We had the good fortune of connecting with Patrice McLaurin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Patrice, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
A goal of mine has always been to be a servant of the community. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to realize that goal in a variety of capacities: mentoring, volunteering, various jobs, etc. Through those experiences I discovered that working with youth was the ideal way for me to be of service. In fact, my first book was an extension of said service, as the intention behind it was to not only raise the vibration of our children, but to also interrupt the pattern of negative stereotypical imagery that is so often propagated against our people. So when considering the question of what was my thought process behind starting my own business, I’d honestly have to say that it was the timing surrounding the opportunity. Before branching out into entrepreneurship, I was a staff accountant. While working as an accountant I wrote my first book, Have You Thanked an Inventor Today. A couple of months before it was due to be published, I was laid off from my job. This, in my opinion, was perfect timing; as I was struggling with the idea of how I would effectively promote the book while working full time. So, I’m standing at the crossroads of my future, and I had to make a decision. Do I find another gig (as I knew that would be a guaranteed source of income), or do I bet on myself and my calling? I chose the latter. There has not been a day to go by that I have ever regretted that decision. In fact, to be completely transparent, when I consider the circumstances of it all, I’m not certain if I chose entrepreneurship, or if entrepreneurship chose me.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about…
I consider myself an educator, (by calling, not by trade) and an Image Activist. I write books to teach, to empower, to inspire and to uplift. This isn’t unusual for a number of authors, but I think that what maybe sets me apart from others, is the idea that I didn’t begin writing books because I was a creative (though I am) with an overwhelming desire to be an author. I began writing books because I wanted to debunk the negative, stereotypical imagery that I felt helped to perpetuate the dehumanization of black people in general, but black boys and young men in particular. My first book was birthed out of the trauma that was/is Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis. I felt that a children’s book could help to discourage the thought processes and perceptions that fueled these tragedies at a foundational level, as a children’s book is usually a child’s first introduction to an outside world. If I could help to humanize our boys in the minds of all children, then maybe, as those children grew into the adults who might one day exercise some type of authority over them (in the form of police officers, judges, district attorneys, etc…), they’d have the emotional bandwidth needed to engender empathy, compassion and tolerance because during their childhood development they were able to receive a more accurate depiction of who black folk really are. As such, I transitioned into the lane of authorship while traveling the path image activism. What I’m most excited about so far is how well received my work has been! The experiences that I’ve been able to encounter along this journey have been nothing short of incredible! I’ve had the opportunity to speak with, and share my book with, children both nationally and internationally! I’ve traveled to places I’ve never been, encountered people I would’ve never imagined encountering! It has truly been a stone cold blast!
How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way…
It’s amazing how as you go through your daily existence, you never know what you are actually preparing yourself for. I’ve held a number of positions over the years that have all helped me professionally. To begin, I volunteered for 3 years at a Girls Inc. in Birmingham, AL. That experience helped me to realize that working with youth was my calling. I volunteered for a local community organization where I and a colleague created the framework for a media manipulation workshop, which spawned my Image Activism. I was a Character Education Coordinator, where I was responsible for coordinating with school counselors to schedule visits to facilitate character education curriculum. This prepared me to be able to effectively coordinate author’s visits and develop lesson plans. I was a staff accountant here in Georgia, which helped me to be able to accurately keep my accounting records. All of these experiences were preparing me for this moment in time and I had no clue! My journey to get to where I am today has been laced with knock downs and disappointments. I know now that those disappointments only happened because I wasn’t ready yet for this experience. You see, when you’re walking in purpose, all things work together for good. In every let down there is a lesson to be gained. I’ve learned not to ignore the small nuances as everything means something. I’ve learned that an attitude of gratitude can take you a long way in life. I’ve learned to find a way to always give thanks as triumph quite often follows the tragedy.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’d like the world to know that until I see, what I consider to be, an authentic and overarching change, resulting in the improvement of the condition of Black people, then I will always consider how my work impacts Black people, particularly Black children, first. For some people this position may seem a bit radical, but for me it’s quite rational, as self-preservation is the first law of man. And to add to this, I’d also like the world to know that empowered Black children makes for an empowered Black community. An empowered Black community will help to benefit the entire earth. Look at everything we’ve been able to accomplish in the midst of trauma. Can you imagine what we could do if we were allowed to experience life uninterrupted?
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, we’d definitely have to hit up JeJu! Get a little detox going, massages, hip baths, all of that good stuff. We’d have to dine at Desta’s Ethiopian Kitchen. I’d do the Georgia Aquarium and the Zoo! Then we’d hit up an ATV trail! I’d also check out the Apex Museum and the Trap Music Museum (I’ve never been to the Trap Museum so that would be a cool experience for me). As far as drinks are concerned, we’d probably just sip on wine at the house and catch up!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m so happy that you asked this question! I have to give a shoutout to my husband, my business partner, my tech guru, my graphic designer, my homie, my love, Mr. Darren McLaurin. There is no way that I could have managed this journey as successfully and as seamlessly as I did without his contribution. When I was on the fence about whether or not I’d write the book, he offered me the encouragement I needed to get it completed. He’s responsible for the layout for each of my books and offered guidance on how to make my illustrations pop. He’s responsible for my online presence to include building my website and creating the original graphics for my Facebook page. He held things down financially when I lost my job, allowing space for me to build a business without the stress of lack of income. He’s supported me at vending events. He’s served as tech support for my virtual visits and presentations. He’s there for me to bounce ideas off of. He’s been a consistent supporter of me, even when I couldn’t see it. Plus, he’s still so very, very fly! So yes, shoutout to my hubby! He da’ truth!
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