Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Isossy Children meets Natalie Cooper, author of The African Musical Instruments Book

The African Musical Instruments Book is a unique book used to educate children about music and different African cultures. We meet author Natalie Cooper who discusses her journey and inspiration for the book.

What inspired you to start your business?
I was at a black history event in 2010 where I met a gentleman, formerly involved in the music business who was looking for a graphic designer to produce some children’s books; an African musical instruments book and an African patterns colouring book.
This become my own personal project completing the books in two months, all of the research, writing and illustration and I got them printed soon after. I tried to get my book into bookshops and libraries but without the know-how it was difficult so I jumped at the opportunity to trade at stalls when I was invited.
Since my first stall in March, the business has grown and grown and I have plenty of fair-trade African made instruments available also. I am looking now to do workshops with schools as that would unite my main three interests: the arts, history/ culture and education.

What have been your favourite client experiences?
I love talking to people at my stalls, they cannot believe I am so young and
have achieved so much already, I am always feeling humbled. Speaking to the public, I’m in contact with people from all walks of life who are happy to share their thoughts, suggestions and opinions, which are welcome as I do not have all knowledge of all things, it’s just not possible.
I get to speak to many parents and teachers who would love to have me come and visit their schools. Everyone is so kind and encouraging and it keeps me going! People also love my long natural hair, we find anything to talk about!

What advice would you give to someone starting up in your industry?
I started my business blind, I approached as a graphic designer which no knowledge of musical instruments, publishing, distribution, marketing, sales but I knew it was going to be a learning process so I was never overwhelmed by my own ignorance.  I always worked to my own watch and deadlines but the style of work I have leads to burning out fast. Trying to do everything yourself  is fine but don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t agree with or like what someone says, take note of it, do some research, discuss with others.
It’s not going to be easy in any way, shape or form. You need to be stubborn with it (which I am so) but you also need to know when to take a break.
You have to have a product you believe in but don’t expect it to sell itself for you – get people’s opinions and use these points in your sales pitch!
If you want to self publish – know what you’re getting yourself into, it’s a lot of work. I didn’t know, but I like the control and I’m open to other possibilities in the future.
Be careful with relationships, overwork can put pressure on relationships with a partner if you’re working all the time. Even if they support you one hundred percent, you need to know when to make time for them, yourself (very important) and your relationship.
Try to network (or just speak to people, family, friends) who have skills that you don’t have, even if they can’t help you on a specific project, they can at least point you in the right direction. I had someone who just liked my work and he gave me free advice, it was hard when I hadn’t really developed my online presence hearing how it wasn’t good enough (yet!) but constructive and free advice has changed my business for the best!
You can do as much as you can yourself but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t be too precious – what feels like your end product after the blood, sweat and tears, is just the prototype, there’s always room for improvement and this should be welcomed!
The internet is your friend – you can research anything you don’t know about! 

What are your long term goals?
To be happy and inspire.

Isossy Children celebrates diversity through global clothing for children. Why do you think diversity matters for every generation?
In respect of my book and it’s aims, music is universal, and an aspect of every culture whether its use is purely entertainment or has a societal function, it can be used to tell stories, convey a message or feeling, critique and challenge. Teaching children about music of other cultures can give an insight into the ethos of a people, their myths, legends and stories, past kingdoms,
great feats, etc which fosters understanding and can generally just inspire. Exposing children to different cultures is vital in creating worldly and cultured individuals. There are a limited number of types of instruments e.g. wind, percussion etc so people can always identify and make connections with instruments they have in their own culture. It is also interesting to learn about the origins and spread of familiar instruments to see more of what different cultures have in common. It’s world history and we are all citizens of the world.

What words of wisdom do you think every child should grow up knowing?
I take my eleven year old sister along with me to stalls sometimes and she gives me advice… I always say to her “there is no reason why you can’t do this”; I don’t know if she believes me but I hope I have shown her through action and getting her involved – she really enjoys it! With the world at your fingertips, things have become a lot more accessible now, you can build a free website, free promotional videos which you can post on video sharing sites, print your own literature.. the list goes on.

Contact Details
Natalie Cooper, info@ami-book.com 
 07988 685 815

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