Raya Rahman, Oakland, California
The bespectacled elephant is 2! This past November marked the two year anniversary for Guba Publishing, a Bangladeshi-American children’s publishing house that I launched with my talented friend Inshra. I have to admit that starting a business has been a most challenging undertaking. In the beginning, I was constantly searching for some invisible to-do-manual that could guide me to make all the right decisions. It was like being a new parent all over again! But like all new parents, I soon realized that no such manual existed. In fact, the anxieties, frustrations and sleepless nights are all just a part of the journey.
November 15, 2017 - Guba Publishing’s very first customer at the Dhaka Literary Festival, Dhaka, Bangladesh
It’s a journey with many twists and turns, and over time, I think the ones still holding on learn to love it. We’re definitely holding on and as we begin a new year and decade, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate us. Here are five awesome achievements for Guba Publishing I am truly thankful for!
#1 A BEAUTIFUL COLLABORATION
With Inshra, aged 12 or 13, goofing around in our mothers’ sarees.
Inshra has been creating unique and visually gorgeous content, through art, photography and film as far back as I can remember. We’ve been friends since we were eight years old, so when I decided to start a creative business, I could think of no better person to collaborate with. As fate would have it, around the same time she had also written and illustrated a children’s book called “Tiny Jumps In” and was looking to get it published. Inshra owns a design and production company called Studio Inku that Guba partnered with to conceptualize and bring to life a cool line of diverse children’s titles, not to mention our adorable logo and branding, and we continue to work together today to bring untold stories to the mainstream.
#2 MEANINGFUL PARTNERSHIPS
Video by NowThis Media about the creation of “The Unexpected Friend - A Rohingya Children’s Story”
Speaking of untold stories, Inshra and I are honored to have partnered with aid agency Save the Children to create the first children’s book about Rohingya refugee families living in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
How it all happened…A lot of people have asked us how this partnership happened so soon after we launched. The answer is that we successfully spread the word about our publishing initiative within our own networks. An old school friend of both mine and Inshra’s connected us to Save the Children’s Rohingya Response Team members upon hearing that they wanted to create a children’s storybook centering around the kids affected by the crisis. In English and Bangla. Well that’s kind of exactly what we do!
After months of working together with some incredible human beings at Save the Children, The Unexpected Friend - A Rohingya Children’s Story, was released in November 2019. The Rohingya children who originally inspired this book received a Burmese language version in October as a gift from Save the Children.
This year we also partnered with The Asia Foundation on their Books for Asia and Let’s Read initiatives. Books for Asia puts brand-new books and digital content into the hands of students, educators, and leaders in 20 countries to increase their access to valuable information. Let’s Read, a wholly digital initiative, creates, translates, and delivers educational content to children any time, any place, in languages they use at home and school, dramatically improving access. Guba Publishing has committed to donate its children’s content in digital form to these important literacy tools.
With the team at the Books for Asia (Asia Foundation) office in San Leandro, California
#3 RETAIL DISTRIBUTION IN BANGLADESH
It is no small feat for us to have distribution in Aarong, the number one lifestyle retailer in Bangladesh. And this is all thanks to Inshra’s stellar reputation with Aarong’s leadership team for the breathtakingly beautiful advertising campaigns she has created for many of their brands. Aarong currently operates fourteen outlets in six Bangladeshi metropolitan cities. It is owned by the non-profit development agency BRAC, and employs thousands of rural artisans across the country.
And with both me and Inshra living in the United States and United Kingdom respectively, I depend wholly on my superstar mother, who lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to fulfill all our Bangladesh orders. That’s right, we’re all about the ‘mompreneurs’ here!
Our twitter feed from Dhaka Lit Fest in November 2018!
#4 SCHOOL DISTRIBUTION IN USA
One of the things I’ve loved about this journey is the way the initial idea has grown and evolved. Starting out with a Bengali focus, we quickly realized that our stories and illustrations have more universal appeal. Getting a booth at the 2019 Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California turned out to be a great decision, as we met educators and school librarians there, one of whom recommended us to their educational content provider, Follett School Solutions. Follett has over 140 years of history in the United States, working with 80,000 schools as a leading provider of education technology, services and print and digital content. Thanks to such amazing advocates, our diverse titles are now available to school children in the United States! The Guba story was also captured in a podcast interview by Follett Sales Consultant, Nathanael Troupe (hit play below to listen).
Listen to podcast here
#5 YOU, THE AUDIENCE
And last, but not least, I am thankful for YOU, our customers, supporters, advocates and ambassadors. We’ve existed for two years because you have given us your valuable attention, and we can’t wait to continue our relationship with you in 2020 and beyond.
Happy New Year from all of us at Guba Publishing!