At five-years-old, your daughter Selah came to you with a problem that inspired your family to start The Empowered Readers Literacy Project. Since starting the nonprofit, what has your daughter taught you about passion?
Since starting The Empowered Readers Literacy Project, Selah has taught me that passion should always be the driving force for anything that you commit to doing. Passion is what fuels the mission and sustains the work. Without it, even good work can become mundane and no longer feel inspired. I have witnessed Selah’s continued commitment to inspire other kids and their families to enjoy reading together and build strong reading rituals because she is truly passionate about reading and family. While passion does not make the work easier, it does make the work worth it.
As a family of entrepreneurs, how do you balance doing good with work and your day-to-day family activities? And what advice can you give to parents who might be thinking about starting a family venture together?
We balance doing good with work and our day-to-day family activities by prioritizing. It’s easy to say that your family and doing good in the world are your top priorities, but your actions will always reveal your real priorities. When I was giving the best of my time and talent to an unfulfilling job, forty plus hours per week, I was always exhausted and had nothing left to give to the people I love most in the world, the people for whom I was working so hard—my family. So I took a scary leap and let go of my old profession as an attorney and committed to focusing my time and talent on building my family and our businesses. My husband, likewise, left his draining corporate job and took a position with a small local business that shares our same family and community values and allows the best version of him to show up daily at work and at home with our family. Trying to compartmentalize our lives to accommodate all-consuming jobs that did not fulfill us and then hoping to find small pockets of time to spend together as a family simply was not working for us, so we changed it. We decided to shift our paradigm and make our family’s pursuits our work.
My advice to parents who might be thinking about starting a family venture together would be to keep in the forefront the reason you are starting your family business—your why—and what your desired outcome is for your family’s growth and lifestyle. Next, do not bring traditional tenets of the corporate world to your family venture but rather let go of the social constructs that dictate how you run the day-to-day operations of your business and how you measure your success. While it is imperative to figure out how to make your business sustainable, you do not have to do it on your own. There is a community of people and organizations like DO GOOD X that is a valuable asset and can help you carve your own path.
Last but certainly not least, listen to your children when it comes to the family venture. Their perspective is always fresh, and their vision is not yet clouded. They love having fun and doing it together, and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
At the end of last year, Selah published her first book Penelope the Pirate Princess: The Search for the Magical Moon Pearl. How has that major achievement inspired and impacted her? And what other ideas does she have brewing that we can look forward to?
Publishing Penelope the Pirate Princess: The Search for the Magical Moon Pearl generated in Selah a true knowing of her power to create something from nothing and to accomplish bigger-than-life dreams. This is a revelation that evades most people for a lifetime, and she got it at age 7. With this knowing Selah gained a true understanding of what it means to set a goal, create a plan to accomplish that goal, work hard consistently toward that goal, and experience the joy and satisfaction that come from achieving that goal.
Most recently, Selah and her 3-year-old sister, Syrai, wrote another book in the Penelope the Pirate Princess series and submitted it in a competition for original books to help children understand and cope with the implications of COVID-19. The book is entitled Penelope the Pirate Princess: The Very Bad Case of the Glitter Spot Dots, and it takes kids on a fun and enlightening adventure through the Arrrgh Mighty Kingdom as Penelope and her friends work together to stop the spread of the Glitter Spot Dots and encounter a few surprises along the way. Even though Selah and Syrai did not win the competition, they are so proud of what they created, and that is reward enough for me.
In conjunction with the latest book, Selah is also launching a campaign called the #GirlLike Challenge spotlighting the excellence and accomplishments of brown girls and women all over the world and encouraging other brown girls like her and Syrai to use their voices to share their own stories as well.
As a DO GOOD X mentor, can you share what inspired you to step into that role and what you enjoy most about it?
I was inspired to serve as a DO GOOD X mentor because I wanted to provide the type of support and advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs as was provided to me by others in this benevolent community when my family and I set out on this journey nearly three years ago. The platform that DO GOOD X provides for combining the foundation of faith with the compelling to start and sustain businesses that do good outside of the confines of the traditional church resonated with everything within me, and I knew that I had finally found my tribe.
What I have enjoyed most about my work with DO GOOD X is the opportunity that it has afforded me to connect with amazing, bold entrepreneurs who are turning the traditional notion of faith on its ear, shifting the paradigm in pursuit of sustainable solutions to real world problems facing humanity.
Lastly, what’s the one thing you learned on your journey to social entrepreneurship that has helped you the most during challenging times?
The one lesson that I have learned on my journey to social entrepreneurship that has helped me the most during challenging times (such as the unprecedented ones in which we are currently living): Never allow external factors to direct my internal compass because the gains that result will always be at the cost of true Joy, and that is a price that I simply am not willing to pay.
Want to get connected with Nicole and her family’s nonprofit the Empowered Readers Literacy Project? Visit their website empoweredreaders.org. To purchase Penelope the Pirate Princess series books and merchandise, visit theauthenticprincess.com. For updates on the upcoming #GirlLike Challenge, follow @the_pirate_princess on TikTok.