The Making Her Way Podcast is back and WHAT AN EPISODE to kick off Season 2 with!
I was lucky enough to sit down with Rozella Kennedy, founder of the Brave Sis Project and the Brave Sis Journey Journal – a planner, journal, history book, coloring book (!), and more, centering Women of Color but welcoming all.
If you are interested in journals, planners, how to raise a HUGE amount of money on Kickstarter, and how to create a product that centres the history of Women of Color in a way that invites engagement for people of all ages, all over the world, you’re definitely going to want to listen to this episode with the warm, funny and generally wonderful Rozella, founder of Brave Sis Project.
Prefer to read, not listen? Gotcha – read on for the LONG (sorry – it was such a great chat!) transcript.
Sarah [00:00:01] Hello and welcome to Making Her Way today. I am so lucky to have the wonderful Rozella Kennedy join me and she is going to be telling us all about her project, Brave says. So over to you, Rozie, can you please introduce yourself and tell me what it is that you make?
Rozella [00:00:19] Thank you so much, Sarah. I’m really thrilled to be here with you. So I am the founder and the owner of Brave’s this project, which I call a movement and mission of intercultural sisterhood. Now, it started out as a planner and a daybook, a guided journal.
It also took on very quickly a life as a history book and a coloring book. And the history book part is about women of color in American history, many of whom are unknown to, you know, who are not household names.
This inspiration came to me on Christmas morning of2019. I had been thinking about creating a journal and I took your brilliant, brilliant class, which really helped anchor me and get me determined on the nuts and bolts of making this move from dream to reality. And I wanted to create a journal because I was finding that the wellness space was feeling a little exclusive of me as a Black woman and a woman of color. The imagery was very much sort of size zero blond women on the beach.
While I have many, many friends who are size zero blond women on the beach, that’s not who I am. And it felt a little alienating to feel like I was so clearly not in the picture. But then I have lots of other friends who are of every ethnicity and culture, and it felt like a really wonderful moment to sort of bring us all together in our own little sort of like, you know, journal version of a clubhouse or group together.
And on that Christmas morning, I got a visitation from a foremother full force saying, tell my story. And I jumped out of bed and I was like, oh, my God, I’ve heard the voice of the Divine.
And I started researching women and finding out all these people, you know, the first Black woman dentist and the first Chinese American naval operator woman and all of these interesting people who really helped build the story of America and largely the world and who we didn’t know about. And so I said, I’m going to make them the center of this. And so what the journal ended up turning into is sort of, you know, all the components you expect with the calendar and the date book and the prompts and the question starters. But every two weeks there was sort of a little party where I introduced four to six women. It’s a coloring book page, really lovely illustrations and then a prompt. If you could meet these women, what would you ask them and what would they tell you?
So it invited the reader or the user to go into sort of like a, you know, a contemplative, meditative self-help state in in imagining these impossible dialogs with women in the past. That would have been enough. But then, you know, with the way that the world has gone in the past year with the pandemic and all of the racial and social justice issues that have come up, another piece emerged, which is that a lot of women of all ethnicities were looking for ways to be in more authentic ally ship and friendship with each other. And I found many people coming to me and saying, well, help me explain this. Or Rozie, what do we think about this? Or, you know, and I was like, you know, I can’t do one to one like that. We’ve got to figure out a way to turn to concretize this.
And so the Journal has ended up really catapulting other aspects of the brand, if you will. I’m doing workshops now on inclusive sisterhood. And I mean, we can talk about that a bit more. I’ll stop now so we can get into some of the other pieces. But it’s really turning into a multi-level universe all around this idea of let’s see each other across our differences, let’s celebrate each other and let’s be there for each other because we need that more than ever right now.
Sarah [00:04:38] That’s absolutely wonderful. I’m so glad that it’s taking on a life beyond the journal as well, with the workshops. I love when a brand can bring human beings into the same place together as well as having physical products.
Rozella [00:04:53] It feels like a calling. Honestly, I’m doing a workshop next month. And it’s sort of in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, but it really is about what are the what are the phrases and sentences that a well-meaning person might say that that are really off-putting because one of the one of the big.
Well, let me let me back up and say it differently. I am now referring to myself as a cheerleader for Black and brown women who need to really and want to really see each other across our cultural differences and find out what binds us, what we have in common. And when you see the stories of some of these women, you really start to see, oh, that was like the pioneer, the first Chinese woman who settled this town. She wasn’t very different from the Black woman in Alabama who did this other thing. So that’s one piece is to help us.
And with the sort of violence we’ve been experiencing in the United States, specifically around the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, there’s really been a moment where we’re all all being called to band together and be in solidarity and to to know each other and to be truly, truly sisters. So that’s one piece. And then I also call myself a midwife for white women who want to enter these spaces, but have trepidation because they don’t know how to enter, what to say, what to do, how to how to show up. And, you know, I’ve working in nonprofit for 20 some odd years now and having gone to a hundred million of these workshops, you know, there was always that piece that was missing, which was like the vulnerability and the self at the center.
And so when you’re working in a journal, you’re very vulnerable. You’re speaking your inner innermost thoughts to yourself. How can we take that holy moment, that joyful full of potential energy and spread it out into the way we show up in spaces, the way we speak to each other, the way we advocate for each other, friends. I’ll say one more thing, Sarah.
And you know, this may be too much for the for the the the interview here. But I’ll give you a quick example. Last year, after George Floyd was murdered, a girlfriend of mine from college who lives in Florida called me and said, Rozie, I called my mayor today and I demanded to know, what are they going to do to ensure that we don’t have any George Floyds in our town. This is a Miami suburb. And the back story is we went to college together. And when Obama was president, she said to me, Rozie, why is it wrong to say he’s so articulate? Why does that offend people?
Now, Sarah, a lot of folks in the diversity space or whatever have you would sort of brush that aside and say, if you don’t know the answer to that question, go away and Google it, find it out yourself. I’m not here to educate you. That’s not my labored to do, you know, a big kerfuffle. And I was like, no, this is a friend of mine. We’ve known each other for 20, some 30 perhaps years. And we have a love. We have friendship. I’m going to take the time and explain how it can land. So when she told me the story about the mayor, I said to her, well, you know, honey, I want to thank you. And she says, No, no, no, I want to thank you because you spent the time with me to help me see. And now I realize how close this is to what my grandparents went through when they were fleeing Germany in the nineteen thirties. So I want to thank you.
And Sarah, that is the higher ground that I actually think this can help engender through all of the things is that we don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do or it makes us look good, or it’s a feather in our cap as a good ally or whatever a good world citizen.
We do it because we love each other and you love yourself. When you know yourself through the journaling process, you are more able to be that person and that agent that puts more of that goodness out into the world. And I think that is the differentiating factor between what I’ve built with this journal and the rest of the industry. In a way, you know, I’m asking I’m inviting people to take that next step. And it’s not about what’s your career success plan and all of those sort of hard edged goals, which are very important. But it’s about something that’s that’s coming from a place of a different kind of human touch and interaction.
So, yeah. Yeah, it feels very I’m honored to have been called to be doing this work. It feels like it’s flowing through me and not just something I’m doing.
Sarah [00:09:47] Yeah, that’s wonderful. And it is such a beautiful project because a lot of planners a couple of years ago were the very kind of “shoulder pads and strong lipstick” sort of career goals sort of planner. And you’ve seen them yourself as well, and this just feels incredibly heartfelt and very necessary right now. I mean, your timing was excellent, unfortunately. And it’s yeah, it’s really, really wonderful to read what you’ve been doing.
And for me, I mean, I’m Irish and I’ve grown up many thousands of miles from you. So I understand, with an American husband, I do understand that you can put your foot in it really badly when you’re talking to people who’ve been hurt and you don’t mean to offend, but it’s easy just to ask and you can avoid causing inadvertent offence.
Rozella [00:10:38] So it is important. And, you know, I lived in the UK for a year and I lived in France. I lived in Paris for seven years. So I have personal experience of not being in my home country, if you will. And so I think that gives me an added layer of understanding how disorienting it can be to step into new places and spaces and moments coming out of this pandemic.
We are all so much more focused on what I believe and hope we will continue to stay this way, focused on what’s essential and what’s important as opposed to what’s superfluous. And I think that is, you know, again, good timing, but I feel like this project and me and the times we’re in have all sort of evolved together. And that’s the part I’d say to other creatives, you know, let enjoy the journey a little bit and see where it takes you, because you may end up with an entirely different concept than you originally imagined. And I think that’s been the really most exciting part of this whole voyage for me.
Sarah [00:11:51] That’s wonderful. I think also because you’ve lived in the U.K. and in Paris, in particular in Paris, the experience of people of color in Paris is very, very different. And it’s coming from a very different place than the experience of people of color in the US or in the U.K. They’re very different. They all experience racism in very different ways.
Rozella [00:12:12] Very, very much. Yeah, yeah. There will be a memoir someday! There will be a great memoir! Trust me, the stories are quite something. I won’t go into any of them just to say. One of my claims to fame is I once cursed out Grace Jones in French in Paris in the eighties, and she was absolutely taken aback that I spoke French as well as I did.
But it’s true. I mean, there are real differentiations. But I have a dear friend in Ireland who has a copy of the Journey journal and she promotes it. It’s hard to get the shipment over to Great Britain and Ireland. But she has one. And yes, I mean, there are people in about eight different countries who have it.
And one of my goals for maybe two years down the line is to do a global basis to look at women in other cultures who’ve really stood up in that way. I have a lot of ideas for this. There are lots of iterations. And the other cool thing about this, I think is yes, it’s a dated book, but because each year there are different women and different stories, it’s got an evergreen quality, especially heavy duty scrapbook, journal or type planner types who like to use washi tape and stickers. You could literally use it from year to year.
So I’m hoping I’m also building something that has sustainability and durability in that way as well because of the story element.
Sarah [00:13:49] Yeah, amazing. Can I ask you about the physical process of making the planner as well as the emotional process?
Rozella [00:13:59] Yes. So, you know, I know we can’t see it in the podcast, but I just finished the the prototype for 2022. Oh my Go!. So I can tell you very clearly what the process was like. I found some templates to use to literally create the document in InDesign, and I started making my customizations and building it as a graphic design product.
I also did all of the research, found the women curated the women I wanted to include and wrote the profiles. And I found an illustrator, a young woman who was who is amazing. She’s going to art school now. And so I contracted her and we I auditioned her and then loved her work. And so that was all done.
And then the games began. Right? In addition to starting up the business, getting the LLC and doing all of that, and in California, it’s expensive and hard. I then said, I’ve got to figure out how to produce this book and I’ve got to do it in a way that gives me enough margin that I can actually build a business and not just sort of have a cute thing that’s cost me hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars.
And I’ve taken a net loss. I was very clear that I want to try to build a business out of this. So I did what you advised. I went to Alibaba and I, I know, I said I can do this. I’ve produced concerts and conferences and festivals. I can navigate this website. And I did. And I found a few vendors and I talked with them and I found one that I really liked and sent him the files digitally. They gave me a prototype. The prototype arrived in my house the day that California shut down last February or March, rather, for the pandemic.
I remember making a video saying this is a happy day and a terribly sad day. And, you know, we went through two two rounds of prototypes. They were really, really helpful. They answered every question I had. We did a lot of photo WhatsApp messaging. And then after Kickstarter, I placed the order, you know, had to do the bank wire transfer. All of that had to have – there is a moment of faith in all of this because you are dealing with the other side of the country.
But I knew that in terms of factory production, there was really no choice. I mean, there’s just wasn’t you know, I would have I would love to say made in USA. Well, it is made in USA because everything but the production was done in the USA, all of the creative, all of the work. And then, you know, the hardest part was waiting for the shipment to arrive. It got delayed in L.A.
And, you know, and actually anyone who’s thinking of a product this year be very aware. Add a month to your production timeline because of international shipping. It’s not just because of the Suez Canal issue. It’s because of a pandemic. Lots of people have lost their jobs and so at the docks and places. So that is a really important piece of advice.
If you think you need three months, give yourself four or five, right? Yeah. And then, you know, 3000 books came on four pallets. They showed up on a on a truck. And it was an incredible night. And we had set up, you know, the labeling and the scales and the shipping in the boxes. And we just had a little factory going in my downstairs garage and built it up and set it out. It was an adventure, but I also did pencils and I did color pencils. I found a different vendor and I did that.
And I’ve had a really great experience with them as well. I have found that these agents for the factories are very attuned to the American well, to the Western non non Asian customers needs and expectations and anxieties. And, you know, you ask things like, I need the price door to door so you don’t get stuck with tariffs.
Another thing – another fun fact! If my journal had just been a lined notebook last year, it would have been subjected to something like a three hundred percent tariff. And they asked me the the bill of fare people in L.A. or whatever wrote me and said, you know, are you sure that this is not a line book? And I showed them. I said, look, this is in the sinuously design book with drawings on almost every page. Yeah, but that would have been a really terrible thing to have happen. So it’s important that your broker or agent gives you every bit of information, including once it arrives at the port. What’s the time frame from the port to the truck being at your facility etc.
Sarah [00:19:17] Yeah, because that’s not an instant process at all. That can take two weeks easily.
Rozella [00:19:23] especially if you’re dealing with – I mean it was like a ton, I think it was a ton of weight and that shit has to go by ship. The pencils couldn’t go by air. And the funny thing with those sorts of products, Sarah, is that they cost about seventy five cents, let’s say, for a box of pencils. But with the shipping, it’s like four dollars a month by DHL Air Freight.
Sarah [00:19:55] And it’s remarkable how many of the costs are that. One of the things I always show my students in the program is an example of an invoice I got from my freight agency here in the UK on a large shipment of like many, many tons of ceramics from China. And how much the cost was like, I don’t know, fifteen hundred pound sterling or two thousand pound sterling. But the actual bit of the cost, that was the plates on the ship, like just their seat on the ship so to speak, was only four hundred pounds. And the rest it was all the taxes and charges and all the Chinese port charges and the lading and the inspection and there all the things that add up. But that’s when you get to the the two thousand pounds plus.
Rozella [00:20:43] important to take all of those costs into account.
And if anyone is thinking of doing a crowd fund to not make rewards that are physical things that you have to ship are really just you know, I used the crowd fund and I will again this year as a tool to do pre-sales, to see autumn now at the lowest possible price order three for you and your friends or to five at this discount. Here are some digital goodies you will get if you support it, et cetera.
Yeah, I really pulled away from physical items because you forget the shipping that will entirely obliterate whatever gain you’ve built into your margin and you’ll lose money. And I’ve seen I’ve seen that happen as well.
We get very enthusiastic about our idea and filled with that joy about the creative process and getting it out in the world.
But you’ve got to put on a different hat, as you know, a sort of business person, leisure reading, crunched the numbers kind of hat. I now use a print on demand service for the merchandise, like the t-shirts and the things like that. And in that case, you can build that margin into the rewards package because they’re taking care of the shipping they’re taking. And so you can say, you know, for an extra thirty dollars, you’ll get the baseball cap and the baseball caps cost you about twelve. So you’re not really making anything, but you’re not losing anything. And yeah, the loyalty and the reward and the sort of brand experience. So that’s just a real pro tip. I want to share with anyone thinking about the
Sarah [00:22:27] shipping hadn’t really entered my head with the crowd funding because of course you’ve got to post them all out, so you’ve got to factor that in. You know, six months earlier when you are setting up your crowd fund, how much is this actually going to cost me to deliver? So tell me about the whole process of the crowdfunding
Rozella [00:22:43] We did extraordinarily well. Oh, my goodness. Well, first of all, from your lips to God’s ears, that we might strike lightning twice.
So, you know, I, I know a lot of people and I have a big network, and I literally went to every single person that I have ever met. Do I have any contact info? And I said, I’m building this. I’m launching this. I hope you’ll support it. And, you know, certainly there were folks who supported it who were just like, oh, isn’t that cute what Rosie’s doing? I’ll support it. But I think when people saw the actual product in the actual journal, it really surprised them that it was something of real quality.
You know, sometimes when you know the person, you’re like, how could it be? And I will tell you about the crowd fund, but I’ll jump forward just really briefly to say. One of those people is a high school friend of mine who works for a major publishing company, and she says, of course, I’ll support Rosie, whatever. When she saw the journals, she said, oh, my God, this is the real deal.
And Sarah, I now have a publishing contract for a national 2022 Brave Sis adult activity book with Workman Press, which is a national publisher. I just got my edits back from my editor last night. We’re getting into preproduction, so I’m going to actually have two books out next year, like my home grown journal that I continue to do as a dated planner on my own and a national book that also will be called Brave Sis.
So there’s a circular brand uplift that is just like a dream come true. And that was because I tapped my network to say I do this. So the first piece in building a crowd fund, after you’ve mapped out all of the costs, the shipping per person, your crowdfund platforms cost, you know, the actual product, you want to build a little bit of a margin depending on the product, how much margin you want to build.
And then you go to everyone you know, and you say, I’m launching this, please support and you’ve got to write to people several times. You’ve got it right. People on all the different platforms, LinkedIn, I sent two hundred and nineteen messages, Facebook. And then you also need to not only get awareness from people, but a few people who will promise that they will support you on day one because of the platforms like Kickstarter, if you’re funded on day one, that improves the algorithm by more.
This came out right after the Rihanna, Taylor and George Floyd murders. And so there was a big push in the media to support Black owned business. So I got included in Kickstarter, you know, Black owned business showcase and also a product we love.
I will tell you, though, Sarah, I don’t think that had much uplift for me. I think most of my pledges were from either people I knew or the network of people I know telling other people, so you need a squad who’s going to really help you and promote it for you. It’s difficult to promote your own thing. It feels as women, we struggle with that mindset issue of can we really put ourselves out there? That wasn’t my problem. I’m pretty good at putting myself out there.
My problem is knowing that people were not going to take it as seriously if it was me talking about it myself. It’s just there’s something different when there’s someone else doing your bidding. Like I said, we got funded on the first day and we did three hundred percent of the Kickstarter.
My other pro tip make your goal small, make it much less than you want, make it the bare minimum. You need to do the product. Right. And yes, because if you don’t succeed, you get nothing. And there’s and I have two friends who put out journals or tried to do planners this year, and they both failed. And it was they didn’t prime the pump – it’s marketing. It really is. It’s marketing and sales. It’s not like, oh, my friends, we’re happy. It is straight up sales.
And the other had a forty thousand dollar goal for a consumer product that you could easily buy for three or four dollars in the drive. And she was trying to be like, well, I’m paying myself and I’m doing this in my salary. You can’t do that. And she failed, you know, and yeah.
So really make a goal that you can crush and get your people lined up to help support it. So you get there. Yeah. Once you have reached your goal, everyone loves a winner. And so when you’re going through and you see one hundred and fifty percent funded, two hundred percent and you want part of that to go,
Sarah [00:27:57] and when you see sort of eight percent funded instantly, your head says loser school. And that’s so unfair because it might be lovely, but I’ve seen planners try to raise thirty, forty thousand dollars and it’s like, oh for God’s sake, what are you are you like and making this like blind nuns in the Andes Mountains.
Rozella [00:28:18] And that is so true. And I mean that was the part that really both infuriated and super inspired and charged me up. Right. Because there are a lot of journals and no disparagement because they are important products for our journeys. But so, so many of them, I have them on the shelf. The beautiful cover, you know, the biggest players in the field, the million dollar industries in the sector, beautiful cover, maybe even with your name, you know, customize, but you open the pages and every page is the exact same thing. Yeah, it’s the exact same grid on every page. Maybe the color changes from month to month. Many of them are black and white inside.
And that includes nothing else, especially the sort of the ones that I saw for Black women or women of color, you know, beautiful covers, gorgeous hair and like, you know, back to Wakanda. Looking just gorgeous. And then you open it and there’s a total disconnect. It’s like, well, what happened to all of that creativity and joy and uplift?
And it felt insulting to me, actually, and bland and generic. And one thing people will say when they see the Braves Sis Journey Journal is well, you can see on this page that that margin is a little different than the page before. I mean, you know, eventually I’ll have a different type of production, product or plan.
But I wanted it to feel like a human being made. Yes. And you’re engaging with an actual human being. And that’s been the most gratifying part is the feedback that I get from women who have the journal and use it. My friend in Barcelona yesterday told me that her 17 year old daughter opens the journal first thing every day.
Oh, my seventy seven year old friend who I met through this process, I don’t know her in real life in in New York, in Queens sends me articles and and photos from her family archive and things she’s finding because she’s going into her family history and she just wants to share it with me. And Rosie, look at this really cool woman I just discovered. So it is starting to become a community. And that’s my big goal, is that we can actually, when we can gather again that we can even have real Graves’s book parties together. I just do so much then.
And Sarah, one more thing, the culminating factor of how you speak about the levels, have your entry level products, your low level, your main product, your high touch, and then your super high touch. Well, my super high touch as I got sponsorship to put together a brave retreat, which I’m going to do in Costa Rica in February of 2022. And it’s a friend of mine who is a woman of means. She got the journal and she’s like, I love everything about this. Everyone needs this. What are you doing? How can I help? And I said, well, will you help me? Do you risk putting together a retreat because the retreat is a risk. You know, you’ve got to. Yeah. And she was like, yes, here is a five figure donation. So I could have this completely wonderful retreat.
Sarah [00:31:51] What an event that will be!
Rozella [00:31:52] And I’ve just talked to the folks who own the beautiful venue we’re going to use in the mountains. It’s not a super lux spot at all. It’s an herbalist. But it’s comfortable and beautiful. And she just went to me last night, she goes, Rozie, this is going to be the most exciting retreat ever. We’re so excited to have you because they’re interested in the sisterhood inclusive sisterhood concept as well. It’s yeah, wouldn’t be. I mean, you’d have to be the most sort of grumpy person to not want to discover other women and people around you and know their story and celebrate them with yourself. I don’t know who lives in the world who doesn’t have that approach.
Sarah [00:32:38] So tell me how you’ve handled when the Kickstarter happened. I mean, I know when you’re doing a Kickstarter, there’s this big rush of activity and you’re very motivated because you’ve got, like, really strict deadlines. It’s very much do or die. But after that, then you’ve got to go into sort of normal marketing. And how did you handle that shift into just the sort of day to day, almost almost drudgery sometimes of just marketing your own product?
Rozella [00:33:08] That was difficult. And it will be difficult again, because I do have a day job and I have a very, very big and very public and present faced with my job.
And so there’s only so much of my being and persona that I can foreground for this anyway vis a vis that balance. So that was already an impediment. The second huge impediment and this was the biggest challenge of the whole project was that we were in this pandemic lockdown.
So I couldn’t do any events. I had friends who wanted to do events and parties, we couldn’t do anything, so the marketing and the outreach became uniquely digital and that last summer and fall I was competing with the sports teams, Toyota, McDonald’s and sorry to say, Donald Trump, right? That’s what was dominating once the noise social media feeds, you know, so there was no way to make space.
And so I feel like I wasted a lot of effort, time and money on sort of the digital marketing piece, which really makes me see how important influencer marketing and word of mouth marketing is. You really need a squad that’s going to help you that love what you do.
And I’m going to tell their friends, because you can see the message. I have so many friends, Sarah, who were like, oh, my gosh, I forgot to order the journal. I’m going to do it right away. And they still haven’t, you know, because we were distracted and life happens and we don’t do it.
And so what I did was I try not to be annoying. You know, again, you are putting your own persona. It’s a lot easier if you hire a firm that just does it for you because they’re relentless about getting it out.
But, you know, I didn’t have twenty dollars a month to put someone on retainer to do that. And so I used social media a lot. I used Instagram. I really I’ve gone through many different iterations of the feed, but I think I’ve settled on a framework and a format and the vibe that works now.
I also last year created a digital three month mini journal that people could download as a PDF and fill out for free. I thought that would be a good lead funnel. It wasn’t. And so I’m not doing that again because that’s a ton of work. Yeah, a ton. A ton. The lead generation piece is a challenge for me. I’m not finding it easy to break through in the space tool, but I just kept at it. I kept writing to people and I just kept asking people, please tell a friend, please share this. Please, please, please. But it was hard. That was and I still don’t feel like I’ve really cracked the code
Sarah [00:36:08] When the book comes out next year, that will also raise awareness too, because they all have their marketing department on it and your name will be out there. And yeah.
Rozella [00:36:21] And here’s another amazing thing.
The woman who does Workmans non bookstore sales, so to gift shops and clubs is a friend of my friend. She wrote me. She says, Rozie, I should rep them. So she’s stoked.
She’s already she’s got this year’s journal that I created. You know, she’s got three of them and she’s sharing them with people now just because she’s my friend and she loves it. So when she’s actually doing the official book with Workman, I think I’m really looking forward to next year. I think it’s going to be really splendid.
And I have to say, Sarah, the book is going to be so much fun because you have a hundred women, your profile and beautiful illustrations. We’re looking at the artists now, and I think the one we’re going to choose her work is just absolutely divine because there are a lot of those sort of like women power books out there in the field.
But the differentiating factor for this is after the profile, there will be an activity, an example, my favorite, Harriet Tubman, her first husband refused to go with her on the Underground Railroad. And this is in the movie. It’s very sad moment. And when she comes back later, she finds out that he married someone else. Right. That’s the case. But in real life, after the war, she married an officer of the union army who was 20 years her junior. Right? And so the activity that I’m proposing will see if my editor let it go through is Harriet Tubman got the last laugh.
Here are twelve sets of rhyming couplets. Compose your diss rap to Harriet. Oh, no! I will be really, really different and yes, you know, here’s the map, here’s the Boston Women’s Heritage Map. Pick 12 women you’d like to see on this map, you know, really to get us deeper than just Q&A.
It’s really a whole body experience. Bake a cake in honor of Audrey Lohan’s birthday and, you know, put poetry on the plates. I didn’t put that in there making that up, you know, on each plate. And so people can read it aloud, you know, how can we, like, fully engage in history and then these stories and make them part of who we are today? It’s pretty. I mean, it’s the enticing stuff.
Sarah [00:38:54] Yes, it is. Absolutely. My husband’s a historian, and that’s one thing that they’re always talking about, getting people to kind of touch and feel that and not just read the book that’s interesting, but actually physically engage with it with your body. And that’s exactly what makes it go in more. You’re more likely to remember it. I mean, how do we teach children these things?
Rozella [00:39:13] The most hilarious thing is it’s my high school reunion right now and I’m speaking tomorrow and about braces. And I told them a fun fact. I was terrible at history. In high school. It was just about dates and memorization. Erroneous. There was no and they teach it differently now than back when I was in school. But I think those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. Haven’t we seen that in the past few years in our nation? And so let’s let’s spark a new movement of knowing and feeling.
Sarah [00:39:50] I think with education in this country and I think also in the US is always under threat with funding and things like history are one of the first things to go out the window, but also things like art where you might be bringing these things, like they go out the window in favor of, you know, literacy and math, obviously important as well. But I think we are at risk of losing our grip on our own past.
Rozella [00:40:13] So if we are purely analytical beings without the capacity to empathize and love and feel and express and create, then that is a very gray and dark way to be in the world.
And honestly, nature doesn’t work that way. You know, plants grow through concrete. You know, trees come back every year.
So let’s let’s act like the world and not, like, separate ourselves from the generative creative parts of who we are. I mean that and I’m happy to see a lot of younger people really leaning into that mindset and framework. You know, it’s interesting because my daughters are both in college, they’re college age, and they don’t engage with racists. But I think that’s mostly because it’s mom’s thing. I do, because I definitely see younger women having this desire as well to really understand who came before them and what they can do for those who are coming next.
So that’s another great thing about this project, is that it really doesn’t have an age barrier. I have a twelve year old friend, my friend’s twelve year old daughter. I just love it.
And then I said to my seventy seven year old friend and then my sisters, who didn’t go further than a college in their high school graduation, they love it. And then my niece, who is a federal judge who was appointed by Chief Justice Roberts, she loves it. So it’s like, you know, so many things in our society right now. We’re siloed and like, you know, separated. This just has all of the potential of whomever wants to engage in what they want to pour into it. Then it becomes theirs. That’s a really cool feeling.
Sarah [00:41:59] So is there anything that you would have done differently with the whole project than looking at it?
Rozella [00:42:07] Let’s see, I, I probably wouldn’t have printed, I would have printed maybe five hundred fewer books because knowing the pen, you know, knowing that the pandemic was really enduring and that I was not going to have the opportunities to sort of market from a cost perspective, that wasn’t the problem.
But it’s a little sad to go downstairs and still see, you know, ten boxes sitting there forlorn in May. No, I just thought, you know, as a startup person, you know, even calling yourself an entrepreneur, I still like to say I’m a creative venture. I’m just easing into that space slowly. So I think the thing I would have done a little differently is just that taking into account, I would have been a little more pessimistic about covid grip on us and cart abandonment because I stayed optimistic. Oh, by the fall we’ll be able to do outdoor book events and know.
Sarah [00:43:11] We’re not allowed into each other’s houses and yet here in England, so shops have reopened, but it’s been impossible for a lot of retailers
Rozella [00:43:23] And a lot of people are – I’m fairly traumatized. I’m still kind of a recluse and a hermit, even though I’ve been vaccinated. I lost family members in New York back in their 70s.
So when it was so very difficult and that was a really, really interesting moment because that was the moment when I was finishing the book.
And so I was actually feeling the legacy thing happening in real time, you know, because people I knew who formed my history were leaving this earth. The brave sisters in general, for the most part that I speak of in the journal and the activity book are women who are no longer with us. I use quotes in the journal from Living Women, but in terms of the profile, I felt it was important to include people who had passed because, one, they’re now among the ancestors and foremothers. But two, you never know. Sarah, if in the last five years of someone’s life they do something that is entirely incongruent with who they’ve been the rest of their life, it’s like, well, you know, you’re actually you know, I didn’t want that to happen.
And I also wanted people who were older than me. And so this is the one piece that was super, super fascinating. And your husband as a historian will really appreciate this among, let’s say, many brown women, Latin Latina women, Muslim women, Indian women from the subcontinent.
It wasn’t until the 70s or 80s that they started calling themselves women of color or associating themselves with not being white because the census allowed them to. Declare themselves as Caucasian, right?
So what happened in the 70s is you have that census change and then also sort of the rights movements that were lifting up. So as I was looking for in Indian women, you know, Indian American women, not Native American Indian American women and and, you know, women from Latin America who were living in America, it was very hard to find them because unless they were real Cuban or they really were not like Raquel Welch, the famous actress, she’s Latina, but she didn’t claim her Latinaness until recently. Carol Channing, the famous actor of Hello, Dolly, she’s half Black. Right. And so she didn’t say that until like in her 80s in her memoir. Right.
And so it was very interesting to be really looking for that diversity and not finding it in the earlier generations.
Now, if I were to create a Brave Sis of living women today or activists, no problem. Hundreds, hundreds. But there was a real generational shift in America, at least from everything predating the 70s until today. Now, Chinese Japanese women are easy because they’ve always been other in our history with the Chinese Exclusion Act and then the Japanese internment, those women were always considered.
Also there were many more of them to sort of manifest in the space and then, of course, indigenous women, a lot of the stories are oral history. And so, you know, you just come up against these really interesting externalities of history in doing a project like this, too. I didn’t expect that. I’m a little bit of an amateur historian now in the cultural cultural commentator, so it’s kind of cool.
Sarah [00:47:07] Oh, that’s wonderful. And so, yeah, that is completely wonderful. I want to ask you a practical question and in particular because you mentioned that you have a few copies left over from that first run. And it’s always impossible to guess how many are going to sell because sometimes then you can get featured randomly on some website that you didn’t expect and sell out.
Someone I’m working with – so I probably shouldn’t say – but she’s had ten thousand dollars worth of sales in the last three days because she was featured on a Facebook group and she’s there saying, Sarah, my notifications are just pinging and pinging. And there’s this – do you order another thousand copies or not at this stage? But one way that some planner creators do plan their practicing is through working with retailers. So have you did you work with retailers at all in the first round?
Rozella [00:48:00] No, no, I did not. And I didn’t even do an ISBN number. Two reasons for that. One, I literally could not take on another thing at that period in time, just like, you know, there were just too many things to do in life.
Plus my adult daughters were back with us with the pandemic and it was just like, I cannot do this ISBN paperwork. The other is that the book itself is like, you know, it’s like, well, this isn’t the best example, but it’s a linen covered book. It’s difficult to do the sticker or whatever. And then I just didn’t I guess I thought I could really sell it through the shop, through the through the store.
So I didn’t do retail. And actually with the contract with Workman, I cannot do retail for them. I mean, I mean I maybe could but I wouldn’t, I don’t want, I don’t want to compete. I and I also sort of like the idea of the journal being my, my home grown baby that I can take. Yeah. It’s like, you know, my homemade candle kind of thing.
Lucky woman with Facebook! I tried, I had friends send copies to Ava DuVernay, Jane Fonda, Stacey Abrams. I have a really great network. All these people got it. I said with love Rozella Kennedy, you know, and I just did not get any of them to click in and do that.
And I know the difference. Just that little piece of magic. I still believe in magic. So I’m still going to hold out hope. And again, you know, like I said, the book, even though it’s dated, I think, you know, it can be super discounted and sold in the future just as a cool look back.
Sarah [00:49:46] So absolutely. Absolutely. Because working with retailers, it does bring its own set of huge challenges. And also you’re selling it for far less per copy. So you really have to be sure that you’re going to sell an awful lot of them for it to be financially worthwhile. It’s hard.
Rozella [00:50:06] Yeah, it seems like a bridge a little too far for me.
And the other thing is. This is kind of a prestige item, it’s not you know, the MSP was about fifty two dollars, which allowed me to build in discounts and do the job, whatever we sell or this and that. And now I’m just there half price because we’re almost halfway through the year. But at many times my husband was like, why don’t you just price it at twenty five dollars? That’s because this is not one of those generic books. The one size fits all. This is an art book.
This is actually a piece of art that you can use in a practical way. And I don’t think that people find that at an unapproachable price and I think it will help them realize that this is a quality product and that they deserve to indulge themselves with things of high quality as well. Yes. Yeah. And that felt really important to me.
And I would not want it to be sold in second market retail, T.J., Max, whatever. That’s some degrading of the brand. I’m no, no, no. I’d rather sell two thousand copies every year for the rest of time and have it be a high, high prestige love thing than five hundred thousand copies and have them in the dollar store.
Sarah [00:51:40] Yes. That said, I once ended up with about a thousand slightly unattractive beetle plates that I’d created, the nice ones all sold. But not these ones! I was really grateful for to TK Maxx!
Rozella [00:51:58] A plate can go out of there, but a book that has your name and your own story in it. That’s a little bit of a different kind of you, I know for sure.
And you know what I’ve been able to do. So that’s been the best thing of all with a lot of the leftover inventory. And this has been just the absolute joy and mission and holy beauty of the whole thing.
So I’ve been able to give away copies to groups serving women and girls for free. Just take the pain I’ve given them to groups that work with young young girls here in the Oakland area coming out of the sex trafficking. Can you imagine what it feels for them to be coming out of that and then to have this book that says you are worth everything, you are a beautiful human being. And let’s explore your story from yourself.
A group in Iowa used it with low income women across cultures to help them use the journal to plan their budget planning and their financial goals. And they wrote me and said to see these stories and put myself in here, I feel like I can meet my goals because I’m reading.
But I mean, that part has been incredible and that will be part of the story going forward. It’s not a buy one, give one away. I don’t want to be that motive, but it’s like help support this and it’s going out there to do that. And that’s been unbelievably fulfilling, like, you know.
Sarah [00:53:28] Yeah, wonderful, that’s so meaningful. So my last question is, what advice would you give to somebody starting on this journey of creating a planner that is more than a planner, but creating something really special? What advice would you give them?
Rozella [00:53:44] Look deep into your heart for what would you like that you don’t see out there in the world right now? What is different and do a little research to, you know, to make sure there isn’t one or 50 already of them out there if you were doing, you know, a planner for people making their own herbal tinctures. You want to just make sure they’re not 10 books already out there, on herbal tea!
Have a specific point of view or story or experience or value proposition, even in a heavy space that’s very full, like herbal tinctures, which I’m just meticulous because if you have a particularly, you know, compelling story, then go for it regardless, because when you are putting your own human self and story into the product that comes through and that’s what people want to connect with, you know, the authentic human face, but also be open to mystery and surprises and corners turning and kismet because it may end up taking on a different life than you expected.
So be fearless. Be brave.
Sarah [00:55:14] Thank you so much, Rozie. It’s been an absolute honor to speak to you and learn all about this wonderful project. Thank you very, very much for your time.
Rozella [00:55:22] Sarah, thank you so much. Again, I wouldn’t have had the temerity or even the logistical sense how to start this if I had not taken your course. And so honest. It is so true – when credit is due, I give it readily. And the fact that we were able to come together today and be together in this space is so thrilling for me. I can’t wait to get back over to the UK and meet with you and give you a big hug and have my own Brave Sis Tea Party.
Sarah [00:55:56] Absolutely. I can’t wait. Thank you, Rozie!