Keisha Ehigie, a London-based entrepreneur, founded Imagine Me Stories to make it easier for children and adults to find representative and culturally diverse books. She launched the business in 2019 while on maternity leave with her son. She uses Starling for her business banking.
“The business name plays on the idea that the reader can imagine themselves as the time traveller, mermaid, knight or princess in the story,” says Keisha, 38. “It’s about empowering Black children and showing them that they come from greatness and that they can and will do amazing things.”
Representation in books and TV
Imagine Me Stories was inspired by Keisha’s daughter. “I noticed that she would always say things like ‘I want long blonde hair or ‘I want to be pink’, which was her way of describing being white.” Curious and concerned, Keisha looked into where her three-year-old’s attitude could be coming from. She noticed a lack of diversity within the TV programmes and films her daughter watched, the toys she played with and books she read.
“I went out to the high street to buy some books that represented our family - I’m Nigerian-Jamaican and my husband is Nigerian - and could not find a single picture book that had a Black main character.” A 2020 study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education found that just 2% of UK children’s books feature a Black main character.
Keisha’s experience stayed with her. Before long, she began work on a business to make finding culturally diverse books easier. She talked to potential customers, reached out to publishers, designed her own website, sourced packaging and set up digital advertising. She used part of her own savings to get the business off the ground.
“All children miss out when the books they read only tell a single story. Every child should be reading diverse books,” she says.
Spreading diversity in stories
“I decided to go down the subscription route because I wanted to be able to plan monthly income and the easiest way to do that is through repeat orders,” says Keshia. “The downside is that you can’t take a month off - you need to have those boxes ready to ship every month.” Her advice for others launching a subscription service is to plan ahead as much as possible.
Each box contains age-appropriate books, a Black history activity pack, designed and created by Keisha, and a free promotion for a Black-owned business. Recent activity packages have focused on African Queens, Black heroes from space and traditional African outfits. “The activity packs help children to learn about awesome trailblazers and achievements in Black history.”
Business banking with Starling
From the beginning, Keshia has done her business banking with Starling. “My initial attraction to Starling was the fact that there are no monthly fees and that everything could be done on your phone.”
Since signing up, she’s discovered a number of features that help make managing her finances stress free and simple. “Everything is so straightforward. I can download statements directly from the app and I like receiving notifications for money in and out. I also find transfers and direct debits so easy to do,” she says.
“It feels like Starling has taken a lot of time to see what the pain points were in banking and then taken them away.”