August is Black Business Month and we’d like to introduce you to our member Derek Collins with Gifted & Lit. To learn more, visit https://giftedandlit.com.
What inspired you to begin your business?
When I was young, I was embarrassed to be Black. The people that looked like me were not represented in a positive light on television or in school. When Black people were shown in a positive light, we were usually dribbling a ball or entertaining. This bothered me. I did not want to play for the team, I wanted to own the team. I did not want to be a rapper, I wanted to own the music label. Now that I think of it, I did not have my first Black teacher until my sophomore year in college. Internal bias, self-hate, and doubt governed my brain. I know children that look like me suffer from this as well. I then grew to be an adult. Battling these ideas that developed as a child, I began to really look at the world around me and think on how I could make a difference. On one of my daily commutes to work, I noticed young men walking down the street rapping to themselves. I thought to myself, “Hip-Hop has a strong influence over our youth. If used properly, it can have a positive effect on the subconscious mind.” At its inception I noticed that Hip-Hop had a strong influence on especially the young, black male population. Unfortunately, at that time, and still to this day, many songs negatively influence people on a conscious and subconscious level. I knew, from experience, that following the wrong models can lead to poor decision making and negative outcomes. To combat this, I decided to create a program like Schoolhouse Rock, the education program from the ’70s and ’80s. Schoolhouse Rock used music to teach children social studies, grammar, and other educational content. As a student in the 8th grade, it is how I learned the United States preamble.
Fast forward to today. I see students of color struggling just like I did as a child. Struggling with their cultural identity, struggling with their academic identity and I was moved to do something. That is why and how Gifted & Lit was born. I wanted to do something to encourage and empower the children that I saw. I wanted to empower the little boy inside myself. So as a very capable adult, I began to do something about the things I could change.
My dream is to improve the self-image and self-esteem of children across America. I will accomplish this dream is through providing culturally responsive content that not only has an equitable and inclusive background but brings these concepts to the forefront and promote them clearly and decisively.
Who was your first client?
My first client was a woman who was looking for something new for her child to help be more successful with homework.
Where did you begin your business? In your basement, at your home? How has that changed from your location today? I started in the office of my other company, The Diversion Center. We are still there but have grown to hire phenomenal employees who are helping to catapult the business to even greater heights!
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that despite not knowing anything about how to start, Gifted and Lit is here and growing. It took a lot of humbling moments, asking questions, and personal growth to make this all real but I am thankful for the families that support us and all the people who have come along the way to help make this vision a reality. When God gives you vision, He’ll also send the provision. You just have to take the first step of faith. Faith in yourself and faith in the vision God gave you.