Last Updated on January 7, 2021
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About Shelby Kretz
My first experience as a founder was when I was an undergraduate. I co-founded a non-profit organization called 1girl, which provides leadership development programming to middle school girls. I loved the experience of starting and growing an organization. I also loved working in schools, and I wanted to spend more time working in education. At that time, I started working as a school counselor, while others took on more leadership in 1girl. It was an amazing experience to see the organization grow on without me (and still to this day, it’s growing!). Today, I’m pursuing my Ph.D. in Education at UCLA, and I started Little Justice Leaders just over two years ago. I’ve always been passionate about social justice and education. I was able to bring the two together with a subscription box that helps families and educators introduce complex social justice topics to elementary school kids.
About Little Justice Leaders
Little Justice Leaders is a subscription box that brings curated social justice content to parents and teachers to teach elementary school kids. Each month, they receive a box that covers a different theme of social justice (like anti-racism, gender identity, environmental sustainability, or voter suppression).
In my work in education, I’d been hearing from parents and educators for years that they didn’t know how to talk to their kids about current events and social issues. Finally, in 2018, I decided to do something about that. I knew that some topics were difficult for parents and teachers to break down to a kid-friendly level, so I thought I could do that for that.
It was so important to me to solve this problem because I strongly believe that we need to engage young people in social issues. Not only does it help them grow up to become involved, concerned citizens, but it also makes for more engaging learning experiences rooted in the real world.
Now, our vision is to help raise a generation of kids who will dismantle oppression and fight for justice.
How did you get your first several customers or users? How many users or customers do you have now?
When I first had the idea, I started an Instagram account and started posting content about social justice education for young children. I immediately found a community of people who were interested, so I knew I had something! From there, I created a quick, simple website with the option to purchase. I directed people to the website from our Instagram, and within just a couple of months of consistent posting on Instagram, I had pre-orders.
Today, we have about 500 monthly subscribers.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
We still rely heavily on Instagram for our growth, though we don’t really do much traditional social media marketing. Instead, I try to consistently post useful content for families and educators. I create meaningful relationships with “influencers” where we can work together and share resources. This all points people to our website, where they can sign up for our e-mail list and receive our newsletter. Through that, we are able to sell the subscriptions.
Through this work of putting out good content and creating meaningful partnerships, we are consistently and slowly growing our subscriber base without paid advertising for now. We crossed six-figures in our first full year in operation (2019), and we are close to doubling that in revenue for 2020.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
First, focus on one platform and use it well. We focused on Instagram because I was familiar with it, and I knew my target market was there. By giving away free content as much as possible, we’ve created meaningful connections and trust with our audience. This has to be genuine – if you’re doing something just to make money, it shows. I was putting out this content because I truly wanted everyone to have access to it, and I hoped they would also subscribe if they found it useful. We have built a solid community on Instagram. That being said, be sure you’re always directing people back to your site and your email list. At the end of the day, it’s hard to sell directly from a social media site. I see so many new founders trying to do this. Instead, use your social media site as a way to make real connections and direct people to learn more. Get them onto your email list, and then you can sell to them.
Second, connect with a social mission. While this may not apply to everyone, most new businesses can connect to some kind of social mission. That might be a partnership with a local non-profit, a specific product line, donating a certain percentage of profits to a cause you love, offering free or reduced cost services to those in need, or something else that aligns well with your brand. It may seem counterintuitive because you’re adding more work and potentially more expenses, but people love to get behind a social mission. Everyone wants to help contribute to a great cause, so give them something to be excited about! This only works if it’s authentic and you truly care about the work. But if you do, it’s a great way to make an impact and grow your community at the same time.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
Subscription boxes are fun, but curating a great box experience every single month is a LOT of work. While that may seem obvious, I think most people don’t realize all the extra effort that has to go into creating an entirely new experience for your subscribers every single month. While some other product based businesses can take certain months to focus on marketing or other areas, with a subscription product, you have to create a new product every month (in addition to marketing, customer service, finance, and all the other tasks you manage as a business owner).
I love doing this every month because I’m so passionate about social justice and education. It’s fun for me to take a complex topic (like consent) and build a box experience that is informative, age-appropriate, and fun for kids. However, if I wasn’t so passionate about it, keeping up the energy to do it month after month would be hard.
If you are thinking about a subscription, be sure to be realistic about what you can commit to (monthly, quarterly, etc) and the duration (new content every month, 12 months worth of content, etc). If you’re committing to a new box every month, it better be something you LOVE to do!
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
For me, the craziest thing that happened was that my subscriber base doubled in size this year. I was working steadily over the course of 18-months and seeing very slow growth. Being a graduate student, it was hard to juggle the business with school. This year, the business took off and I doubled my subscriber base in just six months. While it still is a very small business, I’m now set up to be able to do this work full time when I graduate with my PhD. That just goes to show that putting in hard work over time really pays off!
What Are Your Favorite Books?
Non-fiction – I highly recommend Deep Work by Cal Newport. I read it earlier this year, and it was truly a wake up call for what I need to be focused on in my business. I also recommend Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. I followed much of the advice and have seen a complete turnaround with my business finances (and profit!). Lastly, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I just finished it, and I definitely need to read it again.
Fiction – I don’t read a ton of fiction, but I’m currently reading Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn. It’s an incredible story about a young Jamaican woman who comes to the United States seeking a different life.
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
For anybody who works in education or has kids, check out our subscriptions: https://www.littlejusticeleaders.com/subscribe/
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