Welcome to the sixth installment of “Awesome Black entrepreneurs you should know and support” series. As you know in the United States, the Black dollar circulates only once in the Black community; while in the Asian, White and Jewish American communities their dollar circulates 17-21 times. This series aims to end that disparity. You see Black businesses hire Black people and Black jobs create Black wealth. Our goal is creating, growing and maintaining multi-generational Black wealth. We want you know about Black owned businesses and the inspiring people behind them.
I would love to introduce you to Louie T. McClain II. He is the Founder & CEO of Melanin Origins, which is one of largest Afrocentric book providers in the United States.
Bougie: Tell us about yourself?
Louie: My name is Louie T. McClain II and I am from of Arlington, Texas, but my parents were born in Liberia, West Africa. I received my Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice from Pensacola Christian College and I also am a FAA Licensed Aircraft Dispatcher. I have spent the majority of my adult life creating avenues of change via volunteering, creating a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helped adult ex-offenders get connected to jobs, establishing a project that grants scholarships to children in Liberia, and working to impact the lives of troubled youth in Pensacola, FL as well as Dallas and Fort Worth, TX. I am a proud father of two beautiful children named Serenity and Noah whose life, smile, and energy brighten up my day and instantly refuel my ambitions of living a joyful life, being successful, and encouraging others to do the same.
Bougie: Who or what inspires you?
Louie: Outside of my Christian faith and my beautiful mother, I would have to say that I am inspired and intrigued by the resilience and tenacity of African American leaders who stand for truth, justice, and overcoming any obstacle placed in their way. This is actually why Melanin Origins, LLC was created, but to me more specific and name one person – I would have to say the life of Fred Hampton inspires me the most. Fred was a strong, energetic, and passionate leader in many organizations in Chicago in the 1960’s. He never committed a crime, but he believed in justice.
While few leaders in Chicago, and other major cities across the U.S., have the knowhow to rally the elite among us, the affluent, the politically conscious, the religious, and even the poor, Fred Hampton had the special ability to reach rival street gangs and turn their hearts and energies away from drugs and crime and towards social and economic justice. He used the knowledge he learned from studying Pre-Law to aid the feeble during their encounters with law enforcement; Fred used his energy to wake up and feed hungry families at 6 A.M. each morning. Brother Hampton was a powerful leader that impacted more change by the time of his death at age 21 then most people that I can name today, including myself.
Bougie: Wow. So tell us about Melanin Origins and what inspired you to start Melanin Origins?
Louie: The company is a LLC that was incorporated in Delaware in January 2016. Our members live in Texas, but our market is primarily online as well as in schools, libraries, and bookstores nationwide. Our mission is to provide quality education materials that inspire young minds to aspire for excellence while embracing their heritage at the same time. The vision of Melanin Origins is to be the largest Afrocentric book provider in the United States. We stand on the foundation of excellence lived through the lives of Marcus Garvey, Madame C.J. Walker, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Bessie Coleman, and the list goes on and on.
Dr. Umar Johnson’s messages inspired me to dig deeper and learn more about my heritage as well as being unapologetic in my approach, and Dr. Boyce Watkin’s overall theme of being your own boss and creating your own business is what presently motivates me to achieve great things. These two gentlemen changed my life and gave me the willpower to create a company that stands on such beautiful pillars as Melanin Origins’. I happened upon these gentlemen about at age 28; my children and the children of the world will be empowered with stories of greatness from actual historical figures beginning at 9 months. Simply put, Melanin Origins, LLC was founded with the purpose of sharing messages of lesser-known African-American pioneers to the children of the world to empower them to aspire for excellence and chase their dreams regardless of any complications that may be in their way or come their way.
Bougie: Amen! We know many companies ignore African-Americans. Melanin Origins is different because your company reaffirms our culture. Please explain to our readers how does Melanin Origins address the needs of Black children?
Louie: Reaffirming our culture is a part of our mission and core values. As a matter of fact, the third tenant of our core values is: Pride in Black Excellence. How are African-Americans portrayed in the media? Thugs. Criminals. Lazy. Irresponsible. Over Sexualized. Dangerous. A Second-Class Citizen only good enough to be someone else’s entertainer. These negative audio and visual images greatly impact the psyche of black people and especially our children, so it’s very important that we constantly reaffirm the great achievements that people of color have achieved throughout the world, past and present, as well as building an acknowledgement of the greatness that lies within their own bodies at this present moment right now.
It is our belief that a person is not great solely because she/he is black and the same is to be said of brown, white, red, and yellow people. Color or race doesn’t dictate greatness neither does it indicate inferiority. Everyone has the capacity to do great things and lead excellent lives, but black people have been marginalized all around the world. This is why Melanin Origins feels it is necessary to tell these stories especially for those that feel the strain of poverty, constant stereotypes, discrimination, etc.
To be fair or keep it 100% - there are some of us who see no problem in perpetuating these stereotypes and continuing the vicious cycles that lead to the degradation of families and communities. It is our job to reach them: the parent as well as the child. They need to know that their worth is not in “rachetness”, sexuality, crime, or any other anti-social behaviors, but their worth is measured in love, providing for their family, integrity, and positive self-determination. When the world is staring you down, cursing you, and casting you off as unworthy – the reaffirmed child will have all that she/he needs to beat the odds and excel at whatever she/he puts her/his mind to.
Bougie: Exactly! What are your goals for Melanin Origins?
Louie: Our first book, “Brick by Brick: A Snippet of the Life of Booker T. Washington”, was released on April 15th, 2016 and we plan on releasing, “Power in My Pen: A Snippet of the life of Ida B. Wells”, this fall. We have hard and paperback books, but we will provide E-Books and get into audio as well. We have an excellent illustrator whose past experience is in the gaming industry, so we are looking forward to mobile applications as well as the introduction of a cartoon show. We just received five thousand books, so our most immediate goal is to sell all books by December 31, 2016.
Our stories are so rich, the illustrations are so eloquent, and the feel of the pages are so delicate that there’s no need to debate the unmatched quality product that we are presenting to the world. Even though we can boast of quality, Melanin Origins still has a community restoration campaign which donates books to children. On the day before Father’s Day this year we have partnered with a Soulgood (a vegan food company), the Dallas Public Library, and the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas for a program in which our company will donate 50 books to participants, provide healthy meals for the children, and have fully uniformed police officers read to the kids as well. Everyone is reaching deep down within themselves to impact change for the next generation and we plan on duplicating this model across the nation.
Bougie: What advice would you give other Black entrepreneurs who want to start a business?
Louie: I would encourage an entrepreneur to 1) surround his/herself with positive people and mentors (there is a difference in the two), 2) brainstorm a product or service that he/she wholeheartedly believes in, 3) write the business plan in full – don’t keep it all in your mind and don’t have bit and pieces lying around here and there. Research the SBA: Small Business Administration. The SBA is a governmental entity which will direct a person to one of its many Small Business Development Centers nearby and connect that person with a business professional that will walk them through business creation and sustainability processes for free. Yes, it is free. Actually your tax money is already paying for it, so why not make good use of it.
The major thing to consider is: IS IT FEASIBLE? I must emphasize this. Many times we have great ideas and we want to do it just because it sounds great to us, but the world might have difference of opinion. Sometimes we don’t have all the necessary resources at the time to accomplish our vision, but we still try to put it out there prematurely. This is a huge no-no. To thine own self be true, so we just have to be honest with ourselves regarding the “ifs” and “whens” of establishing a business. Lastly, do not fret at failure or disappointment, because this is expected during certain points in life and in business. Revert back to the wisdom and guidance from your positive friends and mentors, accept your shortcomings, learn from your mistakes, and then bounce back ten times stronger.
Bougie: PREACH!! Great advice! So where can we buy Melanin Origins’ books?
Louie: Our book can be purchased at www.MelaninOrigins.com. The hardcover is only $11.89 and the paperback is a meager $8.99. In closing I’ll ask you… what’s your M.O.? What’s your Melanin Origin or inspirational historical figure? Now, what’s your Modus Operandi or Method of Operation in passing that knowledge to the next generation? We have just what you need. Thank you for your time and may God Bless You.
Bougie: It’s been an honor and privilege. Thank you so much.
No more complaining. Black people now have the ability to shape our lives and images. That starts by supporting Melanin Origins and other Black owned businesses. Let’s do it!
The only limit you have is the one you have placed on yourself. Think and be limitless!