Book Reviews, Spotlight

In Business Together: Twin Sisters Alicia and Tameka Aim to Promote Diversity Through Publishing

From the children’s series The Anti-Socialites Diaries

When the idea for AlTaMiRa Books was first conceived, my twin sister, Tameka, and I wrote organically, as an extension of our childhood love of writing in diaries. We began writing the rough draft of a children’s book series centered on the lives of socially awkward twin girls navigating elementary, middle, and high school life. Soon we realized our goal was to be more than just entrepreneurs.

We want to make a contribution to society by producing content that showcases the diversity in the United States that is not reflected in the publishing industry. It is rare to find children’s books with people of color as the protagonists or featured on the covers, but AlTaMiRa Books is working hard to promote diversity in literature and offer differing positive images to the youth of today. Our books celebrate the beauty of being different. Each of our twelve books has lead characters of color who challenge the limited depictions frequently presented in the media. We work countless hours to improve our business in order to achieve our mission of positive inclusion. In addition to writing books together, I serve as the editor, scheduling coordinator, and operations manager, while Tameka serves as the company’s visual and creative director and marketing consultant. Our family is highly supportive of our endeavor and often collaborates with us in terms of promotion. We plan to segue into producing multimedia content over the next three years.

In the summer of 2011 Tameka and I brainstormed ideas to start our own business. We had recently graduated from Spelman College and decided to fulfill our ambition of being entrepreneurs. We formed the name AlTaMiRa by combining the first two letters of the McKenzie sisters’ names in birth order: my name is Alicia and I represent the Al. The Ta is from Tameka’s name. The Mi is from Miriam’s name and the Ra from our youngest sister, Rachel. We discovered later that altamira means “high aims” in Spanish. By September 2013, we launched AlTaMiRa, LLC, the company that would serve as the independent publisher for our children’s books under the subsidiary AlTaMiRa Books. Through extensive research we learned how to format books, select the best distribution options, and publish the first four books of our debut series, The Anti-Socialites Diaries, in 2014. We began promoting our books at book festivals across the country and on social media. For the past four years we’ve published twelve children’s books including The Kippington Town Secret series and the RBI Girls series. Rachel illustrates all our books.

Advice to New Entrepreneurs:

  • Patiently Develop Your Craft: Don’t Expect Overnight Success After You Make the Decision to Start Your own Business; Keep Learning and Growing;
  • Do a lot of Research on Start-Up Costs, Marketing, and Networking to Save Time and Money in the Future;
  • Work Consistently; Set a Schedule;
  • Be Passionate! It Will Show in Your Work if You Don’t Really Care; and
  • Be Bold! Don’t let Anyone Tell You NO. You Don’t Need Permission to Create!

Alicia and Tameka McKenzie are twin sisters who were born in Brooklyn, New York. They grew up in Staten Island, New York before moving to Columbia, MD. They both attended Spelman College and received their Bachelor’s degrees—Alicia has a B.A. in English and Tameka has a B.A. in Psychology. They earned master’s degrees from Towson University. Alicia has a Master of Science in Professional Writing and Tameka has a Master of Art in Teaching, Early Childhood Education. Alicia loves writing poetry and reading books. Tameka loves teaching and fashion. Their debut children’s book series, The Anti-Socialites Diaries, was published in 2014.

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