BTS with Kelly-Jade Nicholls: Children's Author and Digital Makeover winner

4 December 2020

From fashion stylist to child author, we caught up with one of our Digital Makeover winners, Kelly-Jade, founder of Woke Babies.

You made an interesting transition into publishing. So tell us, when did the journey to starting your own business begin? How did you come up with the idea?

Representation is something that has always been important to me. Growing up my mother made sure I was always surrounded by positive Black images as a child. Wanting other children to have access to the same positive upbringing, I decided to illustrate and self-publish my own Black children’s book. 

After self-publishing ‘My Favourite Bible Stories’ and promoting it at fairs and events. The feedback I would often receive from parents was that they are struggling to source books featuring characters that their child could relate to and how grateful they were for my book.

Authors would also approach me for advice on how to get their books to a wider audience as my book was doing well in the USA too. This then had me thinking, I wanted to come up with a way that could battle both those issues, something that will help parents and also help authors.

I originally thought of creating a bookshop, but after brainstorming with a friend we came up with the idea of a subscription service. That was the birth of Woke Babies. Woke Babies is a subscription service that delivers black children’s books and activities to homes and schools.  The addition of the activities along with the books was just a way of keeping Woke Babies fun for me and the kids receiving it.

And who or what was your inspiration?

My mother is my inspiration, watching my mother work crazy hours to set up her own fostering agency has inspired me greatly. She has shown me what work ethic is from a young age and also raised me to have a ‘can-do’ attitude. She raised me to believe in myself, my skills and to take risks. 

That's really powerful, is there a problem you’re looking to solve or address with your business?

5% of children’s books in the UK feature a BAME protagonist. My aim with Woke Babies is to show publishers how big the demand is for more Black protagonists to be in books. 

I also aim to help raise children’s self-esteem by seeing positive characters in the books around them. Books should reflect the diverse world that we live in.

I can't help but be inspired, what is your Woke Babies' goal/vision?

I would like to take Woke Babies global, I receivde several emails from potential customers in the USA wishing that we could ship there. I would also like to become a publishing house, publish more diverse children’s books and create more opportunities for diverse authors and illustrators. 

Did you face any challenges when starting your own business? How did you overcome them?

My main challenge within Woke Babies is finding books with black protagonists. Sometimes I may find some amazing books, but the publishers often can’t meet my demand as they only import over a few hundred copies of the books into their distribution centre. 

To overcome this, I divide my subscribers into groups and note down the different groups that have different books. This can make my packing process much longer sometimes.

How do you feel about being nominated for Virgin Media’s digital makeover competition?

Being nominated makes me feel extremely grateful, it’s a lovely and overwhelming feeling to know that people loved your business enough to vote and nominate you for such a great prize.

How will the digital makeover help you?

In so many ways, I’m still learning along the way with Woke Babies so it will be great to get expert advice and help. PR and Branding will be such a great tool to help me get Woke babies out there more to different audiences. 

What advice would you give Black entrepreneurs / start-ups?

Take risks and always put in 100% with everything you do. Learn new skills and don’t be afraid to change direction. 

I started my career as a fashion stylist, I got to a point which some may say was the peak of my styling career. But I knew deep down it wasn’t for me, so I took a risk and decide to focus on my personal projects like Woke Babies.

A big congratulations to Woke Babies, we hope your success takes you global and others are inspired by your story as we are.

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