Meet South London-based Sheju Adiyatiparambil-John and Judy Skidmore, owners of Parakeet Books, who make only diverse children’s books. Sheju writes and edits stories and handles the business side of things. Judy writes, edits and designs the books, website and promotional material.
Below, they share the inspiration behind the business name, a snippet of solid social media advice, and some exciting short and long term aspirations.
Until the end of August, 15% of every book sale will go to charities that support the Black Lives Matter movement.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: We make children’s books that are truly inclusive with main characters that represent all genders, ethnicities and abilities.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: Diversity. Almost no one else does what we do and that is make ONLY diverse books. We represent and champion groups of people usually ignored by mainstream publishing: Black people and other people of colour, girls, LGBT+ people, people with disabilities.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Share a bit of background on yourselves and your business.
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: We’re based in Crystal Palace in South London. Fed up with the same old books on offer to our own children, we started to make our own. We’ve been making inclusive and diverse books for the last two years. Apart from this, Sheju works in tech and Judy is a graphic designer; we still do both these jobs as well. The name Parakeet Books comes from the gorgeous parakeets flying all over Crystal Palace and indeed all over London.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well invested? Any tips for newcomers?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: Most of our success has been through Instagram and we use Facebook and Twitter too. It can be time-consuming and challenging to produce new content all the time but we have tried to keep it fresh by doing book reviews and other bits and pieces and we’re not scared to talk about other people we love on social media too. Spread the love.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: “If you keep turning up at the barber shop eventually you’re going to get a haircut”. Denzel Washington said that and we love it. Helps keep us going through the quiet times.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Tell us about a small business owner you admire. What can we learn from them?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: There are so many. Our absolute favourite is This Is Book Love. It’s a an online and travelling multicultural bookshop run by Samantha Williams. Her breadth and knowledge of books is astonishing. The best selection of children’s books we’ve ever seen.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as small business owners?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: It takes up a lot of time and energy to keep doing this, BUT seeing Sid Sloane from Cbeebies read our book online was a great feeling. Every sale we make is thrilling. And reading the books to children is good fun.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: We want to get out a new book out in the next six months, maybe two books. And sign up some new illustrators. In the long term… we’d like to write a play for children to perform in schools.
LITTLE OBSERVATIONIST: Little Observationist began as a space for appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
SHEJU ADIYATIPARAMBIL-JOHN & JUDY SKIDMORE: Some plants for the garden and an awning. After lockdown eased: Coffee from the coffee shop!!
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