#SMALLBIZ PROFILES // HEIDI-MARIE OF LUANA'S BOOKSHELF
Tell us a bit about you and your #smallbiz…
I'm Heidi-Marie, the founder of LuAna's Bookshelf. LuAna's Bookshelf is dedicated to raising money for schools all over the world by empowering children to help take control of their own education. I travel the world with and find poor schools in desperate need of funding. Together with the children of these schools, I create a storybook to sell and raise money for their school. No two books are the same. Every illustration within the book is a collaboration, each element drawn by different children from the school. The books also contain special elements relating to the specific country they were created in, and each book is printed both in English and the language of the children printed just below, allowing the reader to experience the many languages of this world. By being part of the creation of these books, the children feel that they are in control of their education and their future.
LuAna's Bookshelf is dedicated to supporting schools and the education of as many children around the globe as possible! Every child deserves to learn and together we can give them that.
What about your business are you passionate about?
Through LuAna's Bookshelf I know I have found my path, my purpose in life. I have never felt so right about something in my life. My compassion for these schools and these children is beyond words. I want to make this work my life. In February 2017, I backpacked Asia for a month with the intention of finding a poor school that could benefit from a book, and found one in Cambodia. That summer I sold everything I owned, saved every penny I made waitressing and left Canada in October to travel for 5 months and make more connections. I went to Cambodia in December and created a book with the kids, which will be published in the next 2 weeks, then to the Philippines where I created two books in two different schools, which will be published by the end of May.
During my travels this past winter I made amazing connections. In the fall of this year I will be heading to Guatemala for one book, India for two books, Indonesia for one book, and I have three others waiting to be confirmed in Brazil, Peru and an island just outside Turkey.
I travel by myself to these places, it is extremely important that I trust who I am going with and the connections I make. I feel so protected and guided when I am doing this work that I have absolutely no doubt that I have found my calling.
When I am in these schools I feel more alive than I have ever felt in my life. When I hug the children and we play, my heart feels so full it just might burst. This is why I do this work. This is why I sold everything I own, and save all the money I make to travel and publish these books.
My focus now is to get the word out about these books, to get them selling and start raising money for these schools through them. I am working two waitressing jobs to be able to pay for the cost of publishing the books, to pay for craft shows and festivals, and everything else included in starting a new business, as well as save for the fall when I head out to visit the next schools. I no longer own anything of value that I can sell so I need to work harder than ever, but this doesn’t worry me. I am so trusting that this is the work that I am meant to do, that I know everything will fall into place just as it is supposed to.
As I mentioned I am alone in this venture. I pay for everything out of my own pocket, and I manage all the business end of it as well. I created my own website, do my own social media, all the accounting paperwork, etc. I eventually hope to be able to afford to hire people who know these areas of work and can help me make these books a success. My dream is to have them selling consistently enough to create a somewhat substantial and dependable income for these schools.
What is something fun/ interesting/ personal about you and your business?
Everything about this endeavour is personal. The idea for LuAna's Bookshelf began in 2015 when I was on a vacation in Dominican Republic. I started chatting with a local jewellery vendor who told me about his work building homes and schools with missionaries from around the world. I was so intrigued that he offered to take me to see some of these places. When I saw the condition of the school compared to our schools here in Canada, my heart was so overwhelmed with love that I became determined to try and raise money for them. Back in Canada, I tried a few different methods to raise funds. Eventually I came to the realization that I really wanted to involve the children in raising money for their education, empowering them to take control of their futures. That was where the idea for LuAna's Bookshelf came from. I pitched it to the director of the school in Dominican Republic, suggesting I could come into the school to work with the children and have them draw all kinds of pictures, which I would cut and paste together to create the illustrations for a children's storybook I would write. He loved the idea. So, in April of 2016, I jumped on a plane and headed down south for a week to stay in the home of the director and work in the school. So began LuAna's Bookshelf! I want to help these children have a good future, for their countries to be safe and their homes to be secure. It all starts with their education.
What does being a Canadian small business mean to you?
I value being a Canadian Small business as it offers me the opportunity to do this work. If I was born in one of the countries that I am working in, I would not be able to so easily quit my job and travel. Because of my country I am able to help these schools and these children. I have always been proud to be Canadian, but after seeing what I have seen in the short while I have been doing this work, I am not only proud but extremely grateful.
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