How To Build Community To Organically Grow Your Business
This week on Selfmade Stories — our series with Office Depot OfficeMax where we speak to emerging entrepreneurs about their small business launches — we chat with Isis Asare, founder of Sistah Scifi, which is the first U.S. Black-owned bookstore focused on science fiction and fantasy written for and by Black women. We find why launching Sistah Scifi wasn’t about “following or chasing a market trend” but rather how it grew organically based on the needs of her community.
B + C: If you were at a dinner party describing Sistah Scifi to a guest, what would your elevator pitch be?
Isis Asare: Sistah Scifi is the first Black-owned bookstore focused on science fiction and fantasy in the United States.
B + C: What did you feel was missing from the marketplace that led you to launch Sistah Scifi?
Asare: I wasn't following or chasing a market trend. I was exploring topics and communities I am passionate about.
B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?
Asare: The most important aspects of marketing Sistah Scifi is authenticity and ensuring our community feels seen and reflected.
B + C: What are some of the ways you maintain your mental health or ways you stay focused while embarking on your entrepreneurial journey?
Asare: I have a great therapist. I purposefully sought out therapy at the start of my entrepreneurial journey to develop the tools to achieve deeper emotional capacity. I think it might actually be working!
B + C: Who or what keeps you inspired?
Asare: The community of Sistah Scifi Siblings is so awesome. They keep me inspired.
B + C: How has your business evolved since you first launched?
Asare: We were born as a book club and then morphed into an online bookstore. That was really exciting for me because I love e-commerce. Currently, we are expanding beyond books with science fiction-related merchandise and have secured wholesale accounts with the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle and the Oakland Museum of California. We will pursue more wholesale accounts with museums across the country.
B + C: What are some of your major wins or successes that have propelled you forward?
Asare: My favorite Octavia E. Butler quote states, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.” As an entrepreneur, I feel the same way about being sustained by output-driven wins and losses. I focus on habits that build community, communicate my brand authentically, optimize the customer experience, and finally infuse all my actions with love. The last tenet is inspired by bell hooks' All About Love. I know if I — supported by my team — focus on these habits, the universe will take care of the outputs.
B + C: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind with Sistah Scifi?
Asare: I am trying to stay grounded in the present. However, Sistah Scifi’s mission is to double the number of Black and Indigenous speculative fiction writers on the New York Times bestseller list in the next decade. In the past fifty years, there have been less than 10.
B + C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you grow your business?
Asare: It forced me to finalize my pitch deck. I am not actively pursuing equity investment, but having a well-thought-out pitch deck is a major accomplishment for me as an entrepreneur.
B + C: How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business?Asare: I used the grant to produce signed bookplates for some of our most popular titles. The authors love the additional promotion, and Sistah Scifi Siblings love being able to get autographed books in a COVID-safe manner.
Isis used Office Depot OfficeMax products to help with community-building efforts and so can you to grow your brand awareness. From creating signs, posters, and banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offers a full suite of business services and solutions to help you bring your business to life.