Celebrate your wins. It doesn’t matter how big or small they may be, celebrate them. Being an entrepreneur is never easy, so give yourself grace, buy your flowers and keep it pushing! You got this!
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shambrekia Wise.
Shambrekia Wise is the Co-Creator, along with Sandiya Badmus, of “Sightseeing With Sandy”, an educational travel book series and learning platform for all children and families, especially those with barriers to traveling. “Sightseeing With Sandy” follows the journeys of Sandy and Zooma, as they provide a telescope to the world, bringing global exploration home with every turn of a page. Shambrekia and Sandiya have released 4 books so far, exploring adventures in The Bahamas, Jamaica, Paris and North Africa.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in the country and that totally shaped who I am today. I had a loving family, acres of woods to explore and the biggest imagination that seemed to keep me in trouble! I was blessed to know and grow up with my great-great grandmother and my great-grandmothers so I was instilled with a lot of values at a young age that truly carried me through life. My family members are hardworking people and always trying to do good towards others. That’s a value I try to live up to daily. I see so much of myself in Sandy so, I try to meet her where she is each and every day so that she flourishes!
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
It was actually a collection of books! I will never forget the salesman who came to our door one weekend and tried to sell my mom a collection of Grolier Encyclopedias. I think she wanted to first tell him no, but every turn of a page for me was like a new world. The pictures were so vivid and the storytelling really made me feel like I was there. She saw how much I loved that one book, so she worked hard to make sure we got the entire set. I lived in a very rural town in Arkansas, so while there wasn’t that much to do on weekends, I had the entire world waiting for me in my library. I didn’t know it then, but this would be a cornerstone in my life and is the reason I became so passionate about all kids and families seeing the world.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Ha! Thinking my Co-Creator would stick it out through the rough times! My child was supposed to lend her creative genius, but when she found out the true meaning of bootstrapping, she didn’t even properly resign! She called her grandmothers and had them pre-order paper airplanes! She made $90 in 20 minutes on “loopty-loop” airplanes that didn’t even loop. I then fired her after telling her she was a mercenary to which she rapidly responded “well you weren’t paying me anyway”! I hired an intern a few months later who was more than happy to be a part of our process. Lesson learned!
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
“Sightseeing with Sandy” loves teaming up with community initiatives and companies to make sure that all kids can enjoy our books. From daycares to domestic violence shelters, we have made our books and add-ons very affordable for those families who would otherwise not be able to buy them. By giving books to this specific population, we are showing them that in more ways than one they matter. Their stories are simply waiting to be told. While there is more that we desire to contribute, we currently are focusing on doing readings and volunteer efforts in local schools.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
We have four books and they each tell a unique story, but I think my favorite is book number four, “The Great Kings of The Nile.” Not only did Sandiya and I take steps back in time to explore North Africa thousands of years ago, but we made friends with two really cool archaeologists along the way. Dr. Geoff Emberling and Dr. Francesca Iannarilli were a tremendous part of our creative journey, sharing information that one could only have from being on the ground in Sudan and Egypt. Not one detail was left out and the book proves it!
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
After my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, I was on a mission to make sure every day ended with living my best life and that included me showing my little one how to live hers. I made sure to raise her with a heart of gratitude and empathy for others. I never knew how her beautiful heart would impact both of our lives. The aha moment came during a vacation with Sandiya when she observed that she didn’t see many kids who looked like her while we traveled. When I explained the barriers behind it — financial, physical and/or situational — she didn’t think it was fair and demanded I do something about it. After a long conversation with her on how this problem could be addressed, we did something — that’s how “Sightseeing With Sandy” was born. That was the beginning of our mission to create new opportunities for kids to dream and show them a world of “possible”. Representation absolutely matters and we make sure every child sees themselves in our books.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’ve shouted their names from the rooftops in just about every one of my posts and they’ve never expected me to do that. They were my first two supporters and without their love and their show of unwavering belief in me, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I don’t think I could ever fully show them my gratitude, but I absolutely try with every step of my journey.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Invest in public transportation: The community and politicians can work together to invest in public transportation systems that provide affordable and accessible options for families to travel. This could include expanding bus and train routes, improving bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, and creating incentives for carpooling.
- Provide education on travel and cultural diversity: Schools, community centers, and local organizations can provide education to families about the importance of travel and cultural diversity. This could include workshops, classes, and events that highlight different cultures and destinations around the world.
- Offer scholarships and grants: The community and politicians can provide financial assistance for families who may not be able to afford travel expenses. This could include scholarships and grants for low-income families or those who are underrepresented in the travel industry. Providing these resources can help ensure that all families have the opportunity to see the world and experience new cultures.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Knowing when to lead and when to listen are two of the greatest qualities a leader can possess. Both qualities can take time to nurture, but with time, belief in yourself, humility and holding true to your values, they can effortlessly become an integral part of your existence.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. It’s ok to take longer than you think it should to complete a project. Sometimes through my writing process I will hit a block. I used to try to work through it, but now I know to put the pen down, go do things I love with Sandy and come back to it later.
2. It takes a special type of person with a special type of skillset to market your story. As a writer who needs marketing with a target audience, I’ve run across a lot of frogs, but I’m so grateful to have the Blackman Brothers on my side now. Make sure your PR/Marketing team is well-versed in your specialty and can back up any claims they’ve stated. Bonus: Ask for referrals!
3. Self-publishing has its pros and cons. Make sure you know as many as possible before you commit to either. While it’s been an “unpolished” journey, I have thoroughly loved the freedom and the rewards of being self published.
4. Get yourself a community early. Get 100 backers to stand behind your book releases, incentivize them to share your work and watch your team grow organically! Digital advertising can be a financial strain as well as a hit or miss, but good old fashioned community building can take you far.
5. Celebrate your wins. It doesn’t matter how big or small they may be, celebrate them. Being an entrepreneur is never easy, so give yourself grace, buy your flowers and keep it pushing! You got this!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Love thy neighbor.” I think if we really try to meet each other with love and understanding in a way that we hoped we could be met, I think that would be a great first step into making the world a better place.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I have to go out on a limb here and pick four! Oprah, Morgan DeBaun, Robert Smith and Tyler Perry. Not only are they some of the most amazing people, but they have incredible business acumen. I know I could learn so much from that time spent. I would have to ask for a notetaker because I’m probably going to be in shock half the time! lol
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please follow-us on Instagram at @SightseeingwithSandy!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Shambrekia Wise Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.