Updated: Mar 30
As a part of our interview series on women-owned businesses, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Finley, Founder JJ Carson Press, LLC.
Ashley Finley, MSW grew up believing she hated reading. As she got older, she realized that this wasn’t the case. The truth was, she just had trouble relating to characters in the books she read. Ashley founded JJ Carson Press to be a solution to this problem. Ashley uses her background in social work, mental health therapy, and education to write and publish children's books that feature black characters and social-emotional concepts.
Thanks for joining me! Tell our readers about what you do.
I write and publish children's books that feature black characters and social-emotional learning concepts.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
Being woman-owned means I bring my ability to create and nurture to work everyday. I create spaces for others to learn and grow, and I nurture and support my books until they are ready to be put in the hands of those who need them.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I created my business to solve a problem. As a child, I didn't feel represented in books, and when I became a mother, I was determined to make sure that my boys didn't feel the same way. When I thought of the books I wanted to write, I not only wanted to have black characters, but I wanted to make sure to teach social-emotional lessons that I have learned over the years.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to start?
As I started to look for books to read to my own children, I was reminded of the representation issue I had during childhood. I still couldn't find books with children who looked like me, that taught lessons that I wanted my sons to learn. As the pandemic progressed, and we had more time at home, I felt it was time to start sharing more of my gifts with the world. I decided to create the books that I felt my children would benefit from reading.
Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy feat. What are some of the lessons you learned along the way?
Patience and grace. For me, it was, and still is, a very steep learning curve. When you're a trailblazer, the road is rough. You have so much to learn. It's important to allow yourself to learn, make mistakes, and grow at your own pace.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Resilience, Resourcefulness, and Creativity.
How is your company making a difference?
We are creating books to help fill the racial diversity gap in children's literature.
I know you probably have many, but what’s your proudest moment as a founder?
My proudest moment as a founder is when my oldest son asks to read my books.
What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?
It has to take years to publish a book. You can publish at whatever pace feels comfortable for you, according to your resources and desire.
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Take your time and give yourself grace. Working yourself to death is overrated, in my humble opinion, of course.
What does the future look like for your company?
Our future is bright. We have been building amazing partnerships with companies like Target and Barnes and Noble, schools, and other community-focused organizations to get our books into the hands of those who need them and I'm so excited about it!
What words do you live by?
You were created for a purpose.
Any final words of wisdom?
Be your authentic self. The world needs you.