Monday Motivation from Robin Barone, Founder of Diplomat Books
Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
This week, we chat with Robin Barone, Founder of Diplomat Books, which is “a platform dedicated to planting seeds of curiosity in children about the world through adventure travel books.”
What inspired you to start your business?
The inspiration for my company came from my personal search to find a children’s book about travel that was colorful, fun, creative, and educational for the children in my life. I discovered a massive void in the book market and an age group overlooked altogether. I became curious and began asking questions to learn about the industry and unravel the mystery about what it would take to bring a children’s book series to market.
I had always loved to travel and tell stories about my trip. Through sharing of my stories- in person, over email, or on my blog- I was able to demonstrate to my family that people are the same around the world. Through my personal travels to over 60 countries and living abroad, I became a more open and fearless individual as I learn to be curious and understand other’s perspectives.
In my initial journey to develop the series, I pitched dozens of agents and publishing companies about my idea; through their negativity and rejections, I learned about the industry and ultimately what it would take for my idea to come to life and succeed. Through all of these meetings, I came to terms that if I wanted my idea to come to life, I would eventually have to develop a prototype, test the market, and, essentially, create my own company to realize this vision. If I was investing all of this energy into creating a brand and series, why would I would I want to sell the vision down the line once we were successful.
To test my idea I hired an illustrator who helped me develop a mock character. I used the vision and created a crowdfunding campaign to see if I had an audience or could develop a customer base. I raised a few thousand dollars which increased my confidence that I could lead the idea to success.
During these years of investigation, technology had advanced as well as consumer buying behavior which made a small press business easier to set up. In 2014 I made the decision that I would have to commit full-time to this endeavor if I wanted to see what it could become. From an early age, I always wanted to start a business but was unsure of what it would be. I had also reached a point in my finance career that it was riskier to stay put and do nothing than taking the leap and see what I could achieve.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge has been to learn marketing and how to connect with consumers in a crowded marketplace. My prior professional life was in finance – numbers, spreadsheets, and other formulaic actions. Now as a producer of consumer goods, appealing to consumers, connecting to their emotions, and finding ways to provide value to them has been a completely opposite way of thinking. The same amount of work to earn $1,000 of sales based on emotional connection was the amount of effort put into $100 million deal conducted in a goal oriented march. Developing these intuitive skills, emotional messaging, and choosing calls to actions has been a part of the learning process which helped me evolve into a more aware contributor!
What’s been the greatest reward?
The greatest reward has been seeing children connect to my mission and be inspired to work towards a goal beyond travel. The greatest privilege has been to connect with other women entrepreneurs who are chasing a vision much bigger than themselves!
What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
My business is in the publishing industry whose ways of doing business were established decades before the advancement of technology made direct to consumer businesses possible. Years before Amazon, the industry had the chance to define how they would adapt and innovate with advances in technology, yet they choose to anchor into their profit margins and resist. Industry lobbies have kept many participants in the distribution collecting fees which each transaction due to contracts. I would love to see more consolidation occur to reduce fees that limit the burden on publishers. In the interim, although I am working within the established procedures for sales and distribution, I will continue to support my direct to consumer business as revenue channel as a way to generate a community around my children’s book series.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
The best course of action has been for me to change my scenery and reconnect to my original vision of the business – perhaps coffee for a coffee, walk around the block, a spinning class, or even a nap- has helped me shift my perspective and rejuvenate my energy level
I have found that the entrepreneurial journey is like running a marathon. In marathons, there is a term called “hitting a wall” which occurs around mile 20 when you start to run past the distance that you trained. The experience is unfamiliar and uncomfortable with your body but you still have 6.2 miles to go and need to keep taking each step to reach the finish line. When you “take the leap” to start your company there is an initial adrenaline rush until you settle in a pace that is sustainable, finding the sustainable pace in terms of how and how much you work has been key to staying connected to my initial vision and passion for the products that I am creating. In this journey, I found that every time I hit a wall it is connected to the next step or milestone and over time the intervals have become shorter. With each interval, it has become increasingly important for me to offload responsibility to others with special skill sets in order for the business to grow.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
With regards to your company, more often than you can imagine, plans will go sideways. In those moments, it will feel like a punch in a gut. If you allow situations to unfold, better choices will appear if you redirect your energy to staying open and mindful of your goal.
With regards to your life, you have a limited amount of time and energy. Be mindful of both to who and how you spend your time with. The people that surround you will either push you forward or hold you back. Choose to spend time with people that push you forward even if it’s uncomfortable.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
My Monday morning routine is similar to my daily routine. I meditate 10-30 minutes a day and write down in my journal a theme for the day, 3 things that I want to accomplish, and write down 5 things that I am grateful for in my life. The 5 things that I am grateful range from small acts of kindness like a smile or text message to a large accomplishment such as a book order or press mention.
For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Darrah Christel, CEO & Founder of LOHO, which strives to “change the way women feel in tights, and feel about themselves.”