Alexandria Scott has been on a long journey to be actively anti-racist. She's had her own personal experiences with racism, but when it came to teaching her three young children about the subject, she was unable to find the exact right tools. "Sometimes we need help as parents finding words to explain some of the darkest corners of our society," Scott tells Refinery29. "We don't want to scare our young children and we also don't want to diminish their self-esteem — that's particularly important for Black and indigenous kids of color." Once she had identified this crucial need, Scott decided to step up and create a product that met it. This led her to launch Ditto Kids Magazine, a magazine that guides children through active anti-racism. "It's meant to be something that empowers kids and encourages them to love themselves and to love other people while still sharing that real, decolonized history in a developmentally appropriate way."
In this edition of Talking Shop, Scott tells us how she decided that a magazine was the ideal format for teaching kids about anti-racism. She also shares how her experience working in schools and in the non-profit world served her in launching Ditto Kids and how childcare concerns pose her biggest business challenges.
Walk me through the process of launching Ditto Kids Magazine.
I was actually working on it for about three years before we put it on Kickstarter. I have three young children, and I'd always been pretty good with diversity and inclusion education, but I began to see how crucial it was that I be teaching my kids active anti-racism and anti-bias education. As a Black mother and mother of Black biracial kids, this was just a huge priority for me, but I also had a lot of people in my life who wanted to teach their kids these really important things and just didn't know where to start. I had been looking around, trying to find resources as a parent, but I couldn't find anything that I could hold in my hands and read with my child. I saw loads of training for parents, which are great, but when you're a busy parent, you really want something physical that you can work on with your kids, something that's been prepared for your kids for you. So I said, "I'm going to make a magazine." And then I said, "No way. A magazine is way too hard. I'll just do a curriculum." I wrote out a curriculum supplement, which we'll end up releasing a little later, but eventually, I switched back to a magazine format because I am a firm believer in print products. Like I said, a kid should be able to hold it in their hands. When you make everything digital, parents and educators then need to be printing stuff off, which just doesn't help to motivate people. It's just an extra step, and I wanted to make it as simple as possible. So back to a magazine it went.
I had been doing a lot of education surrounding anti-racism for myself through that three-year period — I took some classes, did lots of reading, things like that. So I wrote the magazine and I looked on Instagram to find illustrators who I felt matched the ethos of the magazine and would help relay the feeling and the intent that we were hoping to communicate. Then, I needed to lay it out. I did a lot of YouTubing of how to use InDesign because I'd never used it before so that was fun. My printer, mercifully, had some support so I spent a lot of time on the phone with them too, but YouTube was my friend for sure. After I laid it out, I sent it to a graphic designer to help clean it up in ways that I just wasn't able to. Then we got photos done, got everything ready, made a Kickstarter video, and put it up on Kickstarter.
People were so wonderful and the response was honestly really unprecedented. I'm so grateful to everyone who supported us on Kickstarter. Since we were funded, we've just been working hard. We just shipped things out to people, and at this point, we are moving on to working on the next issue.
Refinery29: Can you tell me a little bit about your professional background? Did you go to business school or ever work in publishing?
I have no business training. I'm actually deeply from the nonprofit world. I definitely have no experience in publishing unless you count my high school newspaper. I worked at places like United Way. I worked at Boys & Girls Club for many years, and I loved it. I also worked in education, teaching ESL in private schools, but no business training and no publishing experience. I just jumped in.
Do you feel like your experience in the nonprofit world or your experience teaching has served you in any specific way when it came to launching Ditto Kids?
Yes, 100%. I always say, I'm not a teacher anymore, but I definitely think I have a teacher's heart and I love teaching kids. I love helping them make creative connections. That is something very special, and I think that's definitely central to our magazine's mission. And working in nonprofits has definitely served me. My last job in nonprofit was as a program director, and the experience of managing and directing a program is very similar to the experience of putting this magazine together. It's just managing a lot of people, a lot of moving pieces, and stepping in on the details when you have to but also learning to let go where you need to as well.
You mentioned the Kickstarter. Is that the only funding that you have received so far? How do you plan on funding Ditto Kids Magazine moving forward?
Yeah, that's been our main funding. As soon as the Kickstarter ended, we opened up our websites for orders the next day. So we have been receiving orders since then. We do potentially have some more supplementary educational materials in the pipeline. There's a chance that we might consider crowdfunding for those, but I'm really not sure yet.
Do you have any employees and do you see yourself expanding to employ more people in the future?
Up until maybe a month ago, it was just me. My husband was supporting me from an operational standpoint, which is just so wonderful because he has a full-time job too. Now, we've expanded our little team a little bit. We now have one person — who is actually my sister and I love her — helping with customer service and then we have someone helping me with social media and marketing. She's amazing and I love her as well.
This year, we're just starting with two issues because we're in the middle of the pandemic and shipping is kind of wild right now. Also, as we were leading up to this, beginning in March 2020, I started seeing how people — freelancers, photographers, illustrators — were having their deadlines compromised because none of us have childcare. I've tried to work in flexibility so we can get through this together. We might be interested in doing more issues a year, and we would definitely need a little bit of a bigger team for that, but for the time being, I'm enjoying being able to exercise a little bit more control over our copy while we're establishing our voice. It also gives us more time to find the right people to join our team, which in this space, is something that is top-shelf important to me. I'm also fully committed to always having a majority global majority team — majority Black indigenous people of color — so we're just being very intentional about who and how we hire.
That issue of childcare is such a huge challenge for people, especially right now. What would you say has been your biggest business challenge so far?
Honestly, I would say that that is my biggest challenge. The reality is that even pre-pandemic having a work-life balance was always a challenge for women because that's how our society has been structured. I actually just saw something today from the ACLU that said of the 1.1 million workers who had left the workforce in September 2020, 80% were women. I fully get that because, with the pandemic, I have three kids, six and under, and they've been home with me full time since March so my biggest challenge is being a present parent but also carving time out for work.
I saw a writer share something recently. She said, "I hate to say it, but when this pandemic is over, I'm almost scared of going back to the way it was, having zero help at home ever." I guess her partner is home now during the day, as is my partner during the day, and I'm scared to go back to that because it's rough. But I really appreciate the question because I am a firm believer that, in work environments, we should be talking about our families. We should be talking about our children — both men and women — because it's part of life. It's important if we're ever going to get to a place where we're respecting both men and women, but definitely women, in the workforce.
On the flip side of that, what about the biggest business win?
I was most excited and I think it felt the most real to me when my advanced copies of the magazine were sent to me. So I got 20 advanced copies sent to me before we did the big print run after the Kickstarter. When I first got that box and I opened it, I was just so excited. It was real. I was holding it in my hands, I had made this thing, and I had basically done it by myself. I was just so proud of myself. There is so much digital clutter in our lives, but to know that I'd made something that would be on people's bookshelves, it's exciting. It's a little terrifying at the same time but mostly really exciting.
What is your ultimate goal with Ditto Kids Magazine?
The ultimate goal is to flip the script for this generation of kids, to create a world where there's justice for all the terrible things that have happened in the name of racism, and to create less of that moving forward. That's a pretty big, pie-in-the-sky goal, but I tell myself that if one kid reads the magazine and that changes the way that they conduct their lives, it can cause a ripple effect. If even just one kid was changed by it, that would make me really happy.