In Conversation with Atusa Freyer, Publisher & Marketer
Describe your business in a few words?
Of course! I self-publish rhyming children’s picture books. My latest, MOMMY, AM I?, is about a little boy who goes to the zoo and draws comparisons between himself and the animals he sees, then believes he is becoming one! “I’m not an animal, mommy, am I?” Capturing the essence of a child’s imagination, this story teaches about self-love and celebrating all that makes you different.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share that as a self-published author, some do not see what you do as a business- merely a passion project. However, most self-published authors have the goal of monetizing their idea and product, just like other entrepreneurs. I created a business plan, studied the marketplace, did a competitive analysis, made financial projections, and created (many) marketing strategies. I am proud to say I self-publish children’s books and love it!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
At the age of 6, I developed a love for writing and rhyming. I found myself writing children’s books long before I ever thought about having children. I always had the goal of publishing one of my books but never felt it was the right time or the right story. Then, exactly 3 months after having my daughter, I was hit with an idea in the middle of the night I couldn’t escape. The story of MOMMY, AM I? came to life and I knew the stars had aligned for me to take this leap. Once my 30th birthday came, I told my husband, “I’m going for it.”
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I got my start at the Chicago Tribune Media Group and received my MBA from Northwestern University. My career had been focused on managing many different industry verticals, but I am now on the client-side of business and work for Troon Golf as the Director of Marketing, representing Naperville Country Club.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I have absolutely always wanted to be my own boss with my own creative liberties, and never wanted to ask for permission with any plan I cooked up. It is also so fulfilling when you become a champion for yourself.
I toyed around with the idea of traditional book publishing, but I’ve seen situations where authors wait for years and lose almost all creative control. I knew it would be more work, but self-publishing was the right route for me to take. I not only have 100% creative freedom, but I can also put my professional marketing expertise to use to build my own brand!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
When I first launched, it was imperative to build an online community and social media presence, especially during times when face-to-face interactions were, and still are, limited. Most of my family and friends had discovered my business via social media- then it spread through word of mouth. That being said, I made sure I had my communication plan finalized 4-6 months out prior to making my grand announcement.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The biggest challenge thus far has been planning for the unknown. I had relied on visiting schools, doing library readings, selling at the farmer’s market, going on press tours, and the list goes on. However, all of that has been put on pause due to the pandemic, so I learned to get creative, rely more on my online audience, and to be persistent.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I was recently invited to do a live interview during a morning segment on a widely known news television station here in Chicago!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am a hustler and a “feet-on-the-street” type gal. I would never hesitate to walk into any type of establishment to market my book (I mean, I spent years pouring my passion into one product, how can I not!) However, the pandemic has limited not only my ability to interact with people face-to-face, but also the chance to share my story, introduce myself and build relationships. Since I always strive to make myself stand out, I had to get creative in my ways of doing so.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I have very exciting story concepts in the works, but even more so, I am looking to branch out into other facets of publishing on the marketing side.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Keep applying pressure until your work becomes a diamond! There are at least 100 different iterations of everything I do before I reach the final outcome- from copy edits to video footage, illustration edits, and even building connections. 2020 was the year of applying pressure so that the final result yielded the thought “I am really happy I kept at it.”
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with the amount of ideas I wanted to execute for my launch, and my business as a whole. I became impatient and would sometimes act on something too quickly, so it didn’t yield the optimal results it could have. Then I remembered a piece of advice a mentor shared with me before my first day at Northwestern: If you are looking at a feast, a table filled to the brim with food, you begin to think “I can’t possible eat everything I want!” Little by little, however, the food slowly starts to disappear. Silly, I know, but it is important to take it one day at a time and enjoy the process.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes! My answer is to PIVOT (Friends reference). Truly, if you get the gut feeling that you should be pouring more love into a different area of your life at the moment, be OK with stepping away to tend to whatever needs your attention. For me, planning brings peace to my life, but being OK with pivoting has helped tremendously. Also, cut yourself a break if you aren’t giving 100% of yourself in every aspect of your life (easier said than done!).
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I am 100% Persian, and that comes with certain expectations in life. Culturally, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to pursue a career in marketing – especially while most of my peers were in different fields of dentistry or medicine. However, my business sense coupled with my passion for being creative has made me the Entreprenista I am today. Now I love calling myself the rebel. 🙂
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Make daily to-do lists, get good rest, love what you do!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Giving it your everything, being a fearless leader, and helping others reach the top. Remembering that you earned the right to be here, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.