#IAMCandidateX with Alice Curry – Lantana Publishing

#IAMCandidateX with Alice Curry – Lantana Publishing


Because ALL children deserve to see themselves in the books they read

Founded in 2014 – Lantana Publishing has been working to achieve just that. 

In this episode we speak with, Alice Curry about Lantana’s journey, challenges and impact. We discuss disrupting and challenging the publishing industry, her perspectives as a female founder and her vision for diversity in books. 

Transcription

Man Wong
Hey, Man here from CandidateX. Welcome to the #IAMCandidateX with series. In each episode of this series we’ll be exploring the stories, ideas and visions of entrepreneurs, innovators, organizations, community members and their impact on the world all through a diversity lens. By sharing their journeys, we can raise awareness and understanding about importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. There is so much to do,  talking about it, is a good place to start. Follow the CandidateX podcast, tell us what you think on our socials, share your own experiences and join the conversation with us.  I want to also take this opportunity to do an open call for any organisations, companies or community members who would like to appear on or sponsor our podcast. If you believe diversity, equality and inclusion is at the heart of what you do or your organisation we’d love to hear from you, you could appear right here engaging with the CandidateX  community contact us on CandidateX.co. But let’s get to it recorded in person before the lock down. We’re very proud and excited to share our conversation with  Alice Curry, a founder addressing the lack of diversity in Children’s books because all Children deserve to see themselves in the  books they read. Enjoy the show.


Man Wong
Hi everyone  welcome to the CandidateX podcast. A show about community innovators, entrepreneurs and impact they’re having on the world all through diverse lens. I’m your host, Man Wong. On today’s show, we have Alice Curry. Founder and CEO of Lantana Publishing. Founded in 2014 Lantana is a diverse and inclusive Children’s publishing house. Specific focus on BAME. Alice welcome to the show. Very excited to have you.


Alice Curry
Thank you for having me.

Man Wong
How are you feeling?Very good. Yes. So you’ve got a very hectic schedule. Lots of things going on. I know you’ve got a pitch tomorrow, which we could probably come across another chat about, but full disclosure for everyone. We’re actually related aren’t we?Thanks. Very good. Yes. So you’ve got a very hectic schedule. Lots of things going on. I know you’ve got a pitch tomorrow, which we could probably come across another chat about, but full disclosure for everyone. We’re actually related.

Alice Curry
Yeah we are. Not by blood. By my sister and your brother’s marriage.

Man Wong
Yeah, and they have a beautiful little boy called  


Alice Curry
Ryan.


Man Wong
Who will appear quite a lot in the conversations were gonna have I bet.


Alice Curry

Yes, that’s right. Because he was a real inspiration for what I’m doing in my company.


Man Wong
Brilliant. Well, we’re very excited to have you on the show. In fact, you are our guest number one on the podcast shows.  

Alice Curry
What an honour

Man Wong
Yeah. A little bit guinea pig afraid. We’re gonna have some fun today and have a chat about everything that you’re doing with Lantana. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what Lantana is all about?

Alice Curry
Yeah, of course. So, yes. So, as you said on the founder of Lanatana, we are a diverse and inclusive Children’s publishing house and social enterprise. So we work with authors and illustrators from underrepresented backgrounds to publish books in which Children, all Children can see themselves reflected. We have our core pillars of diversity and inclusion, social equality and environmental sustainability, and that really underpins everything we do.

Man Wong
Wow. So what drove you to to work in this pretty I imagine hyper competitive space, with quite a niche KM   focus as well. But very, very great social impact cause.

Alice Curry
Well, I mean, when I when I when I started out, the there was just such a gap in the market for any books that were reflective of the non majority. So the vast majority of Children’s books then and now are reflective of this white, middle class, able bodied heterosexual majority and only 1% of Children’s books in 2017 and we have those statistics featured a BAME main character,

Man Wong
1%?!


Alice Curry
Only 1% and this is in a country where 1/3 of children identifies as BAME. So that is around 2.5 million children, one of whom is our little  nephew, Ryan. So it came as a huge shock to me that there was this gap. I had sort of identified the gap through some professional work i’d done. I was previously a lecturer at the University in Australia and did some freelance work for a charity which saw me putting together collections of stories that were reflective of different backgrounds, different experiences, different cultures and ethnicities. And there was such a huge gap. And I thought, You know, at this point, what do I do? I have a choice. I feel like I’m almost an accidental entrepreneur in the sense that I never started out thinking I was going to end up founding a business, but when you’re faced with such a stark gap and all the implications that comes from that, then I felt like, you know, in many ways I had a responsibility to try and try and fill it.


Man Wong
Brilliant. And Lantana is a  very interesting name. What inspired that?


Alice Curry
It’s actually a flower and the flower has petals of different colours on each stem. So. I thought it was a great metaphor for the change we want to see, which is children of all colours, of all ethnicity’s, of all backgrounds reading happily as one.


Man Wong

So what is it that you do at Lantana. ? Tell me what it is that you’re doing day to day?


Alice Curry

Yeah, so?  Well, the founder part, I guess is quite obvious The CEO part, yeah. I mean, so it’s managing the day to day running of the business, so managing our staff managing our processes, but it’s, I think, probably more interestingly, more importantly, it’s that idea of setting a vision and a culture for the company, setting a direction, charting out, a course, for how we want to grow, how we want to scale. So it’s really sort of that mixture of this sort of the details ,work and the management and what I more considerate the leadership element which is creating that sort of that bigger picture frame work for the company.


Man Wong
How many people are involved in Lantana at the moment?

Alice Curry
So there are four of us at the moment.  


Man Wong
Cool


Alice Curry
So. Yes, we work with lots of freelancers and contractors, as well, but in terms of core team wait, there are four. We are women from diverse backgrounds. One of us lives in the Philippines at the moment,

Man Wong
Yes I remember

Alice Curry
That’s right. But we’re all really passionate about what we do.

Man Wong
So tell me about the authors. The stars of the show and the illustrators. Obviously the ones on the podcast won’t be able to see them. But really beautiful illustrations. This is a new book. I am Brown.

Alice Curry
Yeah, it’s in fact, not even out yet. It’s coming out next this month. I think they’re not quite yet.

Man Wong
This is  written by Ashok Banker and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, Right?

Alice Curry
That’s right.

Man Wong
So how did you come across people like Ashok and Sandhya.

Alice Curry
So Ashok actually is an interesting case because he has published, I think it’s something like 60 or even 80 books for adults. He’s known as the epic storyteller of India. He’ s sold about three million copies something like that, but had never written a Children’s book and he became very interested in how innately important Children’s books could be for influencing young minds and setting values and influencing mindsets. And so he turned his sights to a picture book and came across us and submitted his work to us. In the meantime, Sandya she’s also of Indian heritage now living in the States, fantastic animator and illustrator. And those two, you know, wanted to work together on a project and it fitted our remit and it fitted what they want to achieve. So we came together.

Man Wong
So how do you find authors and illustrators of diverse background?

Alice Curry
Yes, So it’s it’s a mix. We have an open submissions policy on our website, which is quite unusual in the publishing world. If you you know very often an author will need to find an agent before they can find a publisher. In our case, we want to open it up and be inclusive as we possibly can. So authors can submit to us. If we fall in love with the manuscript, then we will find an illustrator who we think can bring it alive. We will go through an editorial and design process on. Then we will send ultimately the file to a printing plant. We usually work with printers in the Far East. So in China, primarily and once the book’s published, obviously we go through a marketing and publicity campaign. We sell the book directly from our site. Also through, I think it’s around 200 suppliers and wholesalers via distribution partners around the world.

Man Wong
Amazing wow, how cool  is that.?  Disrupting the model. Being as inclusive as possible. So it’s a good opportunity for anybody that, I guess, is a budding writer or illustrator that’s specifically with interest in diversity inclusion to submit their work to you as well?

Alice Curry
Yeah, I mean, I actually I feel we’re in a really privileged position because we have a lot of submissions that are exclusive to us because we have said we welcome diverse voices. We want to hear from you. If you have a unique story and you don’t see yourselves on the shelves of books of book shops. We have these incredible stories that are submitted, we find hidden gems all the time and I think its one of those  sort of sad transitions in publishing when the when the house has become so big that they don’t have time to go through their own submissions. That’s when they start working with agents and agents could be hugely helpful, of course, but at the same time, I really value that opportunity to find find new voices right from the very start.

Man Wong
Wow. So I know. Obviously we know each other quite well. I know you’ve got a passion for, spearheading diversity in the Children’s publishing area. But what drove you? What’s the real mission? I know you talked about falling into this accidentally, but I mean, you started before Ryan came along.

Alice Curry
I did. Yeah, I did. I mean, although not before your brother had come along. I was fully aware that my sister and your brother were going to produce in some future period. Our lovely mixed race nephew and soon to be nephew, niece. So yes., I know that was one personal reason why I felt that it was important on a personal level. But I think you know, as I said, if you see any kind of gap and you don’t think it’s right or it’s fair, if there’s some level of inequality, I think at that point it really became, for me a question of Can I use the privilege that I have to try and do something about it? At  the time, it was a huge, you know, sort of leap in the dark. I was had very little idea what I was doing. I had never worked in a publishing house, so I had worked on books and I had studied books so academically I was quite, you know, I had quite a lot of experience of Children’s literature, but not in terms of producing my own. So it was really a question of learning everything from the bottom up. And at the time, I felt like my naivety in this space and my lack of experience was going to hold me back. Was a real  barrier. I think this is something that women feel a lot, that idea of being an impostor, that impostor syndrome, you know, the sense that someone’s gonna catch you out for not knowing what you’re doing. But when I look back on it, a few years later. I actually perceive it as real strength because it allowed me to not fall into the traps off the very standard, very sort of set ways that publishing often works. It allowed me to question processes and the infrastructure and say, You know what? Why is it that you do it that way? Why is it that we don’t have books of reflective of off diverse backgrounds, you know, and and ask those kind of questions and try and do things a bit differently? So ultimately, I think that really helps me, you know, set me on the path that I’m on now.

Man Wong
Brilliant. And how’s the journey been?

Alice Curry
A huge  rollercoaster, but better than I could possibly dreamed of in so many ways. We had some wonderful sort of milestone. success’ quite early on, our first book, for instance, won awards in the States.

Man Wong
What was the book?

Alice Curry
It’s called Chicken in the Kitchen. 

Man Wong
Chicken in the Kitchen, one of my daughter’s favourite.

Alice Curry
Ha yes it won the Children’s Africana Best Book award, which took us to Washington, to the Smithsonian for an awards ceremony and we did a book reading at the Library of Congress. And I thought, Well, you know way if we can manage, that then, though it hasn’t all been like that. But I think I think just those kind of you know, those milestones as I went. Really sort of, you know, get me going and then think that, you know, there is a way that we can we can make change in this space because, you know. Traditional publishing there are many, many things wrong with it. I think everyone would agree. I don’t think I’m saying anything out of the ordinary there. And so to try and sort of innovating processes and try and sort of do things a bit differently has really bean driving driving force behind that and, any time that we get any kind of, you know, recognition for what we’re doing and we’ve been very lucky and critically and in terms of other awards and various things that have come along and you know on the way, then that that sort of just that justification, that actually the industry really does need this, and people are looking for change.

Man Wong
I totally agree. I think there’s lots of people working in things in industries and roles that have a traditional more orthodox  framework, and this is how we’ve always done it, but without encouraging or enabling freethinking and ability to stretch, always pushing the boundaries. But the best way in order to do that is to think differently and in order for you to do that, you need to work with and encourage diverse thinking, and and that needs you to be more inclusive. So, you know, I think the brave step that what you guys are doing and you know, I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there will be applauding that kind of work Alice, which is brilliant. So I downloaded and had a look at your LinkedIn page with your shortlist awards, and I think without really numbering of them properly it’s in double digits here, which is phenomenal, right? You know, for a six year old business, a team of 4, hyper competitive space, we talked about heavily dominated by, when we were chatting off air, what four main publishing houses?

Alice Curry
Yes the big five


Man Wong
The big five even, you know, hopefully soon to be 6. You know it’s a tough nut to crack,? So what sort of challenges have you had?

Alice Curry
Yeah, it’s yes, As you say, It’s a challenging space. It’s partly a challenging space because it is an industry dominated by big players. It is a high discount, low margin industry, which means there’s very little appetite for risk. It’s very difficult to take risks when the margins are so small. There are very long cash flow time lags that’s very long lead times or all of that makes for a very difficult structure to change. So you can understand to some extent why the industry has become very established in its processes, so we compete with that. Our advantage is that we are small, we are agile,  we can make decisions quicker. We can bring new concepts and ideas to market quicker waken take more risks. It’s sort of, you know, we live and die by the risks we take so obviously you know, if it doesn’t work out, then then that you know that that’s the risk we’re taking. Whereas I think larger houses have slightly more to play with, but at the same time they have much less appetite for it because, you know, it’s always has to be about about the bottom line. So when it comes to publishing itself, it is a challenging market. It’s one way you sell through a series of wholesalers and suppliers and  retailers, which means you have very little control of that buying process. It’s hard to trace your books passage from us, from publication to its ultimate buyer or its reader, ultimately,

Man Wong
So you know very little about your audience. 

Alice Curry
So it’s hard to understand,  to know who is buying our books and what they feel about them, you know? See, we have some understanding of that through social media and the fabulous people who buy our books direct from us. We can very much more understand who is engaging with us and with the community that we’re creating online. But in general, it’s a process that is quite removed from you, from the ultimate consumer. So all of that is kind of quite hard for a small publishing house to manage. I think on the other side of things, given that I sort of I see ourselves more as a startup, as an early stage venture, a social enterprise and entrepreneurial sort of venture. There is that understanding that you’re working in a space where you will, in whatever capacity, probably be looking for funding at some point. And I think in that regard, there are a couple of challenges. One being a female founder. We’ve started to talk about this earlier, on the other, being a social impact business, which again is quite, I think, unjustifiably but quite scary for some, you know, VCs and venture capital funds when they’re looking at potential investment,

Man Wong
I totally  echo those sentiments. I mean, with CandidateX, people really struggle with how you can be, you know, positively social impactful at the same time, being a commercial business, you know. And we were talking about this earlier, right? That, too, and not mutually exclusive. We can quite easily draw a nice Venn diagram and illustrate where everything overlaps in that sense. And I guess in funding, what they’re interested in is, but are you gonna be a five Xer. How does that experience make you feel?

Alice Curry
It’s very disheartening. It’s one of those times if you have a meeting with a VC, who tells you that they really don’t, you know, couldn’t really care less about your social impact, about the mission statement or about any of the things that actually drive me. Then, you know, it just sort of makes you question is this the route you would want to take? Ultimate we haven’t taken that route because we don’t feel that it fits with what we’re trying to achieve this company.  But, you know, it is a sort of a give and take. You can  understand it from various perspectives. But I think ultimately for us, if we didn’t have our social impact mission statement right at the heart of what we do, we wouldn’t have the heart of us. But we also wouldn’t have what has endeared us to our loyal customers, to people who want to champion us. We have multiple sort of bloggers and booksellers and librarians and teachers and parents who are, you know, incredibly behind our mission. And I think if we if we didn’t have that mission statement, where would we be?

Man Wong
Yeah, you need that centralising point where people gravitate toward because although your team of 4 holistically as Lantana, your community of advocates and you know your network of bloggers that you talk about…

Alice Curry
And our authors and our illustrators. I mean, I think we have way have around 50 of them. I think they’re across something like 30 countries is just sort of, you know, in terms of geographic breath. And we have distributors in the States and in Australia. And we have publicity people in the States, and, you know, we are sort of all over, and I think that’s as you need to be. You need to be a sort of a global sort of outward facing business. But, yeah, you need something that will well tie everyone together and give them a reason to want to champion you in your books.

Man Wong
And it’s so interesting, isn’t it way? We talked about Ashok earlier you know, as you described, is the epic story teller of India right for adult stories who’s now broken out of that comfort zone to write about Children’s Storey because he obviously identifies with the message and the ideas that you guys are doing. And it’s so disappointing to have other people, is sitting on the side of a table with the purse strings that could really enable you to grow and scale and hit impact with a bigger audience, not really understanding that on and, you know, that always bewilders me. And you know, I hope we can we can spread those challenges out to the audience and for them to sort of give us some help and guidance around this. Because I doubt you’re the only person feeling this way, you know, as a female founder, and also someone working in a diverse base with social impact at the heart. Right? So let’s talk about publishing What’s diversity like in publishing?

Alice Curry
Uh huh. Yeah, it’s not  good, is the short answer.  Yeah. No so when I started five years ago. Actually, the landscape has changed quite a lot since then. We are still a very, very white, middle class industry in terms of workforce. There are some actually very positive initiatives beginning  to come into play to try and change that on many of them, driven by the larger houses. So it is, I think there are positive moves there, but in terms of the books produced, you know, I mentioned the 1% statistic of Children’s books feature a BAME main character,  I think so that was 2017. I think it has gone up to potentially to 4% by 2018. But this change is slow. It is not at all reflective of our population. So yeah, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done within this space. And I think it’s fair to say that the small independents like us are are sort of trying to drive. That change would be at the vanguard of  it and hopefully, in the longer term, these changes that  we are seeing come through will be long term, will be long lasting rather than just sort of here now because the conversation is so vocal at the moment.

Man Wong
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting, isn’t it? You know, because trying to break what people accustomed to identifying with and understanding that. Children’s books, particularly it’s kind of, we  read a lot of Roald Dahl, for instance. But I always identified with that character, but I’ve never really ever thought about them being BAME or anything, And now that I’ve got my kids and Scarlett is asking alot more questions around, not necessarily ethnicity, but she notices colour now.  She’s only five, not even five yet, and she’s asking about these things. And I think it’s good to have that reflection so they can see themselves as characters in this space. Are there many other publishers doing what you’re doing, not to promote other competitors obviously! 

Alice Curry
Very happy to actually, because we’re actually you know, don’t see the other small independents as competitors in that sense, because actually, we are very inclusive, bunch in that we do try and help each other and we promote each other and we try and make space for the other because I think the more people who are talking about inclusive books being important, the more that message is going to get through to this wider  sort of networks. So there are a couple of others like there’s one called  Tiny Owl,  there’s one called Cassava Republic. There is Hope Road. There’s a Alanna Max, there are few and at this point, I think you sort of, you know, as I said, we’re the ones who are saying – right, come on, guys, these things need to change. And when it comes to showing Children that this is possible, I think I think for us what was really important was not that we were to produce books which were about diversity or where we’re looking at issues around you know what it meant t be diverse, or, you know, what we were trying to do is say, you know what? You can be a child of any colour of any background of any ethnicity, be able bodied, you could be disabled. You can be ieni, you know, identify as LGBT Q plus or whatever it might be. And yet you deserve to see yourself going on an adventure or having fun. Or, you know, making friends or exploring the world or just, you know, being a child. So I think what was important to us is, as I said, to just show that an inclusive community should exist in the pages of books. You can see yourself in any walk of life at any point. Imagine yourself to be a superhero, whatever it might be, rather than saying okay, that’s only reserved for a particular type of book or a particular person.

Man Wong
Excellent. Yeah, So you know how many titles you have now?

Alice Curry
We will have published 35 by the end of the year.

Man Wong
That’s amazing.  

Alice Curry
Yeah, Yeah,  

Man Wong
You and your team deserve an immense amount of credit for that.  

Alice Curry
Thank you 

Man Wong
Putting 35 titles into people’s hands and having that impact that you talk about. What’s the future look like for Lantana?

Alice Curry
Well, I think you know, I think we’re going. to as far as we can keep on publishing books that are reflective of, you know, as wide a breadth of you know, humanity as we can..

Man Wong
Are there plans to branch out beyond BAME as well?  

Alice Curry
Yes, yes we are currently, you know, we are actively looking for stories that are reflective of wider facets of diversity. We want to just sort of, you know, say any  experience, any backgrounds – it’s important that if you don’t see on shelves and that would help Children feel like they belong, is important. And we want to hear from you because primarily, you know, we’re looking for good stories and good stories are about everyone.  In terms of where we go from here. I think we’re interested in partnerships and looking into ways of collaborating with other organisations who are, you know, share our values and who are like minded. We are always interested in what’s happening in the sort of the Edtech space, because I see quite a lot of synergies with that sector and ways in which we might be able to work and collaborate. Hopefully just sort of keep on putting  Children and our readers at the centre of things. I think running a business and particularly sort of managing it on and you know, when you’re  immersed in all the day to day challenges of it, it’s kind of, it’s really helpful to me to remember to step back and sort of think about how our books are being received. And, you know, one of my favourite bits of the job is actually getting to, on the rare occasions accompany our authors and illustrators to say, a school or a library or a book event of some kind, a literary festival maybe  and meeting some of the Children who, you know in some cases, are seeing themselves in a book for the first time. We’ve just had some absolutely heartwarming, heartbreaking stories of, you know, of Children who have just been so moved by being about to see themselves or their families or their communities, their neighbourhoods in a book,  You know, for me, that’s absolutely sort of where it all sort of lands. So wherever we go from here, I think I’m trying to say, you know, as long as I remember, you know  why we’re doing what we’re doing. And that is the important thing than.

Man Wong
I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I was I was lucky enough to be at one of the readings when one of your books previously came out and I took Scarlett that time, Treen and I went on and we saw the reading there and it was mobbed. I was so impressed with the turnout and when I say there was a walks of life, you know, a genuine, diverse crowd.

Alice Curry
Do you know what it was actually, at that very event. I just remembered an incident where, yeah, I don’t know if you would have seen this exchange, but a family came up to me and said that they’re driven three hours to get there.  

Man Wong
Wow.  

Alice Curry
Yeah, they were Black British and this is the first time they’d seen a black author. And they wanted to show their daughter their young daughter, that she could be anything she wanted to be on and I just thought it was the beautiful thing.

Man Wong
And I think I think that’s so key  you know, CandidateX we talk a lot about, We use the play on word of candidate and one of our things that we’re pushing out is the I Can, We Can, I Did kind of feels, and that’s what I want to talk to you about. Really? You know, the time that we’ve got about, you know, everything that you’re describing here. Sounds like your self taught, right. Stumbled upon these things. Right, why does it work that way  and trying to trying to rework the wheel. If if you’re allowed to, make this framework a bit more elastic. But obviously there’s gonna be obstacles and rebuttals along the way.  For for people who are in that daily grind and those challenges a moment in time. I mean, did you have access to mentors and things like that? I know. I want to talk to you about the mental aspect that you’re doing for other people at this point in time right now. How valuable that is for entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs or innovators at the moment.

Alice Curry
Yeah, I know. It’s a really good question. I hadn’t sort of I don’t think I had any kind of definitely no formal mentorship, and I’m not. I mean, I’ve come across, you know, wonderful people in the past who I have admired and who have been very helpful in terms of being able to sit down and talk to you about  things not so much in a mentorship way, but just in a sort of a professor at University or something. You know, some someone who you can you can look up to. I think it’s hugely valuable. So my first kind of real entry into this was through an accelerator programme that I undertook last year as you know about, where we had access to business mentors, business leaders of various kinds and were sort of sitting down with us and talking through our company and through our challenges and through our growth and are scaling. And just that capacity to be able to sit down and talk to someone whether or not in your own industry and in this particular case, there was no one from publishing, which is not not not surprising.

Man Wong
Were they all tech?  

Alice Curry
Yeh, all tech. But, you know, to have a dispassionate eye, but someone who you know is there for in order to help. You know, there was no sense that they had their own agenda. It was definitely, what can we do to help you on? It’s very empowering having that opportunity to be able to take that conversation forward. In my case, I think one of the struggles I had was that idea of as I mentioned, Impostor syndrome. I think coming into an industry being a founder without having felt like I knew much about business, let alone anything else. I hadn’t done an MBA. I haven’t sort of worked at McKinsey. All the kind of the normal ways into starting up at an accelerator. I felt very much like I didn’t know. I didn’t know the language around it. I didn’t know the terminology. You know, it’s very basic things, but there are ways that founder talk and entrepreneurs talk to each other. And there’s ways that you talk to VC’s, or anyone who’s sort of, you know, in the funding space. And if you don’t know the terms to use it can you can feel very you can feel dis-empowering. It can feel this if you’re not meant to be at that table. So one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing is talking to primarily women, but sort of early stage founders, or women entering into publishing and talking to them about that idea of, actually, it’s OK to not know everything. It’s OK to be yourself.. It’s okay to  admit when you don’t know something. I think what people ultimately look for is they look for drive, they look for passion. They look for a sense that =you’re excited and motivated by what you do. And if you don’t happen to know, you know, some some of the vernacular its OK. You know, this is small. There’s a small hurdle or whereas it can feel like a very large hurdle.  So. I think it’s that idea that, you know, there there should be space for you to come in being relatively naive to the process. If you know, if you if you’re willing to work hard and  you have a vision and you have somewhere you want to get to and particularly I guess, being being a women on an accelerator programme, which I think was actually quite forward thinking and much more diverse and inclusive than I expected it might be. But I think, of the 10 businesses that they accepted onto the programme that year, there were three of us that had a female founder. But yet I still felt in many cases that I’m one women in a big room of men or whatever it might be. I know that it’s a difficult space. Statistically, we mentioned briefly VC and funding before. But I think it’s only I think women get only around 8% of all the equity that’s invested in the UK each year, which you know that there’s a huge disparity, it’s a very unequal landscape. So it’s again, it’s an intimidating space to come into if you haven’t had the kind of the training around around business. And if you haven’t, you know, and if you are the women in the room, so I think passing that on is really  helpful to say, Look, actually, we can be approachable. I’m very happy to talk to anyone who is interested in either starting up their own business or wants to innovate within their own space, you know? I mean, you know, intrepreunership  is hugely important as well as  entrepreneurship. I would never be, in fact, I’m always quite impressed when when people approach me and say, Would you mind if we have a coffee, or could you just give me some advice on something and if I have time, that’s always that’s the only that would be the only hurdle. But if I can, we will  always sit down and have a chat. So yeah, so you know, women in business, women and publishing. I think it’s just really important to pass on that knowledge, if you can.

Man Wong
Are they formalised networks as part of the mentor piece?  

Alice Curry
There can be – one of them is. As part off the Oxford University career service that I’m mentoring for now, but often it’s relatively informal. Another one is a formal structure through the Oxford foundry, which is the accelerator space which Lantana is currently based.. But yeah, it can be formal or informal. I think ultimately it’s always helpful.

Man Wong
I think you know, for me, obviously someone who knows you quite well as well and finds out about what you’re doing in the update. I’m always impressed with the work that you guys have been able to produce and the traction you’ve got. But I know how you are. You’re incredibly harsh on  yourself here in what you what you think you’ve done So I mean, in a word, I mean, how how successful do you feel that the journey’s been so far.

Alice Curry
Um, yeah, I can say I’m impressed with ourselves. I was gonna say…

Man Wong
So modest

Alice Curry
You know it doesn’t come easy. And actually, that’s a really interesting thing about the difference amongst other things. But the difference in the way that women communicate versus men. I think that’s one of the real differences in why, for instance, we may not be a successful raising funds is because we are more modest in some  ways. We don’t tend to sort of..

Man Wong
Yeh men blag.  

Alice Curry
Right yeah, we’re not very good at blagging, but anyway, no. I think, actually, from looking at where we started to where we’ve got now, you know, it is it’s quite wonderful, like that journey I think we are, you know, looking to become more and more sustainable as we go. It’s always a challenge. Small publishing will always be a challenge, but there are ways in which we can mitigate some of that. So, you know, for instance, I mentioned that we sell through a whole series of suppliers and wholesalers, but within the publishing spectrum, we’re selling it very high discount, which makes our margins even smaller. Whereas when we sell direct to customers through our website, it’s not only a fantastic way of sort of gauging what people are looking for in terms of the books they buy, but also helping our margins in that regard and building a community around what we do. And so the more that we can sort of encourage that kind of community, I think, is really helpful. So what I’m trying to say is, in terms of success, I think we have been, you know, I think we’ve been incredibly lucky with how we have found and we’ve hit on something which people seem to really, really love. But we can always do more and create bigger communities and spread the word about what we’re trying to achieve. And also, you know, share the work of our fantastic and fabulous authors and who I am constantly,  in admiration for their works..

Man Wong
Brilliant yeah, I mean, it’s it’s such a such a good direction of travel, to try and break through this space, get a bigger audience about what you’re trying to achieve, get people onto these ideas, and that’s why we wanted to invite you here today so that people who are connected to CandidateX who has that passion for equality, diversity, inclusion in work but can also now think about this in a different way for their kids and or schools they’re affiliated with, and making sure that you guys get the exposure that you really, really deserve. We hope that we can help you with that, I guess. Final words really from from from you are what’s the clear ambition that you guys want to really achieve where you feel, Okay,this is really successful now and  how can  our audience and our community help you with that?

Alice Curry
Well, if I take it right back, to why books and why reading and I think it’s so abundantly clear that developing a lifelong love of reading in Children is one of the best, if not the best head start you can give them in life. I was reading some statistics in around some things which I found quite shocking. For instance, the number of books that child has in the home affect their literacy more than the number of years they’re in school. So I mean literally, if you have a shelf of books at home, it’s going to. Well, I’m not going. I think people could go and find the statistic and actually read exactly what it means, but ultimately it’s this. It’s this huge sense that having books in the home is incredibly important to your future prospects and 1 in 10 I think it is. households in the UK currently have no books at all. So we’re looking at, you know, one in 10 Children who are starting off with a huge disadvantage and particularly when the books that are there are unrepresentative of their lives and their experiences in their communities and their families, it’s that one further barrier to developing that love of reading. So mission is to try and get as many Children as possible to develop that love of reading and to see themselves reflected in the books they read. Where we go from there, I meant our mission statement is because all Children deserve to see themselves in the books they read, so big dream can get all Children to , I think we were looking to change the landscape trying to make the publishing industry as a whole sit up and say, actually, no, we can’t keep on producing the same types of books forever and ever. We need to be inclusive in the way we approach the market and for us to grow and scale to the point where we can have as big an impact as we possibly can in that regard..

Man Wong
Okay. I mean, what more really can you say? The challenge is breaking out of a very traditional model. The challenge is access for people. You know, there’s a social mobility context there, right?

Alice Curry
And I think that’s it I think, you know, you asked about what what what a community can do and I think You know, one of the things that we have found challenging is that it is that idea of breaking out of traditional structures within publishing. And there are very many people who are alienated by those traditional structures, whether it is that they can’t see themselves in the books that they’re buying, or whether they’re going into a bookshop is it feels like an alien space or whether, there’s no disposable disposable income. There are communities out there that are just being very much under served by the publishing industry as it currently stands and the publishing structure supplier routes and, you know, routes to market. And so I think one of the things that would be fantastic is  to build a kind of a community around access around sort of looking at different ways in which we we can get our books but also other wonderful inclusive books into the hands of children who aren’t currently being accessed or aren’t currently finding them. And so any ideas on how to do that any entry points into communities, any people who are who are excited about sort of trying to be a pathway into those communities that I think that would be a fantastic sort of, you know, avenue to explore.

Man Wong

I’m you know, pretty confident there are people out there that can definitely help with that. So, you know, we’re excited to get the word out. We certainly believe that Lantana is very much akin to what CandidateX is. The whole hashtag of IAMCandidateX really is? I feel when I look at what you guys are about, it is exactly that. We really want to sort of help get the word out there as best as possible.



Alice Curry
Thank you. And I mean and to you too. I think what you’re doing. It’s fantastic. I mean, I think putting, diversity and inclusion, sort of right at the heart of recruitment is exactly where it needs to be. I think that building you’re kind of, you know, platform around crowd sourcing crowd, curation, sort of really democratising the whole process has to be the way forward in terms of giving that kind of lobbying power and being able to make change. So I’ll be rooting for you


Man Wong
Many, many thanks to you, Alice we would love to get you back on a further date to see how things have progressed and moved on. Thank you. Good luck with the pitch tomorrow. Thank you.  


Alice Curry
Thank you.

Man Wong
Hey, listeners it’s Man. We hope you enjoyed our first show. We learn a lot from Alice and really loved her passion and vision. If you did to we’d love to hear from you. Tell us what you think. Tell us what we can improve on on what you want to know about our guests and their work. Check out Lantana’s instagram as well on Lantana _publishing Lantana is spelled l a n t a n a to see their amazing books. Please buy direct from Lantana, buying directly from them keep small businesses going on. They also offer a one donated book for every book purchased, all directly from their site. Candidate X has also 10 beautiful Lantana books to give away. So keep an eye out on our socials to see how you can win one. So until the next episode, Be good Be kind, Stay safe.

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