When it comes to literature, diversity and representation matter. On a mission to empower everyone, from students to parents and all people in between, BlackLIT was created to break the boundaries of stereotypes and open doors for individuals looking to find representation and diversity in their authors and stories.
En Route focuses on highlighting our incredible Saltbox Member stories, from the beginning of their business journey to the nitty-gritty of growing and scaling. Joining in meaningful conversation between entrepreneurs, En Route host Cee Ng, the host and CEO of Live Learn Dream, covers all things business, growth, and development for Saltbox Members. This week, we’re providing insight into what it takes to bring a business dream to fruition, the confidence needed to get there, and remembering to celebrate the wins along the way.
Founded in 2019, BlackLIT was created with a passion for representation and a hope for a changed future for Black readers and authors everywhere. Nia-Tayler Clark was a mom and teacher with a passion for literature. Due to a lack of representation in books, many of her Black students didn’t consider themselves readers. Nia-Tayler’s long-term goal was to change that. Creating a monthly subscription box highlighting Black authors and entrepreneurs, BlackLIT is making great strides to close the literacy gap and increase representation in literature.
After joining Saltbox, Nia-Tayler was able to expand into a space fitting her businesses’ needs that helped her grow as an entrepreneur. Now with breathing room to expand her company internationally and the assistance to start a physical location in Dallas, Texas, BlackLIT is celebrating the benefits of space and support as it continues to grow each month.
Cee Ng: What is BlackLIT?
Nia-Tayler Clark: BlackLIT is a monthly subscription box that highlights Black authors and entrepreneurs. I named it BlackLIT to stand for Black and literate. When I was a teacher, I had students tell me, “I don’t read Miss, I’m Black.” I was shocked! I realized I had a problem to solve. BlackLIT is a reminder for students and parents that they are Black, literate, empowered, and strong. All that to say, BlackLIT is a community of learners and readers with open arms to embrace those who love to read and even those who don’t. It also serves as an educational tool with discussion prompts and questions to get people talking. It’s not exclusive to one group of people, but it is a celebration of Black culture.
CN: That’s amazing. I love that it came together for you and you decided to make this into an ecommerce business.
NC: I wanted to open up a bookstore, but after doing research, I settled on subscription boxes because I wanted to make it more accessible. Now we’re in nearly every state and SIX countries. That would have never happened if I hadn’t gone the subscription box route! Along with that, it took me a moment to even consider myself as a business owner; I considered BlackLIT to be more of a passion project. I have no business background. I found mentors and that really turned me into a business owner, giving me access to information I didn’t have. People underestimate the power of representation. I didn’t see myself as capable of being a business owner because I didn’t see anybody that looked like me being a business owner. I’m so glad that’s changed.
CN: What difficulties have you faced as an entrepreneur?
NC: After featuring on Oprah, BlackLIT went from 100 subscribers to over 500 subscribers. It was a blessing but it also came with an abundance of growing pains. I was fulfilling orders one by one, by myself, in my apartment. At that time, I didn’t have access to wholesale pricing because I didn’t have many subscribers and I couldn’t get a loan because my business was so new. Then there’s the emotional and mental challenges of being an entrepreneur. I tried to ship out all those boxes on my own. It got so real so fast. I ran out of products, I was late on shipping orders, and I couldn't answer customer service inquiries in less than 24 hours. That was a big learning lesson for me.
CN: What made you keep going despite the challenges?
NC: When I started this business, I knew that BlackLIT was bigger than me. Every time I want to quit I think back to that student who didn’t read and I think about my son who is watching my business grow in real time. I have to see it through for them. I am so grateful for mentors who have reminded me that not everything is going to be easy, and I made a decision to believe in myself enough to just keep going.
CN: Where did BlackLIT begin and when did you decide to move spaces?
NC: BlackLIT started in my one bedroom apartment. My son said, “The boxes have got to go.” They were everywhere. I lived on the fourth floor, and going back and forth for shipments was impossible. When I decided to go full time with BlackLIT, I needed separation. Capacity had been reached. I started looking for options and ran across Saltbox, which was a game-changer for me. As a young female entrepreneur, I was nervous about jumping into my own building due to security and maintenance. So I started in Saltbox’s smallest warehouse space and I brought everything there. I could not believe all of that stuff was in my apartment! I hadn’t even moved all of my product in before I realized I needed an upgrade. They moved BlackLIT to the next size up. That’s what I appreciate most: Saltbox grows with you.
CN: What does success look like for you in the future?
NC: Success would be less about me and more about Black literature having a permanent and consistent space in the public school system. That’s my goal.
CN: What can we expect to see from BlackLIT in the near future?
NC: I am so excited for the BlackLIT bookstore. It’s going to be a cultural hub where we get to do exactly what we do with the box, every single day. People can come and shop these Black-owned businesses, meet Black authors, attend book clubs, and feel comfortable in their own skin. BlackLIT should be coming to a public school near you; the bookstore is opening up in Dallas, and the possibilities are endless.
As you grow, we grow. Saltbox is supporting businesses around the nation by providing the space for new entrepreneurs to expand their ecommerce company, one step at a time. BlackLIT works with Saltbox to bring their subscription service to customers around the world, benefiting from the flexible warehouse space and the support team to create meaningful customer service experiences for consumers each month. As BlackLIT expands into a physical location and into more countries, Saltbox is excited to support Nia-Tayler Clark as she closes the literacy gap and increases Black representation in literature.
Interested in hearing the entire interview with Nia-Tayler Clark, Founder of BlackLIT? Check out the full interview here to learn more about starting a subscription service from the ground up, and the challenges faced when creating a business based on representation and diversity.
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