Covington, Ga. – After four decades of teaching, Marta Collier is making a business out of her passion for children’s books by black authors, with help from the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.
“Starting up a business is more than having a notion,” said Collier, a schoolteacher and college professor. “Many fail because they don’t have the support base. We not only feel like we have a supportive infrastructure. We feel like we have a friend.”
Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services is just one of thousands of companies celebrating Small Business Week across Georgia March 13-17. Over the last five years, SBDC clients have started 1,422 businesses, creating 11,785 jobs and generating $8.9 billion in sales in the process.
Collier says the help she received from SBDC consultant Mike Myers was “game-changing.” He encouraged Collier that her idea to sell lesson plans for children’s books from neglected black authors was sound.
Myers helped her focus her energy on lesson plans and take the steps to set up her home-based business in Newton County. And he connected her with interns from UGA to make it a reality.
“Mike turned us onto a wealth of talent and they need experiences like this for their resume,” Collier said. “It’s been phenomenal for us to have someone to connect us to that kind of resource.”
Collier’s work is an outgrowth of consulting she has done for decades. The basement of the home she shares in Covington with her husband and business partner, Willyerd, resembles an elementary classroom. Shelves, tables and crates overflow with books and educational materials.
Many of those books come from authors who weren’t commercially successful. She wants to expose them to a new generation of children.
In addition to helping edit lesson plans, the interns also are marketing Collier’s new business through social media platforms that the 64-year-old admits she’s not as familiar with.
Krysten Hardee, a senior English major at UGA, is helping Collier set up a Pinterest page. Eyeing a career in publishing, Hardee was thrilled to read about the internship on a UGA Listserv. She said she’s interested in diverse voices in children’s literature, which matches Collier’s mission.
“This is where I can shine. I love this and I’m passionate about it,” Hardee said. “I think it’s going to be great for my career after college. I think it’ll be great to talk about in an interview.”
Myers said the Colliers’ passion for the subject will make them successful. They just needed the tools SBDC provides to execute a business.
“She has a real good point of differentiation,” Myers said. “Hers is pride in the heritage of African-Americans. She’s trying to make sure this group isn’t forgotten. There’s some darn good stories they could share.”