Shyanne Valentine founded More Than A Coloring Book as a way to heal and inspire people through coloring pages and journaling prompts. Her current offering, Kuumba, celebrates women in cultures from all over the world.
Shyanne is one of 11 Connecticut-based startups participating in the reSET 2022 Impact Accelerator. She shared with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her entrepreneurial journey and what she hopes to gain from the accelerator experience.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about More Than A Coloring Book. How did this idea start?
SHYANNE VALENTINE: This idea started a few years ago. There are two parts to this story. My mom passed away while I was at college in Atlanta and I was looking for outlets to heal from the experience.
I was using journals and coloring books to help with the grieving process but I didn’t really identify with them. I realized there was a huge gap in materials where I felt represented. So, I had the idea to create my own materials for therapeutic purposes.
After I graduated college, I landed a job overseas teaching in China. I spent four years travelling throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East. I met so many interesting, beautiful, inspiring people. And I was still on this healing journey, so I tried all different practices including meditation, visiting temples, and doing yoga.
It was awesome. I was gathering all this inspiration without knowing I would eventually use it to create a coloring book.
When I finally returned home, I had the idea for the coloring book, but it became much more than something that represented me. I wanted to create a coloring book that represented people from all over. I saw so many differences, but I also experienced so many similarities in the different cultures. We all have our own healing practices and tools but we’re not so different from each other.
I wanted the first coloring book to have a central theme, so I decided to focus on women from around the world to shed light on all these different cultures. The book includes journaling pages, quotes, and images of women from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. It can be used as a multi-layered tool for healing and simply a way to connect with people who are different and alike.
NAN: Let’s transition into your entrepreneur journey. Did you always have an entrepreneurial spark or know you were going to launch some sort of business?
SHYANNE: I did. I was inspired by my mom and my grandmother, who opened a first-of-its-kind store called Minor Things in the Trumbull Mall in the 1990s. The store sold African artifacts straight from Ghana. My mom had her own grocery store, her own limo company, and her own leather jacket shop.
I was being raised by these really strong women and they were inspiring me. So, I knew in my heart that I wanted to carry on that legacy. Because I think it’s great to work for a company, but it’s even more powerful to create something of your own you can then share with others and inspire others to do something different with their lives as well.
I’ve always had this idea of creating my own health and wellness center or some sort of business that brings people together. The coloring book is a stepping stone toward that.
NAN: How did you become involved with reSET?
SHYANNE: I wanted to sharpen my business skills, so I did some research to find a business accelerator. I was looking all over the east and west coasts and I found reSET, which just happened to be local. What drew me to reSET is the grassroots approach, which I feel is the most important thing, because that’s really the bread and butter of our local community.
NAN: What are you hoping to gain from participating in the accelerator?
SHYANNE: I hope to build my network with other local entrepreneurs and gain the knowledge I need to fine tune my business. More Than A Coloring Book is the starting point for what I’m really trying to do. To move forward, I need to focus on fine tuning what I have in front of me. I think participating in the reSET accelerator will be the perfect avenue.
NAN: What’s your biggest entrepreneurial challenge right now?
SHYANNE: Finding the right help to accomplish certain things. I’ve come to learn that having a team is the best thing when it comes to starting a business—but it can also be one of the most challenging things, especially if you don’t know how to manage, maneuver, or train people, or if you don’t know how to properly vocalize your vision or goals. So, creating a productive team is one of my biggest challenges because I can’t do everything on my own—even though I try. I can’t be my own accountant and creator and marketer. I need to find resources and people who specialize in those areas.
NAN: You mentioned marketing. How are you building out the brand and finding clientele?
SHYANNE: I started by focusing mostly on social media. I use Instagram and Facebook ads. I built my own website using Shopify, which is a basic, clean structure where I can funnel my Instagram followers.
I also use pop-up shops to market. People get to meet me and see the coloring book. Sometimes, I’ll print out a blow-up page and let people color it together so they can get the feel of what it is and how it can be helpful.
NAN: You were saying the coloring books are the jumping off point. What’s next?
SHYANNE: Ultimately, the plan is to open my own health and wellness center, which, like the coloring book, will be more than what it seems. The idea would be to bring people together to experience different wellness practices from around the world.