Small Business Week Q&A: Jaylen Christie

Jaylen Christie is a communications practitioner who specializes in public relations by day but ventures into the world of graphic novels by night. The two-time Hermes Creative Award winner, like many of us, was impacted by 2020 and was left with time to reflect in isolation. Jaylen returned to characters he created during his childhood to create his first published comic book, “Stink Bomb Man and The Brain Kids.”

We asked for Jaylen’s insights on starting a small creative business. He’s faced obstacles along the way, but like most entrepreneurs, he’s self-driven and pushes through challenges. But with the help of supportive friends, family, and designers, he has brought his childhood creation to life to encourage readers of all ages to embrace who they are and create a life they love.

What’s the first step to starting a business?
For me, it was getting my LLC. As an entrepreneur, having an LLC puts me in a place to be taken more seriously. Additionally, most states recognize a single-member LLC, which means that I can be the sole owner of my business and make my own decisions without having to receive approval from other partners in a general partnership or a board of directors in a corporation. Obtaining an LLC should definitely be a top priority for starting a business.

What’s the greatest misconception that people have about small business ownership?
Probably that it’s easy. Any business takes work to keep it afloat. Oftentimes you may have to handle your own marketing in order to stay relevant with your target audience and turn a profit. You have to hustle. It can be fun, but it certainly isn’t easy. It takes true grit to be an entrepreneur.

How has the growing interest in local small companies benefited your business?
Well, I know that “buy Black” has become a positive mantra. A lot of Black consumers enjoy supporting Black businesses, especially when it’s a small business. That’s fantastic! I’ve received an outpouring of wonderful media attention and support because representation matters. Additionally, there are media outlets that specifically cover small businesses, which has been great in securing coverage for my brand.

At what point in the developing stages of your comic book did you need to consult an outside opinion?
During production, when it came to coloring it and adding letters, I used Twitter to find a professional colorist and letterer to step in to assist me with that portion. Additionally, when it came to the cover design, I worked with an award-winning designer to bring my vision to life. Before releasing my comic book to the public, I shared it with a few of my friends and colleagues to get their opinion first to determine if I needed to tweak anything.

What sets “Stink Bomb Man and The Brain Kids” apart from other comics?
I created the characters as a child due to the lack of representation I saw in superhero cartoons. The three leads in my comic book are all Black. When I was a kid, I had Power Rangers and the X-Men. And yes, while those teams feature racial and ethnic diversity to a certain extent, the vast majority of the superheroes I was exposed to were white. So, as a kid, I developed “Stink Bomb Man and The Brain Kids” for fun and would include them in homemade comic books and short stories that I’d share with friends and family.

Given everything that transpired in 2020, along with recent current events, I felt now was the ideal time to revisit these characters and bring them to life. Representation matters – I’ve incorporated characters across several dimensions of diversity, including LGBTQ representation, those that have disabilities, and people of different ages and body types. My hope is that readers of all ages will see themselves reflected in the pages and will feel inspired.

What do you do to maintain a positive entrepreneurial spirit when reflecting on the hardships you face as a small business owner?
I pray. I grind. I meditate. I listen to songs that motivate me to get things done.If you want to keep up with Jaylen or purchase “Stink Bomb Man and The Brain Kids,” you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram or visit his website.

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