultural background.
It’s been an exciting journey to see the original vision for this business come to life as a catch all for the extensive rich traditions that we find across the South Asian region.
How can kids these days be in touch with their cultural roots?
It doesn’t take much to stay connected to cultural roots from anywhere in the world. From our experience in our own home, the top ways to stay connected would be to:
Celebrate the dozens of festivals of South Asia with friends and family in your local community.
Dress up in cultural attire and jewelry for all traditional occasions. It helps invoke a sense of connection and celebration in beautiful and colorful ways!
Learn to create traditional dishes from your heritage. Test them out with your family and friends at cultural celebrations.
Attend your local balavikas and language schools and programs. It's a great way to learn your mother tongue while connecting with others from your community and supporting their own efforts to keep ancestral language, culture, and religion alive!
Fill your living spaces with cultural books and products (like ours and Hindi By Reena’s!). We are so lucky to have hundreds of small businesses arise to bring you culturally curated products that bridge the old with the new, the traditional with the contemporary! We’re making it so easy to bring elements of ancestral language and culture into your homes in colorful and attractive ways.
What’s one tip you can give to parents who are raising their kids overseas to help them learn their mother tongue?
Incorporate your mother tongue into your everyday life!
By speaking to your little ones in your mother tongue, you’re seamlessly exposing them to the unique sounds and vocabulary of your ancestral language.
Children’s minds are like sponges, and it’s incredible how much they can pick up simply by hearing a language spoken around them. A few words here and there are all it takes to build that connection!