Child Psychiatrist Dr. Zabina “Zee” Bhasin, MD, is a doctor-turned -ntrepreneur who is trying to change the world through play. As a first-generation American, Dr. Zee grew up surrounded by diversity and was inspired to launch culture-focused toys and products to give families everywhere access to the world’s varied and rich traditions. As a mom of two and a physician, Dr. Zee says she hopes her company In KidZ makes inclusion normal and a daily part of family life. She sat down with Jessica Abo to talk about her journey and her advice for other entrepreneurs who want to make changing the world part of their business plan.
Jessica Abo: Before we get into your company In KidZ, tell us a little bit about what led you to go from a practicing physician to an entrepreneur.
Dr. Zee: I love that you’re asking me this question because it is so important to understand that when someone has a career or life, things pivot all the time and things change all the time. So one of the most important things that I want someone to understand is I started as a child psychiatrist. Yes, I went to med school. And as I saw my career unfold, I started going into hospital administration. I was actually an executive for some major hospitals out here in Southern California.
I realized during my career, I was already starting to work in diversity and inclusion without actually me knowing about it. Then as my career evolved and I became a mother and I built a cancer center here in California, I realized I needed a little bit of a break. Then my children started inspiring me with the causes that I was actually doing as a physician and as a hospital administrator. The importance of understanding diversity and inclusion was not just as an adult, but for future generations. My children were my priority at that time. And they inspired me to start the company, which is today In KidZ.
How does the company work?
In KidZ is a diverse and inclusive toy company on a mission to educate through play. With our kid-focused products, we are tackling some very strong subjects like racism, equality, and diversity, and we’re doing this through fun, activity and play. Though at the moment, we are using board games and toys and our culture kits, we have expanded our reach through books and TV shows.
Why did you choose to focus on changing the world through play?
You know, it’s very important to understand the impact of when you are doing something. The most important part of doing something is creating enjoyment out of it and making everyone understand how important it is. In KidZ does that by celebrating each other’s differences and showing that we can do that by having fun. Kids are eager to learn from us. They want to know what we can teach them. In KidZ does that with the lesson of changing the world and with really hard topics as well. And how do we do it? Through fun.
How do you make an impact and make an income?
Today’s small businesses, or any business, has to have some sort of impact that they need to put out there for their consumer to see. When In KidZ started, we were a direct-to-consumer business. We thought, “Okay, we’re going to be in every house. Every kid needs this. It’s amazing.”
But we also launched during COVID, right in March 2020. We thought, “What a great opportunity for parents to have these products in their homes and to teach their little ones about diversity and inclusion.” The impact was the right impact, which is we wanted to get our products out there to teachers and parents and all those who wanted to teach children. When we decided that we were going to scale our business and understand that we needed to get our product in hands of everyone in the country, we knew we had to move into big brands or big box stores. That’s why today we’re on Maisonette and Nordstrom.
Next year we will be in two retail stores, big box stores, by the end of 2022. So the impact is still there. The mission is still there. But now the business model has changed. And instead of direct to consumer, we are also B2B, which is going into large businesses.
How does your own family inspire the work you do?
It’s so important to understand that yes, on the outside, I’m a CEO, but really let’s be real, I’m a mom. One of the reasons this company was even formed or created was because of the inspiration of my own children. My children are the reason I do what I do. I’m able to do it and really put the effort in because of the one person in my life, my husband. You see me on camera. You see interviews with me. You see me doing all these wonderful things to help the world. But really, I can only do it because of him, all the late-night conversations, all of the times that he helps me take care of the kids and do things. My husband is my biggest supporter. Without him, I would not be able to even launch In KidZ. My rock star, Rakesh, is one of the most valuable people on my team. Even though he has his own business, he has his own life, he is the one who really lights that fire under me to keep going, not only as a CEO, but as a mom.
How can other entrepreneurs make changing the world a part of their business plan?
The first thing you have to realize is that the consumer, your customer, is not stupid. They are going to smell un-authenticness in your business, in your message, if you are not truthful about your mission and your passion. So the truth is, for you to create impact through your business plan, the key that we need to find is what is your mission and how are you going to show up for that impact?
When you’re sitting and talking about business, we have to make sure we understand that you ask the right questions when you’re sitting down to create your business plan. I’m going to start this business: What am I passionate about? Who do I want to teach? Why do I want to do this? And how am I going to do it? It’s really the simple stuff we learned in school, the who, where, what and why.
I have to remind everyone, be authentic in what you’re saying. Because without being authentic, you’re never going to succeed in your business. Because that consumer, like I said before, is going to see right through you.
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