(Feature photo by Allison Fitzsimmons)
We’re thrilled to usher in 2021 for many reasons, and one of them is definitely Baby Ventures™ turning the big five this spring! Since launching our indie board book company in 2016, we have met and collaborated with incredible people and entities – from community-minded indie bookstore owners to educators infusing diversity into their classrooms, and nonprofits working tirelessly to provide access to quality books for all children. And most of all, our amazing customers! We LOVE meeting you at story times, book fairs and art festivals—and nothing makes us happier than hearing that your little ones love our books. That gives us true joy and singular inspiration.
While some of you have followed us from the beginning (thank you!), for anyone new to us, we wanted to take this time to (re)introduce ourselves, share what inspires us, and highlight how we work to accomplish our mission to celebrate diversity and expand growing minds through reading. Read on to learn about our journey, and get a sneak peek of what is coming in 2021 and beyond!
Golzar Kheiltash & Lisa Hall, Co-Founders
We became colleagues and fast friends in 2005 while working at a nonprofit in the Eastern Market neighborhood of our capital city, Washington, DC. Before launching Baby Ventures, Golzar served as a lawyer and advocate for vulnerable women and children in conflict zones worldwide. Lisa is a Peace Corps alum, marketing manager, and lifelong artist. When motherhood entered the picture, so did the idea for creating one‑of‑a‑kind children’s board books celebrating diversity and inspiring growing minds to meaningfully explore our wonder-filled world.
Inaugural Title: The ABCs of Washington, DC
DC’s vibrant and inclusive spirit inspired both our friendship and Baby Ventures’ inaugural title, The ABCs of Washington, DC. First published in 2016, the book quickly began selling out in local indie bookstores and led to further editions. Celebrating the A to Z of our nation’s capital with a local perspective that resonates with residents and visitors alike, The ABCs of Washington, DC brings DC’s diverse neighborhoods, eclectic culture, and timeless national treasures to life.
Our inaugural title not only paved the way for subsequent titles, but also helped us connect with a dynamic community of booksellers, children’s advocates, and educational institutions that are as passionate about tots and books as we are. As a women‑run small business, we prioritize fellow small businesses and wholeheartedly support shopping small and local.
The ABCs of Annapolis
Following in the tradition of locally-inspired board books drawing from our own life experiences, The ABCs of Annapolis sails young readers through Maryland’s beautiful capital city where Lisa has lived for the past decade. Each page not only celebrates the city’s festive traditions and landscapes, but also infuses historical facts and teaches little ones the importance of protecting nature and wildlife. The ABCs of Annapolis is available in richly curated bookstores, specialty stores, and museum shops across the city, where locals and tourists alike converge year-round. We’re also very proud to have our books freely available to all Anne Arundel County children through the Chesapeake Children’s Museum and the Anne Arundel County Public Library (all of our titles are in circulation at all AACPL branches).
Our personal experiences as lifelong travelers, humanitarian advocates, and for Golzar – firsthand experience as an immigrant and bilingual parent – drive our company ethos: celebrating diversity. Our most recent release, ¡Números, Baby! is a bilingual Spanish-English board book that teaches little ones to count from uno a diez. Inspired by Golzar and Lisa’s own adventures across Latin America and Spain, ¡Números, Baby! also introduces youngsters to the stunning beauty and linguistic, cultural, and geographical diversity of the Spanish-speaking world.
As our first bilingual board book, ¡Números, Baby! embodies one of our core company goals: to encourage bilingualism from an early age. Studies have shown that learning a new language is invaluable for the development of youngsters’ brains. Beyond the science, we firmly believe that bilingualism is a uniquely powerful way for children to practice empathy toward – and meaningfully connect with – all members of our global community.
¡Números, Baby! is available from coast to coast and in Puerto Rico, including at incredible indie bookstores and specialty stores in Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and San Juan. Thanks to this title, we’ve also welcomed inspiring collaborations, including with Hola Amigo – a monthly bilingual reading and activity box subscription company – which featured ¡Números, Baby! for its highly anticipated September 2020 Back-to-School Toddler Busy Box. Wherever ¡Números, Baby! is sold, we proudly donate a percentage of every sale to World Central Kitchen (WCK), founded by renowned chef and humanitarian advocate, José Andrés. WCK is a trail-blazing nonprofit relief organization providing meals and assistance to local populations in the wake of disasters worldwide, including several locations depicted in our book.
Building Community & Connecting with Customers
We have treasured getting to know our customers from across the globe, and have forged unique collaborations with our retailers – many of whom are fellow women-run, indie, and invaluable community hubs within their respective cities and neighborhoods. Thanks to a shared vision – inspiring tots to explore our beautifully diverse world through board books – we have partnered with retailers, schools, hospitals, literacy centers, and much more to provide families with free author events, including story times, donation drives, and book signings. Just a few of these include:
At Baby Ventures, children are our greatest inspiration. We are dedicated to assisting trusted organizations – big or small – that work tirelessly to advance children’s causes. We strive to support these organizations’ efforts in two ways: through charitable giving and by partnering on various initiatives.
In May 2019, we traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to visit Escuela Inés María Mendoza, a “receptor” school that took in additional students whose local schools were destroyed by Hurricane Maria. We hosted an interactive story time for pre-K through first grade students, and delivered over 200 books we had collected for the school library. In the truest sense of what it means to be community-minded bookstores, two of our long-time retailers in Washington, DC – East City Bookshop and Loyalty Bookstore – helped collect books by setting up donations drives at their stores.
Children’s National Hospital in DC is home to one of ten Seacrest Studios nationwide. Provided by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, this state-of-the-art studio hosts guests, celebrities, and public figures including First Lady Michelle Obama. Because many patients are unable to leave their beds, the studio broadcasts shows live to each room throughout the hospital. Patients can tune in to listen, request songs, and even ask questions of in-studio guests. Despite the studio’s packed guest schedule, we had the honor of hosting a very special Storybook Magic in June 2018 with our ABCs of Washington, DC. We also donated copies of our titles to the Family Resource Center, which provides a quiet place for reading and respite, a Book Cart for bedside book deliveries, and other comforts for families in their time of need.
A Look Ahead
Just as for many of you, Covid-19 has posed unimaginable challenges for us, as well as many of our indie retailers nationwide (PLEASE shop small whenever you can and support your local community businesses!). While the pandemic has impacted our business as usual of hosting events and connecting with communities in-person, we have taken advantage of this downtime to unleash our creativity. We’re very excited to report that new artwork and books are in progress! Focusing on our mission to create diversity-inspired books with themes of exploration, inclusion and empathy, forthcoming titles include topics on:
- Ecoliteracy and our interconnected world
- Shapes and modeling inclusion and kindness
- Poetry, diverse languages and phonemic awareness
- Colors and themes of exploration, empathy, and unity
- Endangered animals and protecting Earth’s creatures
- Opposites and exploring natural and human-made wonders
We can’t wait to share our new artwork and provide updates on release dates for upcoming titles. And we really can’t wait to reconnect with our retailers and customers in-person, as well as forge new relationships in our broader community of book readers and sellers!
To all who ave joined us at any point on our journey – we can’t thank you enough for your support! We are so grateful for our community of indie retailers across the country and most of all, our dedicated customers who inspire and uplift us at every turn. It has been a truly magical five years, and we look ahead to sharing the next five with you as we further our mission: inspiring little ones to explore our global village early on with boldly illustrated, diversity and adventure-inspired board books and artwork!
Happy reading and exploring, from our Baby Ventures family to yours,
Lisa and Golzar