Black Entrepreneur of the Month: Chris-Tia Donaldson (May 2010)


{It’s my birthday today and what better way to celebrate today by featuring one of the natural hair icons in black hair industry, Chris-Tia Donaldson. In this exclusive interview with Charcoal Ink, Chris-Tia tells CI all about her journey to write her successful book, Thank God I’m Natural. As May is just around the corner, I think Chris-Tia is a great addition for next month.}

1) TGIN has been a cult hit online and in the press with mentions all over the place. How does it feel for people to have received your work so nicely?

It’s been a super humbling experience. When I set out on this journey, I never had any idea that Thank God I’m Natural would be this big. I remember when I ordered my first run of books and my dad told me you better start giving them away, otherwise they’re going to get moldy in your storage unit. But, to both mine and his surprise, we sold all of those copies in the first three months. There’s just a hunger for the information and I’m happy that I can help women who are looking for it. At the end of the day, I really think this issue is bigger than hair. At Thank God I’m Natural, we want black women to start thinking differently and making it a priority to live longer, healthier natural lives.

2) What was your main drive to write the book?

I wrote Thank God I’m Natural to help dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions about kinky hair. Part of the reason it took me so long to let go of my relaxer is because I was so misinformed. Like so many black women living in America, I spent almost a quarter century wishing for hair that looked nothing like my own, and thought I couldn’t wear my hair in its natural state, because my tresses looked nothing like Alicia Keys’ or Mariah Carey’s. When I came to the realization that I could go natural, I wanted to share all the information I learned about caring for my hair with others. I also wanted to let the ladies know that going natural would not put an end to their career, prevent them from getting a date, or require them to join the “movement”.

3) Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Type A personality and that I like for things to be a certain way. The thought of signing over my rights to one of the New York publishing houses and giving up complete control of a project that I worked on for over three years of my life seemed unthinkable to me. At the end of the day, the publisher calls the shot, unless you’re big time, and can force you to change everything, including the things you care about the most. There are also a lot of hidden or non-negotiable terms in your contract with a major institution, which potentially give the publisher control of everything from the cover of your book, to the title, to the release date, to the content, all of which can be critical to your success. Finally, with social media, Amazon.com and the growing market for e-books, it’s never been easier to get your work out to the masses and make a good deal of money at the same time. In fact, I’m working on a book right now called Do It Yourself Publishing: Giving You All the “Write” Tools to Self-Publish, Market and Sell Your Own Book, which gives the reader a soup to nuts overview of how the entire self-publishing process works. You can read more about it on my website at www.diypublishinggroup.com.

4) You have been interviewing superstars like Chrisette Michele and you are also doing a book tour. How important has it been for you to get your message out there?

It’s been critical. I think we’ve been able to sell a lot of books and help a lot of women go natural, because we’ve been blessed to be given a lot of airtime both with traditional media outlets (televisions, newspaper, radio, magazines), but also via non-traditional media vehicles (e.g. blogs, facebook, you tube, twitter, etc.)

5) Can you tell us a bit about what financial issues aspiring naturals who want to write books need to know? IE, how much does it cost?

I usually tell people if they’re willing to invest $1,500 – $2,000 they can publish their first book. That number is a ball park figure for 500 to 750 copies on a digital or offset press, where you cover the cost up front and have to house inventory. Your cost structure will definitely be a little different if you go the print on demand route, where you only print the copies as you need them. Although this option is cheaper on the front end, in that you don’t have to spend the money to cover your inventory costs, on the back end these companies get you since you have to buy your own books, which are often extremely expensive (e.g. $10 copy), in order to distribute comp copies.

At the end of the day, your three main expenses are going to be your editing, your cover design/layout, and your marketing budget for comp books. If you focus your energies on these three areas, your chances of succeeding as an author increases significantly.

6) Can you tell what has been the most exciting thing to have happened in your career thus far since you published TGIN?

A lot of exciting things have happened. I mean going on tv is always a lot of fun, and getting emails from women around the world (e.g. South Africa, France, UK, the Caribbean) saying how this book has changed their life is always amazing. But my most memorable experience to date is when I was in Montego Bay, Jamaica outside a mall and saw ads posted on the wall, which read “Thank God I’m Natural Now In Stock”. It was unreal to be in another country and see the image of your company being marketed.

7) The natural hair movement is definitely bigger than the black Anglophone market. Do you have any plans to do TGIN in other languages like French or Portuguese?

Long term, we’ll be looking at that option of having the book translated into French and Portuguese. Right now, however, we’re focusing on collecting feedback from the English speaking markets to see how we can improve the 2nd edition. Once we do a re-release, well probably go after non-English markets.

8) What has your family thought about the success of TGIN?

They think it’s amazing and that I’m extremely blessed.

9) What would you advise any young women wanting to do what you do?

Here are three pieces of advice.

Put God first. I wouldn’t be where I was today without my faith. When I was almost fired from my first job after graduating from Harvard law school, I couldn’t understand how I could be put in a situation like that. But despite how insane things seemed at the time, it all worked out for the good, and was a catalyst for me writing Thank God I’m Natural.

Bring you’re A game. Whether you’re writing a book, launching a clothing label, or starting a restaurant, always come with your best. That means you need to be prepared to work harder than you ever have before and always put quality first.

Finally, you’ve got to take the first step. A lot of people have dreams and goals, but never take the first step, because they’re scared, or they think I’m not smart enough, I don’t have enough $$$/time, I don’t know the right people/didn’t go to the right school, etc.. I promise you, if you don’t believe in your own dreams, no one else will. If you know where you want to go, but don’t have a map, start walking and know that you’ll eventually get to where you’re going.

It took me nearly 3.5 years to write Thank God I’m Natural, because I was working long hours as a lawyer and didn’t have a 9-5 job. Some days, I didn’t know if I was on the right path or if I would ever see the fruits of my labor, but all I know is I kept walking. That means, I kept getting up at 6am every morning during the week and writing, even if I could only put in 20-30 minutes a day. It meant spending my Saturday mornings in the coffee shop sending out emails and working on the same chapter over and over again, even when I was fed up and things still didn’t sound exactly the way I wanted them to. I’m still not where I ultimately want to be, but once you reach that very first goal, you’ll gain the confidence to know that if you just keep plodding along, you’ll get to where you are going eventually.

10) Any future plans you can let us know about so we can keep tabs on you lol?

In the short term, we’re just going to continue to grow internationally. We’re already in bookstores throughout London and in Jamaica. We hope to be in bookstores in Paris, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa by the end of the year. I’m also working as a television correspondent for a segment titled “The Green Life” on the Garrard McClendon Show, which addresses health and wellness topics, such as buying organic food on a budget, restaurants serving flavorful vegetarian options, urban farming, and energy and money saving tips for keeping your home green. Finally, in the long term (2011), we’ll be launching a product line for black women with kinky tresses, so stay tuned for more information.

Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair is now available at Waterstone’s Bookstores. For more information about Chris-Tia Donaldson or Thank God I’m Natural, please visit www.thankgodimnautral.com. To learn more about Chris-Tia’s experiences and best practices as a self-published author, please visit www.diypublishinggroup.com.

[My take: I reviewed TGIN a while ago, and I personally think it is THE natural hair resource for any black women who are starting out and trying to improve their natural hair game. It is so sincere and genuine, fantastic really. I also love that TGIN is in London (my 2nd town yay!) and that it will be in Africa too.

I don’t want to pre-empt anything but I personally think Chris-Tia will be doing BIG things in future. She has that business X factor]

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Black Entrepreneur of the Month: Chris-Tia Donaldson (May 2010)

  1. Pingback: Charcoal Ink Honors TGIN as Entreprenuer of the Month « Thank God I'm Natural

  2. Pingback: Groggle boggled by Google mean spirit | register domain names | registering domain names | purchasing domain names

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