Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Guanqing (Kelly) Qiao

Guanqing (Kelly) Qiao MCA Interview Series Blog Featured Image

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hello, Mom’s Choice Awards readers! Today we are delighted to speak with Guanqing (Kelly) Qiao, M.Ed., founder of EVERYAM—a company that designs and manufactures subscription boxes featuring playthings and books tailored to infants and toddlers. These products are thoughtfully designed, taking inspiration from the renowned Montessori theory and incorporating elements from classic Montessori teaching materials. Kelly recently won an MCA award for the EVERYAM 0-3 YEARS Subscription Toy Boxes, and she’s joining us today to tell us more about her company, its inspiring backstory, and what it’s doing for child development.

MCA: Kelly, we’re so glad you could join us today. Won’t you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Guanqing (Kelly) Qiao, founder of EVERYAM. I’m also a classroom teacher (of math and science) in Nashville and a mother. I came to the United States for college. After graduating from the University of Illinois, I moved to New York City and worked for Louis Vuitton and Gucci. While working, I discovered my passion for learning and education, so I pursued my master’s degree in education at Vanderbilt University.

I love outdoor activities and try to be in nature as much as possible during my leisure time. I love hiking, kayaking, and ice skating. I believe that nature is quintessential for human beings’ growth. I make friends who share the same beliefs, bonding over pastimes. Some of my friends became parents over the years and often shared parenting stories with me. I started to have an understanding of children’s playthings and toy market. Eventually, my background in luxury retail and passion for education led me to create EVERYAM.

I became a mother along the journey of creating EVERYAM. My commitment extends to crafting top-notch, eco-friendly, and educational playthings for the little ones, ensuring a bright and enriching childhood experience.

MCA: We’d love to know how your company got its start.

Over the past two years, we collaborated with renowned pediatric and education experts in China and internationally. Inspired by Montessori theory, we created a scientific parenting system that works for Chinese families and produced a series of parenting guides. Our team developed a wholesome series of toys, created by skilled product engineers and designers and crafted with eco-friendly materials from the factory with craftsmanship. We follow strict international safety standards, ensuring the quality of our top-notch products.

EVERYAM’s early education toy boxes for infants and toddlers aged 0-3 were launched worldwide in June 2023. The toy boxes align with the natural development of Chinese babies, precisely tailored to their monthly age. The series comprises 14 age-appropriate toy boxes, each containing 5–7 playthings, 1–2 picture books, and a handbook (instruction guide), all of which aid Chinese parents in scientific parenting and efficient playtime.

We are a young, vibrant team with 90% of us already parents, which is a huge advantage. This allows us to improve our products through hands-on experience. We will never stop learning or progressing. As a mother, my role in operating the brand enables me to consistently view our work from the user’s perspective, testing the products, reviewing the handbooks, and continuing to improve.

MCA: Tell us, what specific needs were you trying to fill when you created these products?

Many Chinese parents are shifting their parenting views from following traditional “experiences” to research-based theories, but the resources they have access to are limited. Though Chinese parents want a pleasant and quality parenting experience, the load of daily work makes it hard for them to spend time researching and reading. They struggle to understand their child’s cognition, psychology, developmental needs, and how to choose age-appropriate and educational toys. That’s why we initially focused on developing “early education toy boxes” to provide a systematic series of toys and concise parenting guides.

I often hear new moms say, “Being a mom is fulfilling but not always joyful.” I find that a bit regrettable because accompanying a child’s growth should be both fulfilling and joyful. So, our product design philosophy includes attracting both adults and children. In demonstrating products to their babies, I hope parents can enjoy the happiness of play and the satisfaction of exploration. This encourages parents to spend more time guiding, participating, and playing with their children, building confidence in at-home parenting, and gaining a sense of value and accomplishment as parents. Through effective companionship, we aim to build emotional bonds through play and time to strengthen parent-child relationships, ensuring every child grows up happily in love and security.

EVERYAM is committed to bringing high-quality, safe, and reliable products for Chinese babies—a part of what I see as a company’s social responsibility. Through beautiful product design and color coordination, we aim to introduce little ones to the world of aesthetics.

We also believe in the power of “made in China” and that Chinese children deserve top-notch products. They should be aware of the meaning of “quality” and be proud of “designed and made in China.”

MCA: Can you tell us about the research that went behind the product’s unique features?

From real life: Through talking to my friends who were already parents at the time I decided to create EVERYAM, I learned that instead of drawing or cartoons, little ones are more likely to be attracted by real-life images, especially figures like themselves. So I decided to photograph real people in real settings for the pictures we use in all the board books and handbooks. The play guidelines and picture book scenes are captured using real items and real families (Chinese families, to be specific), not any cartoon feature, which sets us apart.

Practical: We conducted surveys that showed how, unlike in the U.S., Chinese families often have limited access to information on child development and abilities, and this is usually obtained from pediatric hospitals. The lack of accessibility makes self-learning extremely hard. That’s why we’ve created a corresponding handbook for each box. Instead of a video course format, it’s a real manual that takes just a few minutes to find important information at any time. A simple but on-point explanation helps caregivers understand the corresponding development of their children and alleviates parenting anxieties.

Culturally appropriate: Unfortunately, the majority of products in the Chinese toy market are designed abroad. The playthings often carry foreign elements. Therefore, EVERYAM focused on combining design with Chinese culture, presenting children with China’s long and rich cultural heritage through a modern aesthetic lens. Using artistic pattern design and more natural color schemes, we aim to cultivate color cognition in children, helping them form a good aesthetic sense, discover the beauty of nature, and cherish it.

Top quality: As a socially responsible company committed to sustainable operations, we optimize production processes and try our best to reduce carbon footage. All our toys are made from environmentally friendly materials, with over 40 safety testing certifications that comply with international standards. EVERYAM is relatively new, but we’ve already obtained the BSCI certificate.

Socially responsible: As a company founded and led by women, I take pride in our mission to support the female community worldwide. We prioritize collaborations with high-quality suppliers in developing countries, promoting economic empowerment and opportunities for women in these regions. For example, our felted wool products are produced in a workshop in Nepal, providing employment opportunities for over 130 local women since 2018. Through our business practices, we hope to positively impact the lives of women worldwide. In addition, introducing playthings made from natural materials is, I believe, also a part of social responsibility. It helps instill environmental awareness in children from a young age, teaching them to appreciate things and embrace sustainability.

MCA: You have a marvelous mission and outreach. And it’s remarkable how beautifully integrated your products are. What age groups were they designed for?

Ages 0-3, but beyond 3 years old there’s room for more exploration. The open-ended playthings allow for continuous exploration of additional play possibilities based on a child’s imagination and creativity.

MCA: I’m curious about the name, EVERYAM. Does it have a special meaning that you’d like to share with readers?

EVERY/YAM conveys that every child is like a tender bud waiting to develop. We are fortunate to grow alongside them, and even more blessed to find joy in the process of sowing and nurturing. A child’s growth and development is a journey of exploring the world, which in turn provides adults with novel experiences. It’s like harvesting a yam—once you peel off the skin, you’re greeted with endless surprises.

MCA: A lovely image—thanks for sharing it. What kind of feedback have you received about the EVERYAM 0-3 Years Subscription Toy Box products?

Since our product launch, we’ve received valuable feedback from parents regarding our product’s design, functionality, and quality. The positive feedback included that the playthings enhance the development of 10+ core abilities in babies, the high aesthetic appeal of the toys, and their significance in aesthetic education. These positive reviews have served as a constant source of inspiration and motivation for us.

MCA: What is next for you and your line of products?

I firmly believe in the power of passion, so I plan to stay in the classroom, teach, and continue to do academic research related to children. This will provide continuous theoretical support for EVERYAM.

At the same time, our team will continue to iterate and optimize existing products. We are currently developing theme-based playthings for Chinese children aged 3–6, as well as Montessori-inspired furniture and home goods suitable for all age groups. We also plan to create a series of picture books about Chinese culture.

In 2024, we are going to launch “Yam Camp”—a series of parenting lectures hosted by professionals along with parent-children activities. One of my New Year resolutions is to collect 999 smiling faces from children (why not 1000? I guess ‘cause 999 is a lucky number in Chinese culture). I hope EVERYAM will create a parenting eco-system for Chinese families, more quality creation, and more joyful parenting.

MCA: Are you planning to introduce EVERYAM into any new regions?

We certainly hope to expand our presence in the North American market. Nowadays, many Chinese people work and live in the United States, and they also wish to have access to more products related to the Chinese language or Chinese culture. Therefore, we hope to make more overseas Chinese communities aware of and use our products. And of course, our products are also suitable for American families who are fond of Chinese culture and wish to learn more about it.

MCA: Kelly, thanks so much for speaking with us today and telling us about your amazing products for young children. We certainly wish you the best!

You can learn more about Guanqing (Kelly) Qiao and her award-winning book, EVERYAM 0-3 YEARS Subscription Toy Boxes by visiting her MCA Shop pages.

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