An Interview with Adrienne Barr of Ellena N. Gean Books, LLC
By Shereá Denise
1. How long have you been a business owner? Tell us about your business(es).
Ellena N. Gean Books, LLC is a publishing company with the primary focus of publishing children’s books featuring diverse main characters sharing relatable heartfelt stories. We also create merchandise, author reading presentations, write blogs, serve as a book coach for upcoming self-publishing indie authors, and much more. We (I) have been in business for two years with our first venture of representing “Dancing with Butterflies: Discovering Mindfulness Through Breathing." We (I) are excited about our first publication under the company to be released on August 23, 2022 - “My Uncle the Superhero: An Uncle Celebration.”
In addition to the above-mentioned works, we strive to cultivate relationships, support our beloved community of Alamance County, and actively serve other communities for children who are in the greatest need. We have also had the pleasure of donating books to an orphanage in Namibia, Uganda.
We have been featured on/in ThisWomansWords, It’s Reading Time, Women in the Arena Podcast, Fox 46 Charlotte, ENN, Burlington Times News, and other great platforms.
2. Did you always know that you wanted to be a business owner or did something specific lead to it?
I never envisioned I would be a business owner. I wrote my first book, “Dancing with Butterflies: Discovering Mindfulness Through Breathing” based on a writing challenge amongst some college sister-friends. They encouraged me to publish, which led me on that journey. Once I discovered the deficiency of diverse main characters, specifically Black main characters in children’s book, a fire was lit inside me. At that time, only 12 % of children’s books featured Black main characters in 2020 coming in third of white (50%) and animals/others (27%). This figure was troubling for me as children can connect with a story that includes them. Our children are worthy and deserving of having great stories with them in the forefront as opposed to being cast in the background. Ellena N. Gean Books was the answer to the call that our children need and deserve from traditional publishing houses.
3. What has been one of the most difficult aspects of being a business owner? What do people not see or not think about as part of your responsibilities?
As a solopreneur and a working super Mom, I will say balancing all responsibilities and finding opportunities for exposure has been the hardest. Some libraries and big box bookstores have several stipulations/processes that can be detrimental to an indie author/publishing company. Barnes & Noble only allows books from indie authors that can be returned; however, the price from certain vendors for returned books can be an unexpected financial obligation and cause strain on business finances of a blossoming publisher/author. Additionally, people have sometimes asked me to compromise on my prices not realizing as a small business owner/indie author the many people/vendors we have to pay to fund future projects.
Sourcing opportunities for exposure is probably the biggest unrecognized responsibility. You would think that opportunities would flock to us which is sometimes the case; however, that’s not always true. Researching stores and press opportunities for the possibility of a yes, is time consuming.
4. What has been the best part of starting your own business? What makes it worth continuing this journey?
The reviews and testimonials have been the best part. I’ve had parents tell me that their child noticed their parent was overwhelmed and their child told them to breathe. There is another little princess who lights up every time I see her and her mother in the community. It’s the stories that I’ve received from community/readers sharing how it helped them that make it worth continuing this journey. It’s God’s constant reminder that I’m not just writing to heal my own inner child, the words God gifted me are for everyone.
5. What advice would you give to new business owners or those interested in starting their own business?
Every new business must have startup funds and a budget. These funds will allow you to be able to have the best foundation and confidence to support your business. Anyone can pay for an LLC, but what most people neglect to share is that a new business requires money to fuel it.
6. Where do you see Black-owned businesses dropping the ball?
I would have to say bandwidth which negatively impacts communication with customers and ship times. Black-owned businesses have quality products, but if you’re not properly staffed these things will impact the customer’s experience. Word of mouth is powerful and can lead to the detriment of any business. Trademarking and patenting when possible are important as well. I don’t believe we do this enough. It seems some Black-owned businesses are intimidated by the process or don’t believe their product/brand should be patented. Ideas are currency and you should protect your intellectual property as well as your physical brand.
7. How could the Black Community do more to support Black-owned businesses? How could we better support you?
Spread the news, like posts, share posts, comment on posts, and mention these businesses where you can. If the community knows of an opportunity that would benefit a small business, tag them in it or send it their way. If you have connections to someone or are employed in a space that could use a Black-owned business' services, then reach out to them first. Liking, commenting, and sharing posts assists businesses on beating the social media algorithms to increase the visibility—creating more customers and opportunities.
The best ways to support my business is the same as mentioned above. Leave Amazon book reviews, request my books in your local/school library and big chain bookstores, book me for speaking events and readings, follow me on social media, and spread the word. We’re all in this together. My business cannot grow without you.