343: From Wall Street Analyst to the Founder of HBCU Prep School

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343: From Wall Street Analyst to the Founder of HBCU Prep School

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This week I sat down with Claudia Walker, founder of HBCU Prep School. As a proud second generation HBCU graduate, Claudia authored the best-selling book series, The ABCs of HBCUs and The ABCs of Black Wall Street. 

In this episode Claudia shares:

  • How she balances being a full time entrepreneur while working a full time job
  • The insider financial skills she picked up during her time on Wall Street 
  • How she landed her self-published children’s book on Target shelves
  • And many more side hustle gems!

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Guest Social Media Info

HBCU Prep School Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hbcuprepschool/ 

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:01

Hey friends before we get into today's episode, I want to share with you a another great podcast. No straight path hosted by Ashley Menzies. Bubba today is brought to you by the HubSpot network. by shedding light on the stories behind the shiny resumes, social media highlights and job titles. No straight path aims to humanize success from the millennial perspective. Featuring guests from all walks of life. No straight path aims to inspire conversations around the nuanced perspective of success. An episode you might want to check out is building safer, more equitable workplaces with Lexi B. In it Alexandria Butler, otherwise known as like CB, shares how professional theater classes prepared her to tap dance for the masses, despite being introverted by nature, and she also shares the unexpected introduction she had to the tech industry. Listen to no straight path wherever you get your podcast.

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started.

Hey, friends, hey, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here and today in the guest chair we have Claudia Walker, the founder of HBCU prep school. Claudia is an Oakland based author, speaker and former principal whose work has been featured in Forbes essence and Black Enterprise. As a proud a second generation HBCU graduate her best selling book series, the ABCs of HBCUs was inspired by her undergraduate experiences at Spelman College, and as a student in the Atlanta University Center. After graduating from Spelman, Claudia moved to New York where she helped structure price and execute multimillion dollar new issued debt securities for a major Wall Street investment bank. Her second book series, the ABCs, of Black Wall Street was inspired by her experiences on Wall Street and her love of black history. Today's episode, Claudia shares all about how she went from majoring in English to working on Wall Street to now starting a publishing company. Let's get right into it.

All right, Claudia. Welcome. Welcome to the guest chair. Thank you for being here.

Claudia Walker 2:30

Thanks for having me. Nicaila.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:32

Yes, I'm so so intrigued by the HBCU prep school, you have to tell us all about this. So first of all, I'm curious, what was your K through 12? Experience? Like, you know, were you surrounded by diverse schools? Were you in that kind of culture and what made you want to go to HBCU.

Claudia Walker 2:50

So my K through 12 experience was pretty unique. I think both of my parents were educators when I was growing up. So you know, at some point, they were both teachers, and then trans, and then became administrators. So education was, you know, something that was really important in my home, I did go to predominantly white schools, K through 12. But my parents kept me busy. So this was before, people were paying hundreds of dollars for summer camps. My parents would just take me to their school during the summer for summer school. So I might, you know, fourth grade sitting in a middle school class. And for me, it was a lot of fun. Because I got to meet students that I would have, you know, potentially not met at my schools, I got a chance to be challenged, I got to see new environments. So it was a lot of fun for me and and because I went to predominantly white schools, and my mom also attended an HBCU that kind of intrigued me into the possibility of attending an HBCU

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:52

All right, and so then you went to Spelman, which we know it is amazing, amazing school with so many awesome alum. So what was your experience like there?

Claudia Walker 4:02

It was, it was always it was magical. And it's different in so many ways from what I had been used to. It's all women's, it's historically black. So many of my professors, I was an English major. So we did a lot of you know, there's a lot of literature and a lot of history. I was also a management organization or business minor. And I think the true testament to the Spelman experience aside from the sisterhood, and the connection and the traditions is that as an English major, I because of the English department and my beans, and my professors recommendation, I ended up on Wall Street.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:42

I was just about to ask how does an English major end up on Wall Street,

Claudia Walker 4:47

having professors and people who really believe in you and who challenged you to push yourself? You know, they're they I think they looked at me and said, You're a well rounded student. You're smart. I know this may be somewhat out

So out of your comfort zone, but you can figure it out, you know. And I realized that when I worked on Wall Street, yes, there are a lot of really smart people there. But oftentimes, it's just the network. You know, you might be working with someone who's not the smartest, but because his dad had a job there, his dad is a hedge fund manager, his hat went to Yale, you know, he gets that, that pass to get the job that you know, other people who maybe worked a little harder or were more talented, didn't get. So it was an amazing experience. And it really just taught me that, you know, I can make it anywhere.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:43

When you went to Spelman, and you started majoring in English, did you have a goal in mind of what you wanted to do post graduation? Or was it kind of just like, oh, I fell into this. So I'll continue down this track.

Claudia Walker 5:53

I definitely wanted to be a lawyer. That was my goal. And Spelman has a liberal arts school doesn't have a ton of major so there was no pre law track. And so when talking to my counselors, they said, Pick something that you're interested in, you know, do well in that this is a place to really explore and to go deep in the subjects and the things that you like, and then you take the LSAT, you apply to our get some internships, and then you apply to law school. So that was absolutely my goal. And I you know, study for the LSAT, but it was during the summer of at the end of my junior year transitioning into his senior year, that I got this application to spend a month at Dartmouth, learning about business, and then spending a month at Goldman Sachs in New York, and everything was all paid for, and it just sounded, I needed a change at that point. There was a lot going on in my life. And so I applied to the program, and it really changed my trajectory. So then, when I came back to Spelman, for my senior year, I did apply for some legal internships. And one was a major corporate law firm. And one of the partners said, Listen, we want to extend this offer to you. But you need to make a commitment because this is not just a, you know, basic college internship, we're going to support you through law school, with the goal being to offer you a full time job once you graduate. But now, let us know if this is your path. Because you just you know, in his interview, you talked about this amazing summer that you spit on Wall Street.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:26

Right, a lot of pressure to the side.

Claudia Walker 7:30

He was like, not a lot of young black women, you know, get that opportunity. And I had already kind of gone into the interview thinking I was gonna, like, play both sides of the field, like I want to, because I want to be exposure I wanted, I had done this Wall Street thing, let me do the law thing. But there was more of a commitment involved than I knew about. And so he said, Let me you know, why don't you sleep on it. And because, you know, he was his black, you know, partner who I really respected. I didn't want to be dishonest. And so he had a another young woman who had graduated from Spelman who kind of took the same path, she had gone to work on Wall Street, and then gone back to law school, she called me, and we had a conversation, and she said, you have this opportunity to work on Wall Street, you need to take it like this is only going to make you a better lawyer, you know, and this opportunity may never come again. So you know, because of that conversation, I then just chose to go work on Wall Street and just kind of abandon the dreams of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:27

well, it's so interesting how it was planting seeds of what would eventually come. And so let's get into that a little bit. Now you start working on Wall Street. When did you get bitten by this side, hustle bug.

Claudia Walker 8:41

So I had always had this idea that, you know, I'd be an entrepreneur, both of my parents are again, they work in education, but they always had these side hustles whether it was real estate or taxes. And so I just didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I was also on Wall Street during 911. So I kind of stayed a couple years after the attacks. But that changed things for me. I knew that this wasn't the thing that I was completely passionately in love with. And so I just started exploring. But when I resigned from my job, a lot of people don't know this and when to fit in, took classes in fashion. And I finally I mean, literally every day, I'd come up with ideas and with my roommate, and they'd be like, Oh my gosh, we have something else. And then finally, it's expensive. So I'm going to school, I'm still paying rent, I don't have income coming in. But I had a pretty nice stash from my time working on Wall Street. And then I finally decided it was time to come home to figure things out and live with my parents and not have to pay rent. So I moved back to California. And interestingly enough, I started writing a stage play who started writing, and I thought that that would be the thing. I kind of sent it off to some producers and figured I'd get a job in teaching while I waited for them to make me the next Tyler Perry education

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:13

I am loving this path because I relate to this so much you are preaching to the choir this like down to the taken classes like fit. I was taking classes at Pratt, I believe in like photography, just that period of exploration, you guys, we have to allow ourselves that no matter what age you are, take a class here or there, because you might not end up doing that. But it's leading you somewhere. It's like planting seeds. It's exploring you to different ways of thinking. And from there, you are going to end up where you're supposed to be. So for you, you started in education. So what was that? Like? It was interesting.

Claudia Walker 10:48

So there was this. So I go for an interview. And it's interesting because I, I signed up for two interviews, one was with a recruiting company that was going to try to get me back into banking here in the Bay Area. And then one was for a teaching position. So completely different worlds. I got hired on the spot at this charter school by a principal who was so eclectic, he hired me. I never had any teaching experience. And he says, Okay, you're hired, and you're coming tomorrow to teach this class. And I thought, but I don't know. What do you mean, I don't have a lesson plan isn't there training. And he hands me this stack of textbooks, gives me the key to the classroom, and says you'll figure it out. Yeah, exact figure it out. You'll figure it out. And for most people, it would have been a disaster. But I think that's what Spelman taught me, it really taught me like you got the skills, you can figure it out, you know, and again, it's like if I can, if I can last on Wall Street as an English major with no prior experience to this finance world. I knew I could figure out teaching because, you know, we've all been in, in classrooms before and again, my parents were educators, so it felt like it was in my blood. And so I went into the class the next day, actually, I think it might have been might have been hired on a Friday. So I went in with my mom kind of rearranged the class. And the first thing when the students came in on Monday, they said, Oh, it doesn't look like a prison anymore. Oh, grade, middle school class, I think their teacher had been fired at the end of the year. And I did something called looping. So I started with them in sixth grade. And while I talk them all the way through eighth grade, and it's probably the best teaching experience of my life, because they were truly we were a family unit, you know, it was when teaching middle school students, but I taught it was self contained. So I taught them math, English, history, science, they were with me, you know, from eight in the morning until three. And so it was a it was a learning experience, for sure. But an amazing experience. And then from there, I got married and started having kids. And then I was promoted into administration at that school. So it was really like a learning. Lab. For me, I learned so much while I was there,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:07

that is so cool. The fact that you're able to stay with them through eighth grade, and you know, be able to watch them and have them have that consistency. I'm sure you also observe things that you wanted to change, right? And things that influence what you later started to do with your book series. So what were some of those things? And how did you want to change them?

Claudia Walker 13:27

So it was a very rigid structured school. And there was a reason for that, you know, I think when the founder came into the school, it was probably one of the lowest or not probably it was one of the lowest ranked schools in Oakland, California, which is where I'm from. And so he came in, and he put a lot of structures in place where students had an hour and a half of math and English each day. But there were no electives. There were no, no summer opportunities. And so when I moved into administration, especially because I was principal of a middle school and a high school, I knew that they needed more of an outlet. So I worked with the students. And also one of the things is that the students didn't have much of a voice was very top down. And again, we got results, but then you ask yourself at what cost, right, so you're getting the academic results, but in terms of their mental health, in terms of their social skills, in terms of them, like we said, having an opportunity to try different things out that they may not do, you know, they may not major in photography, or they may not major in fashion. But if you're interested in passionate photography, why not be able to start a club after school? So that's what I worked with the students to figure out what kind of clubs they wanted. I worked with my staff to figure out what kind of clubs they felt like they could support. We implemented the first school based clubs on campus in internships. So that was, I think, one of the biggest contributions that I was able to make to that school. And why did you start HBCU prep school? Well, I started the publishing company, because I recognized once I had children and in, you know, the 15 years I've been teaching that, especially being here in California, there was a gap in terms of what my own children, and my students knew about historically black colleges. And mind you, aside from that stint that I had, in the beginning, where I was teaching middle school, I was working pretty exclusively with high school students. And so oftentimes, whether it was a college fair that they attended, you know, as juniors or seniors, or the black college tour that came to town, sometimes for many of my students, it wasn't until they were applying to college that they learned about HBCUs. And sometimes that's a little bit too late, not only for the students to wrap their heads around moving across country, but also for their families. And so just the experience that I had at Spelman was so amazing that I wanted to make sure that students, particularly here in California weren't being deprived of an opportunity to go to an HBCU, simply because they didn't have access to them or know about them. And then again, with my experience on Wall Street, it was such a transformative experience, not just because of what I learned, but because you know, I'm sitting on the trading floor, and my colleagues that were older than me, you know, in addition to working or saying, Hey, I'm about to buy 100 shares of this company, I'm about to buy 1000 shares, or what do you think about this stock? And I'm literally like, 22, sitting there listening and then thinking, but they've been here for about 20 years, if they're buying that, you know, let me buy a couple shares, too, right. And so I had built up this investment portfolio, and I thought, why not share this with the young people, my own children, and my students, especially as these students are beginning to transition from high school into, you know, college or the workforce, why not teach them these skills. And so that's why I launched the company. But you know, obviously, the first book was the ABCs, of HBCUs. And I had been working on it for a while, but because, you know, life, full life, side, hustle, life, family, everything, it just sat in a file on my computer in the cloud, did

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:13

you start working on it? Do you remember?

Claudia Walker 17:16

Probably 2018 2018 Yeah, I had, I used to go back to Atlanta once a year. And take, I think I only had two kids at the time. So I'd always take my daughter to Spelman. And we go on to, you know, campus and walk around and go to the bookstore and buy some stuff. And it was great. And then we come back home, and that was just one day at a 365 You know, then she's back to her school, where people are, you know, talking about UC Berkeley HBCUs, were never part of the conversation. And so I started working on the book, and then would put it, you know, down and then I'd pick it up a few months later. And then during I think, January 2020, is when I decided to radically change my life, I was really frustrated with my starting and stopping things and having goals that never really completing them. And so I decided to do a new thing every day. That was in January 2020. Every single day, I did a brand new thing. I started I got on social media, I had never had a social media presence ever until January 2020. Until January 2029. Not find me. So the funny thing

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:26

is, what are those? I'm one of those

Claudia Walker 18:28

students that were part of that first class that I was in that I you know, looped with from six to eight, two of them literally tracked me down at my new job and said, Mrs. Walker, you must work for the FBI, or they can't find you. And this was before the book, so no way. And so it wasn't until January 2020. And I only started the page as accountability. wasn't trying to grow followers or anything was countability. Then I said, alright, you know, then the pandemic came. So that was March. And I couldn't do the new thing every day, the way that I had been doing it before. Like I would, you know, go to, you know, drive in movies, or I go talk to a stranger or, you know, I like there were just a lot of different things that I was doing trying a new food. And so being at home, I tried to get creative, but there are only so many new things you can do a day, you know, in the house during lockdown. And so I just started picking up the you know, going through my files and I said this is a good time to really start writing don't have the same kind of challenges or limitations. Picking up is dropped them off at soccer. Like why don't your schedule freedom, schedule freedom? Yeah. And so I probably finished that script from the initial framework that I had in maybe two weeks, and then it was I just didn't look back after that. I knew I had some

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:58

so tell us, you know, for those who don't No, I haven't had a chance to purchase it yet. What is the book series about when you say the ABCs? of HBCUs? Like, how big is the book series? And what does it entail?

Claudia Walker 20:10

Sure. So it started with the first book, which is a board book, it takes, you know, readers on this VIP all exclusive tour of 55, historically black colleges from A to Z. And we also include all of the Divine nine, so the black Greek letter organizations, and it's really this introductory experience or exposure into the lifestyle in legacies that make historically black colleges, you know, such an amazing part of the American tradition in the black tradition. And so once I launched that book, I also created a flashcard line, I created coloring books, I created a puzzle, we just launched a puzzle line. I also created workbooks, so the workbooks are for elementary, and then we have a middle and high school workbook. And I always say, I think that product is probably the thing that sets us most apart from other publishing companies that don't just focus on black colleges, or black history, but their, you know, your traditional work, but that, you know, kids can learn about STEM, they can learn about entrepreneurship, they can learn about patent law, there's so many different games and activities that we do keep them busy. And like we said, I mean truly exposing them, right. So you imagine that you're on this college campus, and you're able to take these classes in 50 Different subject matters, or majors. And so that's, you know, some of the work that I've been doing, just to make sure that there's no child, hopefully, you know, in this country, who will be able to say I wasn't exposed because there's no HBCU say, my community or there's no, my parents didn't go to an HBCU we're really trying to increase access and exposure to black colleges through the work that we're doing. And then from the ABCs of HBCUs, I then launched a second series, which is the ABCs of Black Wall Street, which not only focuses on, you know, the entrepreneurial town in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but X series also exposes young people to Personal Finance, Financial Literacy. So I'm trying to do all the things right, I'm trying to create, yes, this multimedia publishing company that has a lot of different touch points for different types of learners.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:22

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when it came to self publishing, what does that entail? How do you self publish?

Claudia Walker 23:34

So the first thing for me once I finished writing the script was to look for an illustrator. And I did consider trying to go the traditional route of traditional self publishing. But the more I learned about the industry, the more that I recognized that it wasn't for me, I wanted to have total control over every part of the process. So you know, finding an illustrator and figuring out when the book was going to hit market and talking directly to my customer base. So once I finished the script, I had to look for an illustrator. And I think that's probably one of the most difficult parts of the process because you're trying to find someone who can bring your words to life, and particularly for the ABCs of HBCUs. I was really hopeful that I could find I mean, I wanted to work with black artists. But I was also hoping that it would be someone who had attended an HBCU so that they would have they would be able to bring their experience into a creative process. And so once you find your Illustrator, you then need to make sure that you have gone through an editing process. Once I had passed off the illustrations, it was then time for me to figure out how do I source this book? How do I find someone who can you know printed books will have good quality? So I went to Alibaba. And I was able to contact different print companies they would send me samples

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:59

what Alibaba, how did you learn about that as an option?

Claudia Walker 25:02

Well, you see, no, I'm the serial entrepreneur. So we before this, watching podcasts and watching videos, and you know, in my former life with some of my other businesses, I needed to source products from Alibaba, not yet considered printing here in the States, but one, it was expensive. And two, because I wanted to I wanted the book to be a board book, there were the traditional, the traditional ways of publishing in the states don't allow you to, uh, to print board books economically. So it was going to be like an astronomical cost for me to affordable equipped in the sense. And so I knew that I needed to source outside of the country.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:49

So you went to Alibaba? And what happened next?

Claudia Walker 25:52

Yeah, so then I got, I found that, you know, the companies that were most responsive, because you'll find that if you, you know, send queries out to 10 companies, only four might respond, right. And so I once I got into conversations with different people, I was, uh, you know, asked them to send me samples, so I can see what the quality would look like. And then I decided on a particular printer, once I got the final print files from my book, I sent it to the printer, they sent me a copy of the book. So I could make sure that it actually looks like I want it to look with my actual book files. And then once we I put that order in, I started marketing the book, I then created my second social media account, built my website, and then started to market the book in market the business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:50

Did you build the website yourself? Or did you hire out for that?

Claudia Walker 26:55

I built it myself. I'm a very DIY kind of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:57

Yes. So I've seen so. So as someone who was not on social media for a very long time, and now you have this business to promote? How did you go about doing that?

Claudia Walker 27:08

I used so we were home. Right. So I was promoting the business white think the process of finishing the book. And the illustration files probably was from May 2020. Until maybe October 2020. And I think I launched this social media account in my website, September 2020. Okay,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:31

and soaking it up right now. Like I'm like, Okay, let me say, now that you said that, I'm so curious how you went about it? Like, did you end up hiring an intern? Or were you the one posting?

Claudia Walker 27:41

I did everything? Well, I think what helped a lot is that we were home during, you know, COVID, and my children were here. So I use them as a lot of like, marketing for the, you know, the company. And the interesting thing about it, I mean, I'm really about just doing as much as you can, with what you have, like fake it until you make it. And I didn't used to be like that I used to be the person who felt like I needed to throw money at everything. And that didn't work. So when I started the Instagram site, I didn't have a copy of the book, right? I'm still waiting to get the books from China. But I use the samples books that they sent me that were the same dimensions as the book that I was going to publish. And I printed out the front and back copies on paper of the book cover, and then taped it and glued it to the hardcover. And I took pictures of it. And I mean, if you tried to zoom in, you might look official, you know, and a lot of the early pitchers, if people look on my Instagram, a lot of the early pitches of the book, you can tell it's like matte, and it's not as shiny as the, you know, the real coffee. And that's because I was like, Well, I can't wait, you know, or I can't wait weeks to get the book. Let me use what I have. So people at least get a sense of you know, what's to come. And so I use my kids a lot in pictures. And because we were at home and because my youngest child was in preschool and I really was homeschooling him. I use a lot of content from my homeschooling to position the business. And so that's how we got some of the first few followers and then I also created a line of flashcards, which were HBCU inspired flashcards, and I put them on a board and I came downstairs and was literally like, you know, going through the flashcards with my son who was three or four at the time, and I took a raw morning video not good lighting. Like I didn't know anything about lighting or anything right? It's a video of him saying his ABCs with the cards but you could see that like each letter represented in HB See you. And I posted it. And people liked it. And I said, Hey, by the way, you know, if you want these flashcards, they're a free download on my website. And then the Shade Room picked it up. Wow, that took my biz like overnight, I went from being super excited because I was getting like one or two book sales a day to when the Shade Room posted that video, we were doing like 5000 $2,000 $5,000 a day, I think we went as high as $6,000 a day in book sales. And it blew my mind. And we got tons of followers. And so it was a very organic process. But I'm really grateful for that opportunity, because it did kind of catapult the business to the next level at that point. So when

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:45

the Shade Room posted you, did you have the books at that point? Or how are you handling sales and fulfillment?

Claudia Walker 30:53

We it was pre order. So reorders. Okay, so people were coming onto the site, primarily to get the flashcards but I'd say you know, 50%, were placing an order for the book. And it got to the point where I then had to put another order in because I had just done an initial run of 1000. And I had to put another order in for another, you know, shipment of books. But it was a pre order. And this happened in early October. So maybe a month after I launched the website in the the Instagram site. And it was it was a wonderful experience. But you know, being a new company and trying to fulfill people's expectations, and then having this preorder, you know, people, some people read that it was pre ordered. And some people were just like, let me click, you know, buy nails, like where's my book, and then the book shipment was held in customs for a while. And you know, you want to get them out, my goal was to get him out for the holidays. And so we had to pull some strings it was I was it was a really stressful period of time. Because as a new company you want to deliver like you want to know that you are who you say you are that you're going to be that you have like the you know, immaculate customer service. And so once we got the shipment of books, it was a relief. But we literally pulling all nighters me, my husband, the kids trying to get books packaged and shipped out so that people could get them for the holiday.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:26

You know, I'm glad you mentioned that, because when I see things like that, like something go viral on any media platform, and it's a small business, newer business, I'm always thinking about like, who's shipping those books? Who's shipping that product? How are you doing this? At that point? Did you have to take everything to the UPS or the post office? Were you able to coordinate someone picking something up? Like how are you doing it?

Claudia Walker 32:48

No, we weren't. I mean, we were doing everything. And I don't even know that we knew we were just trying to get everything done that even if there was another option, we didn't even have time to research it, right? Because yeah, it's still holidays in our house. And we still have little kids that are like, Where's my stuff, you know, like, get this, you know, toy off of my list. So we're working full time jobs, we are still trying to create, you know, this family holiday environment for our children. But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And we knew we needed to get it right. So we are, you know, packing and my husband was taking all of the orders to the post office. And you know, when you're shipping out 1000s of orders that something is bound to go wrong, you know, and we have the systems in place. We have now with you know, USPS or some of our other freight carriers. But I'd say that 95% of the pack 95% of the people were happy, and who didn't get their products. We just we made it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:46

What can you share to help someone else before they get into that situation? What tips about shipping in bulk? Shipping large orders? Can you share with fellow side hustlers? Well, so

Claudia Walker 33:58

my husband is the one who handles all shipping, I do know is that we are our website is hosted through Shopify, and he prints out something that I believe is called the manifest. So because what was happening before, you know, we would have this crate of, you know, maybe 50 packages, and you would think that the you know, shipping companies will be happy. But they weren't, you know, they were like, who's who's gonna move, you know, who's gonna scan all that, or they just helps to leave it. And if we left it, we didn't have a way to track that it was actually scanned into the system. Sometimes you'd have you know, you we would take things to USPS or, you know, whatever carrier at the time, and we do what they told us to do. And then when we would go to figure out like, Where's his package, it just it's sitting there so, so my husband now uses what I believe is called the manifest where even if we have a large order in stead of the Postal Service having to scan each one of them will be dropped off, they just scan the manifests. And at least it is proof to our customers. And the freight carrier that we were actually there, we dropped up this package, all of these items that are listed on the manifest have been scanned in, at least on the paper sheet. And then later, the, you know, they're supposed to scan each one individually. But it saved us a lot of like, hassle. Because if there ever is an issue, we have proof, you know, at least what the carrier that we did, we were supposed to do. And then we also make sure that our packages are insured. That's really important so that if there's ever an issue, we can replace it. And then we can work with whatever the shipping company is to make sure that we're reimbursed if the package was lost due to you wandering?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:49

And did taking in pre orders help to offset the cost of shipping cost of packaging, and all of that. What was your experience with that? Did you guys break even? Or did you lose money? Or did you make a profit? Yeah, we

Claudia Walker 36:02

made a profit. So the pre orders were definitely helpful. But the book publishing, I mean, at least my experience is it's not a high startup, right. So your expenses, you know, it's your own kind of intellectual property and brainpower in writing the script. And then you've got to pay your Illustrator, you got to pay your editor, you have to pay for the books to actually be printed and shipped to you. But all in it was getting expensive. And the margins are pretty good. And especially I think, for us first starting with a board book, it created a bit of a premium product, because you don't always see I mean, I think oftentimes people who publish, either do a hardcover or softcover. And so creating a board book made it somewhat of a novelty item. And it's durable. And so we charge 999, which is a premium, like on the higher end, but not astronomical. Right? Everybody has 20 that is, and so the margins were great. And so we turned a profit within that, you know, that ran that we had with the Shade Room.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:15

And so you said inexpensive for someone who's getting ready to do this process, you know, what's inexpensive to you like a $5,000 initial investment? $10,000?

Claudia Walker 37:24

Yeah, I think that you can absolutely any, you know, especially if you're going to do a shorter run of books, I think we're pretty ambitious with printing 1000 books. Yeah. So someone may choose not to do that and do like an initial run of 100 or 500. Obviously, you'll get a better pricing, the more books you order, but I think that you can find an illustrator and print books for less than $1,000. But again, it depends on what you want. Right? Right. The specifics. Yeah, everyone in terms of what you're looking for, in an illustrator? Yeah, some people want to pay less, because, you know, they're fine with certain, you know, illustrations, and other people want something that's a bit more detailed or more shading, or maybe your book is longer. We have this longer book, yeah, again, the pricing for illustrators really, really varies, but you can definitely get a book in printed for less than 5000. And I want to say this as well. There's also a lot of print on demand. So I don't have a ton of experience with it. But oftentimes, for Self Publishers, one thing that you can do is, you know, hire your Illustrator, and you get your, your book files together. And then you can send it to a company called Ingram sparks, some people use Amazon, and they will format your book. And literally, when someone goes on to Amazon or to your website to purchase the book, the company is only PRINTING What is ordered. So you don't have to keep any inventory in your garage, you really don't have to, you know, pay 1000s of dollars, your your real cost is how much it costs to get your Illustrator from your final book files, and then you're paying a nominal fee every time your book is printed.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:14

Right. And I guess the only downside with that. So there are pros and cons to each but then you're paying Ingram Spark or Amazon a portion of what you would have earned. So that's something to consider as well. But all important points, you know, this is very, very helpful. And I'm hoping that is helpful to you guys listening who wants to go down this path. I personally love a board book. Just as an aside. You know, I don't know about you, but if your toddler rips up books, a board book is life changing. I love a board book.

Claudia Walker 39:46

Very durable.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:47

So you're currently still side hustling. What would you say is your vision for the company right? Because publishing could go so many different ways. So how do you want to go about this?

Claudia Walker 39:59

Yeah, I So continuing to scale, I see us as ultimately becoming the preeminent education publishing company that centers black children. And so I want to continue to build out the product series, I want to continue to build out the suite of products that we are offering, I see us moving into film, into animation, really all the different touch points in ways that young people engage with academic material and learning.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:32

And speaking of that, I realized I learned about you when I saw you guys target. And so you know that exposure is just so so important. Because like we always say here, you can't be what you can't see, how did that collaboration come about? So you are part of Target's Black History Month collection.

Claudia Walker 40:47

So in 2021, at the end of 2021, I got an email from Target, saying, Hey, we like your products, we love to talk about a potential partnership. And I read it like a million times. I mean, of course, right? Yeah, I've been very protective of the company. We just got on Amazon. But I had we even had Amazon saying, hey, you know, do you want to, they have the black business partnership. But I was really intentional about, I wanted to make sure that I knew my customer. And I thought that by expanding and growing too quickly, and, you know, letting the the books be purchased any and everywhere. Because a lot of people you know, I listen to people, and they're like you want your book to meet everywhere. I didn't want to grow too fast. I wanted to make sure that when people were ordering from us, we gave them a certain experience that, you know, we knew who they were, that I could check back in with them and ask about like, how is this going? Or what do you think about this? Or I have this new idea? What do you think and so I really wanted to build a community. Now, especially with the target partnership, I'm at a place now where I'm open to scaling and you know, partnering with other companies, but target was always on my list. They were the company that I wanted to partner with. And I even posted on social media that I had planned a trip with my daughter to La a couple summers ago. And I took the book, I took the book, The ABCs of HBCUs. Because we were going to Charles true, which is it's sometimes it's considered an HBCU with a minority serving institution, but on some list is included as an HBCU. So we're going to do some, you know, videos there with the book, but also on our road trip back to our home, stop that target, and put the book on the shelf at Target. Because I just knew that was a partnership that was meant to be, and maybe less than a year later, target reached out. And so it's been a wonderful opportunity to be able to, as you said, have more, you know, more people be able to see our product and our brand than was possible by selling on the website or promoting on Instagram. And so I'm really, really grateful for the opportunity.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:12

How has that shifted your business in terms of revenue and in terms of expenses? Oh,

Claudia Walker 43:19

so target placed a really large order for books. But I think what people need to know is no, even though I placed you know, once I got the purchase order from Target, I had to place an order for books in October, I still haven't got paid, like you need to know that when you are working. And I don't expect to you know, I know how it works. So you have to have the capital to be able to fund the orders. It's not like Target says, Hey, we want this many books, and then they cut you a check. You need to make sure that you're able to scale quickly and go into retail. But you know, looking at the the numbers, it's you know, an incredible blessing. And it'll it's going to put our business taking us to the next level, not just in terms of finances. But again, I think even more important than the finances. It's really the exposure. My prayer is always the right people will see the book and so that's the right children, we know that they will have access to it. But people who will be able to, you know, help us build in scale the business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:27

Okay, so you touched on having the capital, how have you been able to manage that capital so that you have enough when someone like a target comes calling? Is it because you're still side hustling? Are you investing some of your full time income? Or is it all reinvestment from the business?

Claudia Walker 44:44

It's reinvestment, so I don't take any money out of the business. I don't pay myself I don't do anything. And actually there was a little bit of a hiccup. So when we got the final order from Target It came much later than, and I've worked also with a company called reader reader. And so reader link is the middleman. And if you see whenever you see flips in Target, or Walmart or Costco, it's usually a reader link placement. And so I've been working for reader link. And I got the final order, much, much later than I had anticipated. And I think that oftentimes, with big retailers, they assume that, you know, you they, they're, they're dealing with me like, I'm a scholastic like I have a million books in a warehouse somewhere. That wasn't the case, I had to place an order in China. And we ran into some difficulties, because since the order was placed so late, the company that I usually work with, was not going to be able to deliver in time. And we were in a situation where this deal was actually not going to go through not because, you know, I didn't want to do it, or because Target didn't want to do it, but I just didn't have the capacity to have inventory. So there was another company that I had worked with before, and they were able to do it, but the cost was so much higher, didn't have the money, they might have the capital. And so we had to take out some, we had to take out some loans from family. And I'm grateful that we were able to do it. But again, I think that it just speaks to the fact that you've got to be nimble, you got to make sure that you know, you maybe have done the work. And even if you don't need the capital that maybe you have met with your bank to say, hey, you know, am I in a position to get a line of credit? Or, you know, am I in a position to get a loan, even before you need it. So not to say that you're going to get a loan when you don't need it? But do you have all of your ducks in a row so that if you need to get $10,000, or $50,000, or whatever it is, you aren't scrambling at the last minute, you know, you know, people that you need to reach out to, in order to make it happen.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:04

All of that I'm taking in all of that, that is very, very good advice. So before we jump into the lightning round, I'd love to know, do you see yourself transitioning full time into this? I don't want to get you in trouble with your job or anything. So let's say what you could say.

Claudia Walker 47:24

They don't say nothing, but they know. know for sure. I mean, this is a goal. It's really hard to manage all of the things I'll be given to go to work. That's why we did this at the time that we did it so that I work on time. But yes, I definitely see this being something that I'm doing full time because I am doing it full time. Now. It's just that, you know, I'm doing it later in the evening or early, early mornings. But in order to really be able to grow the company the way and to be able to nurture it the way that I need to. It can't be something that I'm side hustling and doing, I'm able to support everything into it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:08

Yes. And you know, the time you guys so Claudia is doing this at 8am her time. So truly working around her schedule. And this is this is what it takes. And and like we talked about before I started recording, it's like, at some point, it becomes two main hustles it's not even a side hustle anymore. She's working two full time jobs. And you know, when when the time is right, you'll know.

Claudia Walker 48:31

Yeah, exactly. And then having explained to my kids, I mean, they love what I do. But you know, I've got babies in the house that are like, look at me do my karate moves. Mom, you're spending so much time on your computer, you know. And so, there's so many things that are important for me to be able to manage. And I need to make sure that I am pouring the right amount of time into the things matter. Yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:59

All right. So now let's jump into the lightning round. You know the deal, just answer the first thing that comes to mind. Keep it short and sweet. Are you ready? I'm ready. All right. Number one, what is a resource that has helped you in your business that you can share with a side hustle audience,

Claudia Walker 49:15

led by them as a resource and being able to look at different companies through them. It's been really helpful.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:22

Number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur who you would want to switch places with for a day and why

Claudia Walker 49:31

April showers from Afro unicorn. She is on fire. I mean everything. I've been watching her story for a really long time. But I watched her yesterday, or a couple days ago she had announced that alpha unicorn is now on cakes and they've got you know, trampolines and I mean they just moved so quickly from you know, just having this cute Afro unicorn on a t shirt to all of the things so I'm just waiting for the unicorn airlines. I'll be one of the first take You'd

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:00

love it. Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your day,

Claudia Walker 50:05

I've got to make sure that I am giving thanks for thanks is due and keeps me grounded. And I'm able to have vision for the company. So I got to connect to the hacker source.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:17

Number four, what is a personal habit that you think has really helped you significantly in business?

Claudia Walker 50:25

Um, I won't say I'm a perfectionist, because I'm not perfect. But I seek perfection. I always want to create something that is timeless and immaculate.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:36

Love it. And finally, what is your parting advice for fellow women entrepreneurs who want to start their business be their own boss, but are worried about losing a steady paycheck?

Claudia Walker 50:48

Yeah, I mean, I, I've been there, I think the advice is just to do it, just to do it. And realize that your journey is your own journey. I think that sometimes we listen. And I love a good podcast that it keeps me going on. But sometimes we listen to other people. And we may hear someone say, like, I just took the leap of faith, and I quit my job. And it makes you feel like maybe you're not as committed to your hustle or your vision, because you don't feel like jumping in and quitting your job. And so I've learned in this process, that my journey is mine. And I've got to be at peace with the decisions that I make. And so that's why for me, prayer is so important. But I guess my advice would just be when you know, you'll know. And also understand that whenever you do something different or new, there's always some nerves that come with it, right? Like we don't see, it's not like we have this glass bottle, and we can see into the future if we could, that wouldn't be decisions a lot easier. So there's always going to be some tension or some not knowing. But if you are at peace with it, if it's well with your soul, and you're like, you know what, this is the time to do it, then do it. If you're if you're feeling like this, this, isn't it. You know, I don't, I don't know how I'm going to keep the lights on next month. And maybe it's not your time, don't don't feel like you need to jump and do something, because somebody else.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:12

I love that. And that is such a great reminder, because at the end of the day, it does come down to a lot of being in tune with yourself. Some people call it gut feeling some call it intuition, but at some point, you have to get quiet with yourself and be real with yourself. And I love that reminder, Claudia, because you will know if you're just having too much anxiety about this decision. It's not time yet. It's not time yet. Sit with it. It's okay. It's okay. All right. But when you feel more calm about it and more sure that you know what, I'm going to make this work, then it might be time. So really tapping into yourself, you'll know you'll know when you're really listening to yourself. So with that, where can people connect with you? And HBCU prep school after this episode?

Claudia Walker 52:57

Yes. So hopefully we will remain in Target beyond Black History Month. But you can always find us on our website. That's HBCU prep school.com. And we're pretty active on social media. And the handle is HBCU prep school.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:13

Right guys and there you have it. Thank you again, Claudia. I can't wait to stack up on my series and also to shout you out every time I see you in target. And there you have it, you guys. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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