Feature written by Quan P. (Founder of BLACKAMAZING)
Tamara McNeil‘s vision for JustLikeMe! Box was inspired by her own experiences as child — reading books like Charlotte’s Web and Madeline but barely any with characters that she could identify with.
She faced the same struggles as a mom while browsing for books focused on black characters for her son MJ.
That is when she decided to invest her money into creating a solution that would help people going through similar situations.
In 2016, out of 3,400 U.S. published children’s books, only 265 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.
Just Like Me! Box is a customized subscription is a “no-strings-attached” package containing carefully selected age-appropriate books that encourage positive child development.
Signing up is easy — simply put in your child’s age and you’ll gain access to 2-3 books for $25/month, every month.
It’s an incredible value — as written on the site “[e]ach box shipped to our subscribers contains books with a combined retail value that is higher than the amount paid for that month’s subscription.”
We caught up with Tamara McNeil, founder and CEO of JustLikeMe! Box to discuss the planning process and how she juggles family life as an entrepreneur.
What went into the process of developing Just Like Me! Box and preparing for its official launch?
Lot and lots of research. I spent most of my time reading and researching children’s books. When I first started, I had no contacts in the children’s publishing world. I sent a lot of emails and made a lot of cold calls to authors and publishing houses to explain the concept of Just Like Me! Box. I also read a lot of published articles about diversity in the literary world and the impact on children.
The biggest hurdle was researching how to set up and run an online business. I have no prior experience in running an online business so I literally had to learn a new skillset. I had to learn how to learn (and still learning) every aspect of running a business.
Were there any risks that you had to take and/or challenges that you faced during the development process?
The risks I took in the beginning were mostly time and money related. I invested a good bit of money into website development, legal needs, purchasing children’s books, etc. My biggest challenge is working through time restraints because I have a full-time job.
Did you learn anything new while working on it?
Everything I’ve learned is new. From branding to social media marketing, customer service, team management, financial projections, LLC’s, s. Corps, etc. It is all new to me.
Are there any self-care habits that you’ve instilled to handle juggling multiple roles, including other jobs, family and entrepreneurship?
Psychotherapy and simply asking for help. As a wife, mother, full-time employee, and now entrepreneur- I found myself super overwhelmed and anxious all the time. When I first started Just Like Me! I didn’t expect it to grow so quickly and keeping up with the new demands plus trying to learn how to run a business had me on a downward spiral mentally.
Once I reached out for professional help in my personal life and for Just Like Me!, I began to notice a difference in my mood, productivity, growth.
What is the most rewarding part of running Just Like Me! Box?
Receiving photos and messages of kids and parents enjoying the books they’ve received in their Just Like Me! Box.
It never, ever gets old and I literally gush and squeal over each one. It makes me so proud to see our kids’ reading and enjoying books with characters just as colorful and beautiful as they are.
Just Like Me! Box is a year-round celebration of reading and positive black representation — bringing families together, one book at a time.
For more information visit justlikemebox.com and follow them on social media @justlikemebox