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1. Tell us a bit about The Généraliste Shop
Founded in September 2018, généraliste exists to make representative books, across the spectrum of the BAME community accessible to every child across the UK. Offering a curated mix of books, greeting cards and crafts, we want to give every child the chance to see themselves in the pages of a book, to dream, to love the skin they are in, to have compassion for others and know they are enough. We hope to bring smiles to both children’s and parent’s faces, and hopefully make the world a more understanding and embracing place. We sell cards for adults too!
Our books represent the best of the BAME community, and although we exist to serve our communities, we firmly believe that if every household, regardless of their colour, diversified their bookshelf, we would live in a much better world. I believe that if every child’s bookshelf, black and white, had half of its characters from the BAME community, there would be no racism. Those children would grow up with positive affirmations of who people of colour are, and their faces and cultures would be normalised to the point they wouldn’t know the difference. We would all be equal. Children are the future, and we want to help shape a much better and brighter future!
2. What inspired you to create a bookshop which represents children of colour?
I have a 2 1/2-year-old who loves to read and he is my inspiration for everything that I do! I noticed that most of the books I have bought him feature animal characters so, over the summer of 2018, I decided to expand his library to include people. But in doing so, I wanted my son’s library to reflect the diverse world we live in and his identity as a human being. So I straight away I did a google search and just to find a handful of black children’s books it took me hours.
In my searching, I came across this article on the Guardian. It highlighted that out of 9,115 children’s books published in 2017, only 4% of them (391 titles) featured BAME characters. And only 1% had a BAME main character. When compared to the 32.1% of school children of minority ethnic origins in England, it really is shocking.
What these figures show is that BAME children’s books are not accessible. They exist on so many platforms but are just too difficult to find on a google search. Publishers will only promote books that are selling. If people can’t find BAME books, they will not buy them and threfore publishers will not seek to increase their offering. I am trying to change that by offering a one-stop shop where BAME books are at the forefront. And so, this is why I started Généraliste. To make BAME children’s books accessible to all!
3. What has been your greatest challenge in starting The Généraliste Shop?
I think my greatest challenge has been the lack of information on bookselling. For a lot of industries, a simple ‘how to’ google search will give you lots of great pointers and advice on starting your business. When I typed in ‘how to start a children’s bookshop’ however, I didn’t really find most of what I read useful or even relevant. The questions I had couldn’t be answered. I have made a lot of my decisions based on instinct and I learn from them each day. Learning on the job has worked so far!
4. What has been the most rewarding part of creating The Généraliste Shop?
The feedback. I get such lovely messages from both customers and people who just enjoy my Instagram posts. The happiness is priceless. I love seeing the pictures I get sent of kids with their books or making new crafts. I would also say, seeing my goal of normalising our differences being achieved. I get a great mix of customers from across the UK, and believe it or not, quite a few of my customers are white and have consciously chosen to buy their child a black book. I have even had customers travel from ridiculously long distances just to meet me in person and buy the books!
5. What advice would you give to others trying to start their own business?
I think the most important thing you need to do before you consider starting your own business is getting your own life in order. No one’s life is perfect but it is very difficult to focus on growing a new idea when there is a lot of background noise going on. Make sure you have worked on your personal finances, get a good budget together and work on your creditworthiness. Unless you are going to self-fund for a good while like I have done, you will most likely need to seek capital from somewhere else. And that can be very difficult to get if you have struggled to manage your finances in the past.
Make sure you have strong relationships and a support network around you even if it means going out and meeting new people, running a business can get really lonely. And most importantly, make sure you believe in yourself. It’s amazing what can be achieved with just a little bit of faith.
6. Where would you like to see The Généraliste shop in five years time?
I would really hope that généraliste is still going! 2019 will be a really exciting time for généraliste! You can expect a much bigger range of books, new events and workshops to help people get writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books. Keep an eye on our Instagram for updates in the new year. We are more than just a bookshop so I hope I can be in a position to affect social change in our communities.
7. How can people find out more about your products?
You can visit our website www.generaliste.co.uk to view all our products. An amazing milestone for us, you are also able to view and purchase a variety of books, cards and crafts from our space in Hub and Culture, 27 Peckham Highstreet. We are also on Twitter and Instagram @generalisteshop