Since 2012, Great British Entrepreneur Awards’ partner, SumUp, has worked towards its vision of a world where independent business owners can be successful doing what they love. By providing powerful and affordable tools, such as their innovative card readers and the SumUp Card for even faster payouts, more than three million businesses of all sizes now choose SumUp for payments both in-store and online.
Pamela Aculey is one of the three million entrepreneurs using SumUp for their business.
Just Like Me Books is a small, family-run illustrated books business that utilises augmented reality technology to represent the underrepresented, striving to champion minority and disabled characters in children’s stories. By combining concepts of real and virtual worlds, AR technology brings their stories to life making it a fun and interesting learning experience – especially for children with disabilities and additional needs. It is currently the only UK business to use AR technology in a way that promotes diversity and inclusiveness, something Pamela is incredibly proud of.
The founder started writing children’s books in 2018 and launched Just Like Me Books in 2019 after the birth of her third child. Like many entrepreneurs, Pamela launched the business as a side hustle alongside her job. But it was a quick transition to a full-time endeavour – just five months in fact.
“From the moment I had the idea to write children’s books, I worked towards turning my passion, personal experiences and purpose into a business that could help others and diversify the publishing industry,” Pamela recalls.
“The timing wasn’t ‘perfect’ – I was raising three children under the age of five – but there never is a perfect time to start a business.”
Catering to needs
In 2017, Pamela’s eldest son Walter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder and was non-verbal. As parents, Pamela and her partner looked for children’s books where, as a family, they could learn about neurodiversity, but they struggled.
“We wanted Walter to see himself in the pages of the books we read together, but we couldn’t find any,” she says.
“The saying goes ‘create the things you wish existed’, so I did.”
Just Like Me Books promotes and explores diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance and kindness.
“As a black mother raising three bi-racial boys (one with a disability) I am fully aware of the lack of diversity in children’s literature and the work that needs to be done in relation to better representation,” Pamela explains.
“We know that reading to children is good for their learning and development, but what about children who can’t read, have speech and language delays, have learning disabilities, who are non-verbal etc? Surely we should be creating books that also cater to their needs too?”
Driven by digital
Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, near countless small, independent businesses have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation to stay afloat. Pamela is not afraid to say that digital has been vital in the survival and growth of Just Like Me Books.
“Every aspect, including a large part of our product, is digital. Our sales platforms are all digital marketplaces, all our marketing is through social media, online publications and our augmented reality app,” Pamela adds.
“We would not have achieved the reach or exposure without having digital spaces in which to present ourselves.”
Just Like Me Books has been a SumUp customer since June 2021, and immediately saw a significant difference in the way it does business.
“Being a SumUp customer has helped incredibly in this digital age,” Pamela says. “At the rare opportunities where we have been able to exhibit or had face-to-face sales, most of our customers no longer carry cash.
“At our last event, the Black British Book Festival in Birmingham, over 75% of our sales were completed either with a bank card or with the tap of a mobile phone.
“The fact that SumUp links into our business account with Starling Bank is also a massive help when keeping track of our finances.”
Helping heroes shape their own story
With the end of the pandemic now seemingly in sight, many entrepreneurs are setting their sights on the future. And while there is plenty in the pipeline for Just Like Me Books, Pamela is determined to “continue to provide books where children feel inspired and visible”.
“We are passionate about creating more books that champion diversity and inclusiveness, as well as creating more augmented reality app to support interactive learning,” she explains.
“Tech education is an area we are super excited about and are currently working on early years series for schools with a focus on mental health and learning through technology.
“There is a lot in the pipeline, but our mission remains the same: to help create a fair and inclusive world where all children, regardless of ethnicity, disability, gender or background, can say they are the hero of their own story.”
Find out more about SumUp and their services here.