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Meet Keewa of Kido, a Diverse Kids Boutique

A Black woman poses in front of a display of books in a store, with various clothing and toys in the background.

Keewa Nurullah

Photo: ajahlexiproductions for Kido

by Isi Frank Ativie


Black-owned businesses have been the pillars for African American communities throughout the country for centuries, and especially prior to the end of slavery in 1865. Today, over 161,000 Black-owned corporations are thriving in the United States—a testament to Black entrepreneurs who are flourishing and enduring against the repetitive battles of racism and discrimination.

On Saturday, February 10, the MCA will host its monthly Family Day program, themed around Love Is Love. This iteration of Family Day will be spearheaded by Kido, a Black-owned children's boutique in Chicago's South Loop that South Side and Chatham native Keewa Nurullah has run since the late 2010s.


“It’s really an honor to inhabit the space of the MCA,” said Nurullah said in an interview on January 15. “I think anybody who grows up on the South Side of Chicago, you can grow up feeling isolated or alienated from the major institutions. Some kids grow up not even ever going to any of them. So, I think to come in there as Black, loving, and positive as we are in an encouraging community, it’s really exciting.”

The daughter of a visual and textile artist, Nurullah first encountered art at South Side Community Arts Center at the age of three. During these childhood years, she was raised amidst a revolution of Black creativity in Chicago.

“My parents were involved in the Black arts movement in Chicago in the 1970s and '80s,” she said. “So, among my parents' friends were Haki Madhubuti, Phil Cohran, and some pretty iconic members of the Chicago arts community. And so, as kids, we grew up taking art lessons and really just going as far in the city as we could. And taking in street art in the culture of other communities as well. Going to the Mexican Art Museum in Pilsen was just a priority of my parents in our upbringing. I think they knew how heavily arts can also influence our intellect and education.”

A Black woman dressed in pink holds a sparkly microphone. Her lips and eyes are partly open, suggesting she might be singing.

Keewa Nurullah

Photo: ajahlexiproductions for Kido

Nurullah graduated from Whitney Young Magnet High School in 2001 and enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as a musical theater major. Prior to graduating in 2009, she took a break from her studies in 2004 and joined the Disney musical On the Record, which allowed Nurullah to tour the country. She has traveled to more than 50 countries during her tenure as a performer for other shows.

“In my family, I'm the performing artist,” she said. “My college education kind of set me up for this performing career, until I had my son [in 2016]. Once I had him, that's when I considered starting my second chapter. My priorities and focus changed. To be completely frank, I was really not interested in presenting myself in front of people and asking for acceptance after having a child.”

A group of people and strollers gather in a circle in a colorful store filled with books.

Kido Community Event

Photo: ajahlexiproductions for Kido

During this time, Nurullah was organizing local functions and gatherings for children in her neighborhood; this was also when Kido began.

“I found a different creative outlet for myself,” said Nurullah. “I knew, at least on the South Side, that parents were having a problem finding out where to find community. Along with creating the brand, pretty much immediately I started to have events like story times and family day parties to connect people. So that’s really how the brand grew, was from our events. I think the thing that really sets us apart is how invested we are in connecting families across Chicago.”

Nurullah found herself disappointed in most kids’ clothing options online—which also inspired her to start her brand.

“I was shopping for my son heavily online, and I was just kind of disappointed in the clothing selections for boys in particular,” she said. “They were not colorful, the messaging was, like . . . a little macho. And so, using my visual arts brain in that creative side, I wanted to create something that reflected our style and values a little bit more. I just started to come up with ideas for little onesies, hoping that I cannot only create something for him but that other people would like as well. So, we just started with one idea and just grew from there.”

Two adults and two children pose in a store. A variety of toys and clothing is on display and the word kido appears on the wall behind them.

Keewa Nurullah and family

Photo: ajahlexiproductions for Kido

With financial help from her family, Nurullah was able to start her endeavor despite facing common challenges that tested her commitment.

“Every year of the business has had its own challenges,” she mentioned. “But that first year, I would say my biggest lessons were just in the logistics of it all. How do I find blanks that aren’t super expensive? How do I find a screen printer that doesn’t have crazy high minimums? How do I create these relationships with these other vendors and not get taken advantage of? How do I get the quality that I want? It was really just a lot of education, just learning about an industry that I wasn’t familiar with. And doing all kinds of Google research.”

However, she was undeterred and continued her odyssey with Kido. Her resilience spoke volumes as she and her husband Doug—who is also a visual artist—generated half a million dollars in total sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic four years ago; Kido had also tripled its revenue by 2021. That same year, she won the official Black Wall Street Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was featured on Chicago magazine's Best of Chicago issue, on ESPN during the 2022 NBA Finals, on the Tamron Hall Show, and on CBS Mornings. Nurullah and her daughter were even in an Airbnb commercial last year.

“We’ve been really lucky,” she added. “We, like so many other Black-owned businesses, had a boost in 2020 when people were pushing Black-owned businesses and sharing and showcasing them. So, we benefited from that for sure. But in a way, it felt organic because it’s not like we changed anything about our business. It’s just more people found us, and I used that momentum to kind of do some things that I always wanted to do in developing the business. There are so many businesses that close within a year or two, and I really consider that as a testament to the strength of our customer base, community, and brand.”

Last June, Nurullah connected with MCA’s Associate Director of Learning Evelyn Sanford-Nicholson, who has shopped at Kido in the past. Nicholson introduced Nurullah to Mayra Cecilia Palafox, the MCA’s Manager of Learning, to discuss bringing Kido into the museum’s Family Day event to sell children’s clothing and diverse books.

“We have a pretty wide network of families,” said Nurullah. “The parents that come to the store and who I converse with and have been supportive of Kido, they have their own jobs in whatever industries. So, we definitely benefited from people saying our names in rooms that we’re not in and connecting us to opportunities that maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise had. So, that’s been pretty cool.”

Her great-grandfather had a tailor shop in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the Massacre of 1921, he fled to Chicago and rebuilt his shop on the Southside. Keewa’s grandfather carried the torch and built his own tailor shop, and now, 100 years after Greenwood burned, she has her own shop in Downtown Chicago. As a Black Wall Street descendant, Nurullah enjoys attracting attention and positive feedback from customers of all races. And she can’t wait to see every lovely face at the MCA.

“We have a really diverse customer base already. I think the thing that has benefited us is that people admire the clarity of our work. While I put our focus on representation and inclusivity, not only for race and culture but also for kids with disabilities or learning challenges, and also non-traditional families. People really connect with that, and we’re just constantly spreading the message and attract people who are into that.”