Welcome to our new series, Stojo Sips, where we’ll be interviewing people that inspire us.
To get us started, we [virtually] sat down with entrepreneur and creative thinker Jelani Memory. He is currently navigating life in Portland, Oregon with his wife and 6 children. As the co-founder of A Kids Book About and a successful software company called Circle, he is a man of many talents. We were excited to chat with him about his endeavors and life in Portland.
Q: You have an amazing story. Could you please share what inspired you to write A Kids Book about Racism while running a $30 million dollar venture-backed technology company?
A: What inspired me is simple. My kids. I wrote A Kids Book About Racism back in 2018 just for my kids. All 6 of them. They were the sole and only audience. I made the mistake of showing it to a handful of friends who were parents and they loved it. Apparently I had something pretty special on my hands. Once the seed was planted that I could possibly do more than just one book, but do 100, 200,1000? I knew I had to chase it. I've always followed my passions in my work, attempting to find both creative and professional satisfaction in whatever I called my job. Building A Kids Book About into something more became more than a want, it became a call.
Q: We love how your company, A Kids Book About, offers books to open up conversations around difficult topics for parents and their children. Similarly, there are plenty of adults who have trouble having uncomfortable conversations with family members and even close friends. What do you suggest adults can do to start conversations around racism and other challenging topics with their peers?
A: Honestly, I don't know. Having tough conversations will always be tough. Part of my advice would be just to resign yourself to the fact that it won't feel comfortable. The next part of my advice will seem strange, but it totally works... Give them a kids book. Kids books are so disarming. I've found that I've had more conversations about racism because of my little kid’s book than I ever did before. Something about a kids book sets people at ease. It creates permission to dive in without judgment or fear.
Q: In addition to A Kids Book about Racism, your company also publishes books for kids on topics such as body image, feminism, cancer, and mindfulness. How do you and your team choose the subjects you want to cover and go about creating and publishing the book?
A: It's a little bit intuition, what's interesting, and what customers tell us. Turns out it's quite easy to figure out what conversations are hardest to have with kids. We spend a lot of time avoiding them. In terms of how we choose the authors, we look for the underdog. We aren't looking for folks with huge platforms or someone who's published before. We want someone who would never get a book deal. Someone who has a deep and personal story to tell. An underrepresented voice with something to pass down to the next generation.
Q: In light of recent events with the Black Lives Matter movement, people have different comfort levels when it comes to participating in making change (joining protests, signing petitions, donating money, etc). One of the most overlooked methods of creating change is education and raising conscious children. What is one piece of advice that you would give parents looking to educate their children (aside from reading your amazing book)?
A: The best advice I can offer parents is to just talk to your kid. When you talk with your kid, it opens up so many doors. Parents are busy. They're working, watching Netflix, working out, making dinner, and trying to find a moment to breathe. But I would encourage parents to spend intentional time with their kids every day just talking. Kids love it! They really do. Getting all of their parent’s attention feels amazing. And once you're there talking with your kid, talk about something that really matters. Again, your kids are totally up for it. You'll be surprised how much both you and them get out of it.
Q: A Kids Book About is on a mission to make kids books that matter. Similarly, Stojo was founded by a group of 3 dads who wanted to reduce disposable culture to create a better planet for their children and future generations. Are there any plans to create a book on sustainability or environmentalism? Any future books planned that you can share with us?
A: Yes! We are already working with two authors on A Kids Book About Climate Change. The hope is even to make the book sustainable itself! We'll announce and release that book along with 15 others this year alone!
Q: Finally, as a resident of Portland, we wanted to know what are your favorite cafes? Do you have a go-to morning drink? And what are your favorite outdoor activities that you do with your kids that don’t involve technology?
This one is easy! I love a good Americano from Good Coffee run by my good friend Sam. You can't do better than a maple bar from Voodoo Doughnut (yes, just a plain maple bar!). And then you gotta stop over at Fire On The Mountain for some wings and a beer. My favorite activity to do with my kids is to go for walks.
Where to find Jelani: