How old were you when you started and where did your idea come from?
I started Brown Kids Read when I was 13 years old and the idea came from collaborating with another pair of authors for a Barnes and Noble Book Event. Originally, Brown Kids Read wasn't supposed to be a non-profit, it was just the name of the Barnes and Noble Event. Afterward, I realized that the look on the kids' faces during the event was something that I wanted to replicate, so I turned Brown Kids Read into a 501c3 organization.
I wrote my book, Suubi's Sunny Smile this year at age 16. The main character is based on my younger brother and I was inspired to write the book due to a combination of his personality and my desire to write my own story. At this point, I had been selling other peoples' books through Brown Kids Read for several years, so I wanted to become an author myself.
What was the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?
When I first started Brown Kids Read, there was a completely different format than there is now. Originally, Brown Kids Read would provide 'Reading Rocks' events to local communities. we would bring book character performances, storytime readings, crafts, and other engaging things for participants to do, but unfortunately, nobody came. This was because we would offer these book events on Saturday afternoons when it was warm outside, but since people had other alternatives such as the park or the beach, they chose not to come. Thankfully, I realized that I needed to re-shift my focus to a format that would be more enticing for potential attendees. I learned the importance of recognizing and adapting to given challenges. As an entrepreneur, I've encountered many of these, but the key is effective adaptation.
What are your future plans for the business?
I would like to turn Brown Kids Read into a publishing company when I graduate from college. Currently, I own a publishing company called Share a Smile Books, which is how I am currently producing Suubi's Sunny Smile. Share a Smile Books already has another book in production now called Chi-Chi's Toothy Grin which I am also authoring. My ultimate goal is to create a safe space for authors, readers, and anyone who wants to learn more about the beautiful world of diverse literature.
Any advice for other girls starting a business?
Challenge yourself! Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur needs to accept that they will never gain without risk. The best reward comes from hard work, especially when you know that you've done your best. It's definitely challenging being a young black woman in today's business world, but I know that I am good at what I do and I'm continuing to improve, which goes for anyone. As long as you put the work in, you will reap the rewards.