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Meet Leslie Crawford of The Literacy Shop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Crawford.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Just before the pandemic changed the world, I was talking to a group of students. They were in the fifth grade at the time. We were discussing reading. Each of the students told me they didn’t like to read. Because I am a literacy advocate, this didn’t sit well with me. These students said they didn’t enjoy the books inside of their classroom. The books weren’t relatable. It bothered me at the time of our conversation, but I had no idea what to do about it. I didn’t have any say in the books that were placed inside of classrooms.

A month after everything shut down, I started writing a book called Dear Future Black Queen. This book is filled with poems and letters written to young black girls about confidence, self-esteem, skin color, knowing their worth, and believing they are royalty. Then, around April 2020, I kept waking up at the same time every morning. It was 3 am daily, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep through the night, especially since I wasn’t going to bed until after midnight most nights.

One morning, God spoke to me. He told me to open a bookstore. I laid there wondering what that meant. I finally realized that I should open a bookstore where the books were diverse, and it featured independent and self-published authors. That’s how The Literacy Shop was started. On June 1, 2020, The Literacy Shop opened virtually (www.theliteracyshop.com). We started with ten authors and books. Today we have over fifty authors and over 100 products for sale. The goal of The Literacy Shop is to continue to promote diverse books and the authors that wrote them. We are striving to place these books inside of homes and classrooms. With the help of our customers and authors, The Literacy Shop is growing daily.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
This journey started smoothly. The first nine months were stress less. Then, it wasn’t until Spring of 2021, where things started becoming more of a challenge. Sales started dropping, and I didn’t know why. I had so many ideas, but none of them were working out.

Then, one day, I received an offer to host a virtual book fair for a school. I was excited, but things didn’t turn out the way we planned. The sales were low for the fair, and nothing went according to plan. I knew my marketing techniques needed to be changed.

Social media allow people to believe entrepreneurship is easy and everything goes according to plan. That’s not the case. Running a business is hard work.

We’ve been impressed with The Literacy Shop, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Literacy Shop is an online bookstore that offers diverse books to families. We promote diversity in the literacy environment. The Literacy Shop doors are open to independent and self-published authors that have written a book with diverse characters.

What sets The Literacy Shop apart from other bookstores is the types of books we carry and the authors of those books. There are a lot of stores that carry diverse books.

However, there aren’t many bookstores that primarily focus on independent and self-published authors. These authors need support, and that is what The Literacy Shop offers.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
When I was in undergraduate school, my business professor told me that being an entrepreneur was all about taking risks. I was never a big risk taker when it came to anything involving money. I didn’t want to lose. I would start a business because I wanted the extra money, but none of those businesses lasted more than six months.

I believe it was because I wasn’t passionate about any of the businesses I invested in. I took a risk in 2018 when I left my corporate job to step into the field of education as a business owner. The journey has been up and down, but it all has been worth it.

When I opened The Literacy Shop in 2020, I took the risk of investing a lot of money into building this brand. Over a year later, I am glad that I took the risk. I am investing in the literary future of children by placing more diverse books in their hands.

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