Donna Beasley, CEO and Creator of KaZoom Kids Books iStory App hailed as innovative tool for sparking interest in reading for African-American and Latino children. (Courtesy Photo)

Donna Beasley is President/Publisher of KaZoom Kids Books, an interactive multicultural children’s digital book company

Donna Beasley is President/Publisher of KaZoom Kids Books, an interactive multicultural children’s digital book company. Where most people talk about the lack of children’s stories that feature African-American characters, further citing the woeful lack of African-American and Latino children, creators/authors-visionary Beasley is doing something about it!

Psychiatrists, psychologists, educators and any mental health professional can confirm the need for young people to see positive images of themselves in media and with early education so deeply rooted in fairytales, nursery rhymes and other fables used to entertain and teach, again, children of color are absent.

At the heart of the children’s entertainment industry is billions of dollars and there, again, the African-American and Latino authors, those who could and should reap the benefits that a successful intellectual property can provide, are sadly absent.

Beasley’s move to establish KaZoom Kids Books— although noble— is financially sound. There is great bounty in children’s entertainment and according to a recent article that was published in the Hollywood Reporter, entertainment/character licensing overall remained the top licensing property type, accounting for $118.3 billion, up 4.5 percent from 2015, and contributing 45 percent of global sales of licensed products at retail, the same share as in 2015 when the amount had reached $113.2 billion.

Their new App, KaZoom iStoryBooks launches in June.  Their interactive digital library of books focuses on Black and Latino characters and stories for children ages 3 to 8.

Here is what Beasley had to share about building an interactive multicultural children’s digital book company.

LA Sentinel (LAS): What inspired you to start KaZaoom?

Donna Beasley (DB): I was inspired because I couldn’t find Black children’s books for my niece in 4 bookstores in downtown Chicago. I researched the category and was stunned to discover only 5% of the 3,500 children’s books published in 2014 featured children of color. I believe this is a problem that can be fixed, and it’s our corporate mission at KaZoom Kids Books to create greater diversity in children’s literature.

LAS: What is your business model?

DB: We only publish picture books for ages 3 to 8.

We are a digital first company. Which means our books come out in digital format first. We are creating an innovative, interactive library of multicultural children’s book apps bringing technology magic to traditional print.

We are subscription based business. For a flat $75 per year fee, a family will have access to all the books in our digital library. So you can download our free App and access the library with your login. It will be available in both the Google Play store and Apple iTunes Store. We are launching our new app this June with 8 titles and adding 2 titles each month.

LAS: What were some obstacles that you faced in the beginning process of starting your business?

DB: Our biggest challenge is that interactive books are a new category in children’s publishing. The technology for creating the back end for our library of books was difficult to find. We didn’t have the money to build it from scratch so we had to find a provider to license us the technology we needed. The specific Tech we needed didn’t exist in the USA, we found it in Europe.

Our second challenge was finding multicultural writers to actually write these books. We reached out to the community, because if we don’t write them, illustrate them, and publish them they won’t exist.  Many of our books are written by first time authors. So, we are a “By the Community, For the Community” kind of company.

LAS: How are you funded?

DB: My team both self-funded and raised our initial financing with funds from family, friends, illustrators, and the writing community. People who believe in what we’re doing and would like to see more Black and Latino children and families in books. We are currently in a Kickstarter to raise funds to finish some awesome new projects and for marketing. If your readers would like to support us or learn more here’s the link to our video and Kickstarter campaign:

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LAS: Are you an author of any of the books?

DB: Yes, I am. I wrote, “Music In the Family,” one of our read-along narration books. My newest book is “Kason’s Kite.” I wanted to acknowledge the importance of single dads because they seldom get featured in a children’s book. I know quite a few wonderful, caring single Dads. I also have two additional storybooks coming out this fall. Both are historical period stories; one features a black cowboy and the other a black female pilot.

LAS: Are you a fan of history?

DB: Definitely. I fell in love with history when I researched my only family history. History really comes alive when you put your own family in the context of historical events. My genealogy skills led me to my first major publishing deal for my first non-fiction book, “The Complete Guide to Tracing African American Genealogy.” What I learned from researching Black, Latino and American Indian family history is that we have some incredible stories that I think need to be told. So that’s the idea behind my latest series of stories. They are fiction, but they are based on something that really happened in American history.

LAS: So do you like writing or publishing best?

DB: Once you become a writer I don’t think you can ever really stop, it kind of becomes part of your DNA. And even if you try to stop, its only temporary. The writing spirit will eventually come for you again. But I confess to loving publishing best. I am a serial entrepreneur and I love the business of books. I love helping writers and illustrators to bring their work to the world. And I love marketing children’s books to the communities we serve. Reading is critical to success in school. We hope our interactive books inspire a love of reading in children.

LAS: How do you balance your personal and professional life or have you been able to find a balance?

DB: I balance my professional and personal life by having other hobbies.  I am learning photography and taking Spanish in preparation for a trip next year. I also meditate regularly, read or listen to uplifting and motivational books and CDs and attend Church. My faith is critical for getting me through the challenges.

LAS: What is an inspirational quote that you live by?

DB: I adopted this prayer from Oprah Winfrey, I don’t think she’ll mind: “Use me God, show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, what I can do and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

LAS: Who were some influential people or mentors that helped or encouraged you along the way?

DB: I have had many mentors to support me along the way.  One of the things they’ve help me do was to think bigger and to think about global possibilities. As a writer, numbers are not generally my thing. One of my mentors took me to school with some “real talk” on how to present my financials to investors. Invaluable info. My biggest supporters have been my team. They believe in what we’re doing and always provides support.

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