Kathryn Starke is an urban elementary school reading specialist, literacy consultant, keynote speaker, and author. A native of Richmond Virginia, Kathryn graduated from Longwood University with a BS degree in elementary education and a Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. She has taught first, second, and third grade and served as a literacy specialist for a decade in inner city/Title I schools in Richmond, Virginia. Kathryn travels to schools and organizations throughout the nation presenting workshops in urban literacy education for children, parents, teachers, and administrators.
Kathryn serves as the founder/CEO of Creative Minds publications, which exemplifies quality literacy instruction for all children. CMP publishes engaging and educational children’s literature. As the author of Amy’s Travels, she travels worldwide to bring this multicultural title to life. Kathryn presents at reading and writing conferences throughout the nation and is a keynote speaker for many nonprofit organizations and events. She is a freelance educational writer for a variety of magazines including Education Digest. Kathryn was named one of the 50 Great Writers you Should Be Reading in 2012.
Where did the idea for Creative Minds Publications, LLC come from?
I started Creative Minds Publications initially to publish and market my very first children’s book, Amy’s Travels. We publish engaging and educational materials for all children, mainly written by fellow educators for elementary aged students. Once I started sharing my work through presentations, I realized that teachers were really looking for professional development and trainings. I expanded my company to include literacy coaching and educational consulting, which has really sparked growth in my business.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My schedule changes every single day, which I love. A usual day includes checking my emails over breakfast before heading out for the day. I will either be in an elementary school serving as a visiting author or a literacy consultant for a six to eight hour school day. I use happy hours to catch up with friends and potential clients or partners in future collaborations. In the evening if I don’t have an author appearance or speaking engagement, I am at home working. I update my social media accounts, respond to more emails, research up and coming trends in my field to spark ideas, and write.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m definitely a big picture person! Once I have an idea in my mind, I network with anyone I can who will work with me to achieve a common goal. I understand that big ideas take a long time to really happen, so I remain both patient and diligent in seeing an idea into fruition. Along the way, I continue to bring little ideas to life from writing more books, developing new presentations, and creating workshops to keep people excited and loyal to my work and company.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
In education, a trend that excites me is collaboration and creativity in a 21st century classroom. I also love how teachers are using pinterest as the ultimate platform for sharing articles and great ideas.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am a former elementary school classroom teacher. Communication with our students’ parents, colleagues, and administrators are expected on a regular basis. We must return emails and phone calls within a day. This instilled habit of mine definitely makes me more productive as an entrepreneur because I personally respond to every email I receive within 12-24 hours and keep communication lines open.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I would say the worst job I ever had was my very first one to get me into a school system. I drove 45 minutes to and from this elementary school every single day. Rather than having my own classroom for an entire school year, I was paid less than half a teacher’s salary to serve as a third grade tutor and copy girl. I was able to spend a year observing all types of teachers to determine exactly what teacher I wanted to be myself and what materials were necessary for our students to receive the best education.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have gotten on Facebook and Twitter much earlier than I did to really connect with individuals to share my work to a global audience. I was fighting social media for a while!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I read a lot of articles, magazines, biographies, and books to constantly learn about new strategies, tricks, and successful individuals. I am always re-inspired in my own work to add new services or create updated products.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I have learned to really listen to what my clients need and always like to reach out and add new products and services that are relevant and of great use. My children’s book, Amy’s Travels, has now been out for 8 years but is now in its second edition and third printing. It’s used in homes and schools in over 20 countries on 6 continents because it teaches a variety of objectives. Since my clients are primarily teachers, I know I can connect with them primarily on pinterest and teachers pay teachers, both have dramatically grown my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Gosh, I feel that failure is just a part of being an entrepreneur, and I only learn from such failures. I know one I had to overcome the fact that I was not taken seriously as a CEO in the very beginning because I was young, I am a female, and I have no experience in business. I have a BS degree in elementary education and Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. I realized I needed to show my knowledge and expertise in urban literacy education through appearances, literacy nights, and schools so people could see me in action. Once people read my work or observed me at work, they recognized I am a business leader in education.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In education, experts are often sought out but how do they know who you are. Developing a newsletter, email blasts, or editorial column in relation to your business is huge. Think of a creative name that draws your audience in and send out top ten lists, best articles, and visuals on a regular basis that showcases you as the expert of your craft.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I have danced since I was three-years-old. I’ve taken ballet, tap, jazz, baton, cheer, hip-hop, African dance, ballroom, and Latin dance. I even performed salsa and samba with a professional dance partner for a recital just a few years ago.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I definitely love how social media and networks such as LinkedIn have allowed me to connect with a broader audience to share my work. WordPress is great because it was an easy way to share a more personal side of me including blog posts and my calendar of events. Lastly, I would say that Google Drive is a lifesaver for not losing documents and for collaborating more easily on projects.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun is an amazing story of a social and educational nonprofit that was initially started based on one idea and grassroots efforts.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I really love learning from both innovative and successful leaders like super mogul Kathy Ireland and businessman and philanthropist Blake Mycoskie.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.