Movers and Shakers | Natalie Bent | Little Scholars Playground
Natalie Bent is co-founder of Little Scholars Playground is a diverse children’s book publisher and early years hub. They create engaging, diverse children’s books and learning resources.
What drove you to start your own business?
It all started in 2020 lockdown, when I struggled to find books and learning resources, after having my daughter. My partner and I were having a conversation about how difficult it is to find books for young children with Black protagonists. Staggeringly, in the UK, when we started the business less than 5% of children’s books featured a main character from an ethnic minority group. As a person of action, I quickly determined that I possessed the skillset, including illustration, design and marketing to begin to chip-away at this problem.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I’m a product designer and developer. Creating designs for both web and app.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
We now try to plan at least a year ahead. Next year (2022) we plan to publish four new books and create more STEM related learning resources. As a woman of colour in the tech industry, I’m well aware of the lack of women that look like me in this industry.
My business partner also works in STEM, accordingly one of our missions is to encourage Black parents to embrace STEM for their children. As STEM is an industry that creates the inventors, leaders and innovators of tomorrow. Another mission of ours is to help diversifying the classroom. Teachers, nurseries and schools have a large influence on children very early on. So once the business grows, we would like to donate our books and learning resources to nurseries and schools. Our passion for enabling Black children to see themselves in books and learning resources is what motivates us and keeps us going.
Can you describe a typical working day?
We get a lot of emails and Dm’s from people interested in the business on a daily basis. So, my first point of call is to reply to all of my emails and Dm’s. I then check my marketing plan for the day to see what social media posts needs to be posted that day, as well as check if it’s a day to send a marketing email etc. We’re also starting to create our new book. I am the illustrator for our books and learning resources, so I usually work on an illustration.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
The most memorable amazing day thus far was when we received our advanced copies of our first two books. It was a great feeling to see and feel what we had worked so hard on in the flesh! I was obsessed tracking the ships every move until it arrived.
What has been your scariest moment?
Investing in your business can be scary, especially when you’re first starting out. You do not know if it will be well received and if people will even buy your product. However, I’m also well aware that for a business to be truly successful you have to take risks. Luckily the risks we’ve taken in the business has been worth it. Our business is growing rapidly.
How do you work on making your business grow?
Before becoming a product designer, I worked in marketing for 8 years in the retail and publishing sectors. This has helped me to create a solid marketing plan for the business. I ensure our social media is engaging and attracts our target market, our books are also now in book stores and we have received press attention, which has helped get our business out there, so to speak. I am also working on growing our email marketing list, as we do not want to rely on social media to interact with our customers.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
You get to make your own decisions for your business, it’s essentially yours to take it wherever you wish. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling, seeing your business get strong recognition. Although it can get busy and challenging at times, you keep going because it’s your own.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
You have to manage your time well, there’s no outside person pushing you, so you have to be very motivated. It’s your money going into the business, so you can’t afford for it to fail. Planning and being disciplined in your work are very important.
You also need to be mindful to give yourself breaks from the business too, which may be hard for those whose main income comes from their business. I always remember the why, why we started the business. It’s for the next generation of Black children to see themselves in books and learning resources. As I truly believe children can’t be what they can’t see.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
There are many small business owners that have excelled, far too many to name. But I see how their hard work has paid off, which definitely motivates me.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
My Dad always says to be successful you have to take risks. That has stuck with me and it so true. The risks we’ve taken in the busines has definitely paid off.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Firstly, I would recommend our website, I’ve recently written a blog with tips on starting your own business.
I often listen to The Resilient Retail Podcast Catherine gives great tips on how to grow a product-based business.
Marketing a business is very important in helping a business become successful, Marketing Week is a good website to keep up with the latest marketing trends.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I enjoy yoga and have been practicing yoga for over 10 years. It’s a way to relax and unwind. I have a 2-year-old daughter, so I also enjoy spending time with her and my partner when I’m not busy with the business. Also, before the pandemic, I loved traveling, so hopefully, that can resume soon.
Little Scholars were finalists in the Start Up of the Year at the 15th Annual PRECIOUS Awards
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