“This is the most exciting time for an independent publisher.” - Donna Beasley
Coming from a background in advertising and children’s book publishing, Donna Beasley saw how new technology was creating a new chapter in the world of publishing. “This is the most exciting time for an independent publisher, the whole turnaround for how the industry has changed,” she said. “You can’t ignore 221 million tablets, you just can’t.”
Inspired by the lack of African-American heroes and heroines in the books available, she became determined to do something about it. And so Donna founded Kazoom Digital Publishing as a way to take advantage of the niche of multicultural children’s books published and distributed online and all over the world.
Kazoom focuses on book and magazine publishing. Romance Travel, a magazine developed, edited, and published by Donna, brings together two of her passions to fill a gap she noticed when doing research before she launched her company. The book division is growing itself, with “Zig Zag Zoo,” an interactive children’s book about Opening Day at the zoo but includes non-white characters—making the book, which Donna hopes to turn into a series, more relatable for readers from different cultures and backgrounds across the world.
“When you’re reading it, you can feel some of the culture but also our children are in everyday activities, like [doing] science and technology and the environment,” Donna explained. “I want to create books where it’s not just about ‘I’m African American’ but ‘I just happen to be African American but I’m doing these fun things that everybody in my community can relate to, but you can relate to it in your community, too.’”
The biggest challenge to her business revolves around marketing, which she hopes will help Kazoom turn a profit: “You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it, [it won’t be successful].” She cites Sunshine’s Community Business Academy (CBA) with helping Kazoom develop a strategic business plan, which is being further developed by her interns at the Chicago Innovation Exchange at the University of Chicago this summer. “I have a lot of experience with [publishing], but I don’t really have experience as a businessperson,” she said. The CBA “really took you back to the basics of every aspect of running a business, and I did have a couple of ‘aha’ moments.”
In the future, after developing “Zig Zag Zoo” into a series and making Romance Travel a leader in its industry, she hopes to sell Kazoom to a larger publishing house or investor.