What it Takes to Actually Thrive as a Media Company
Jelani Memory went from writing and selling children’s books to overseeing a growing media empire — so how did he do it?
Every company today is trying to become a media company, but few are actually succeeding. A Kids Company About is one of them. Jelani Memory is the Founder and CEO of A Kids Company About, which started with a simple book about racism that Memory wrote himself, but thought could be something more.
“I needed to figure out whether there was actually a there there,” Memory said. “So I set up coffee with friends and have my little one copy of my book there. And I go, ‘Hey, look, here’s a thing I just made. What do you think? I made it for my kids.’ And they would proceed to read it and they’d said this same thing every time, “Can I take this home and read it to my kids?” And I was like, “Really?” They’re like, “Yeah, I don’t know how to start this conversation, but I do now.” And that blew me away. And after that happens once or twice, you’re sort of like, “Okay, cool.” And then five times, 10 times, 20 times sort of like, okay, I could be making money right now if I just had more copies of these books.”
Memory dove into the idea but he didn’t stop with just one book. He wanted to expand the subject matter. There was only one problem, Memory himself didn’t have experience in all the topics he wanted to touch on, and he wasn’t willing to fake it.
“We wanted to dive into these tough topics, but who do we want to tell those stories?” Memory said. “And I realized that can’t just be, ‘Writers or authors.’ This has to be folks with life-lived experience. And so we realized we would partner with folks with those stories to help them create their book…We always have to find somebody who’s essentially unimpeachable who has so much credibility, so much standing with that topic, that one, you might think of them as being inextricably associated with it. But two, you’d go, ‘Oh, of course, they made that book. That makes all the sense in the world.’ So I made a list of 100 topics that I wanted to do. For topics like cancer or feminism, I was like, I’m not the person to write those, not a lot of experience and zero authenticity when it comes to those subjects. So it was easy to go point your compass in the right direction and find the person who can embody that.”
Memory put out books about everything from cancer to feminism and mental health to climate change, all with as much authenticity as possible, and it was a hit.
“We ended 2020 in that spot where I was like, I guess we’ve built a really great business,” Memory said. “So I was like, why am I to change it? The thought process was there were more stories to tell and there were more storytellers to tell them. And there are more ways to tell those stories. And because of my background, I knew more about telling stories through audio and more through telling stories through visual mediums, like film and video. And then I had a massive tech background, deploying a consumer electronic device as well as subscription apps and whatnot. So being able to bring some of those pieces to the business felt right and would allow us to scale our ability to tell a story to kids and all the mediums that we thought made sense.”
To hear more about how Memory scaled the company, tune into Up Next in Commerce.
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