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Off the beaten path: How one couple’s year-long backpacking trip sparked a start-up

Megan Holmes

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Little Global Citizens was recently featured on Bay News 9.

Akeelah Kuraishi and her husband Tim Minnick were deep into the grind of their corporate advertising careers in Chicago when wanderlust struck.

After all, travel is what brought them together in the first place. Kuraishi, a native of Great Britain, was studying at the University of Illinois – Champaign on a semester abroad from the University of Nottingham when their paths first crossed. Minnick followed her back to the UK when her trip was over, and the rest is history.

Tim Minnick & Akeelah Kuraishi

They weren’t looking for a quick trip to a fancy villa in Tuscany. They didn’t want to just be tourists. Their curiosity was something deeper. They wanted to go off the beaten path and explore cultures, to travel to remote villages and trek through jungles. They wanted to live among tribes – to get to know people with different life experiences than their own.

At the time, Kuraishi was a digital sales executive leading strategy and spend for Fortune 500 giants with publishers like Univision and Myspace (back when it was cool, of course). But she wanted a change. She and Minnick agreed to quit their jobs and spend the next thirteen months traveling nineteen countries throughout Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. They lived in places like Burma, Borneo, and Laos.

Little did they know that years later their experience would be the start of a business.

“We met people from all over the world, from all different walks of life,” Kuraishi said. “And what we found is that people are all the same as us, despite surface differences.”

While they felt transformed on a basic human level, they found themselves back at the grind just three weeks after they returned. 

“We were both offered positions right away,” said Kuraishi. “I think that just speaks to the network we had, and the appreciation that our employers had for the life experience we had gained.”

Kuraishi was offered a job at the fast-growing social media and news company, Buzzfeed, and she took it, ready to settle down and start a family.

Co-founders Tim Minnick and Akeelah Kuraishi, and their two boys.

Fast forward six years and two children later, and the couple recently launched their own start-up subscription box service, Little Global Citizens, to share what they learned on their travels not only with their own children, but with children across the country. Kuraishi left the advertising world to come on as Little Global Citizens’ Chief Executive Officer full-time. 

“My husband and I were holding onto this knowledge for the last six years,” said Kuraishi. “The time has never been more important than it is today to help foster empathy and compassion for other people.”

Akeelah (center) during her travels.

“We wanted to make sure that our children, as they grow up, realize that with globalization, they need to be understanding of people of different countries and cultures,” Kuraishi explained. “They also need to have an empathy and a compassion for those people.”

The couple, who live on Anna Maria Island, were also recently accepted into Tampa Bay Wave’s first Tech Diversity Accelerator program. The accelerator is an initiative to boost women, minority, LGBT, and veteran-owned businesses. Little Global Citizens was one of a handful of companies chosen from Tampa Bay. 

Little Global Citizens fills a space in the subscription box market. According to a report in Forbes, a majority of subscription box buyers are college-educated women with children between 3-5 years old, and yet only a small percentage of subscription boxes are geared toward children. 

Moms like Kuraishi, who care about global awareness and diverse perspectives, want to teach their kids about culture, but they rarely have the time or the resources to travel. While Kuraishi and Minnick’s own children have visited other countries like England, Belgium and Italy, they recognize that traveling with kids is hard, especially as a working parent.

“It’s not very easy to take 4 year olds, 2 year olds and 6 year olds on planes and take them traveling internationally.”

Kuraishi wanted to make educating kids about other cultures easier for parents and more fun for kids. That’s what makes Little Global Citizens different than children’s books or other kids travel boxes. Little Global Citizens is focused on authentically teaching children about cultures of other countries.

Little Global Citizens’ first box, Thailand, was sent out in May 2018.

Each box is specially designed in collaboration with education consultant Crystal Gulakins, a Montessori school teacher. Activities within the boxes are informed by the developmental skills appropriate for the specific age group. 

Little Global Citizens also collaborates with people who grew up in the culture of the countries they feature in each box. For the Kenya box, which shipped out in June, Kuraishi consulted with a member of the Massai tribe to understand what sorts of activities would occupy a Massai child on a normal day. She did the same for Thailand. Kuraishi used her own experiences growing up in Great Britain to curate that month’s box. 

“It’s not trivia, it’s real, informed culture,” Kuraishi explained, “rather than high-level information, it’s stories told from a child’s perspective to establish empathy, EQ [emotional intelligence] and global awareness.”

Visit Little Global Citizens’ website here.

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