Dorothée Bolade arrived in Montreal from the UK with her one-year-old daughter in the winter of 2017, ready to embark on a new adventure and expand her resume with international work experience. As an English speaker, Dorothée found out about YES pretty early on and signed up around a month after her arrival, as she was eager to find employment. It was during this experience of YES that she first learned about the amazing support offered to Entrepreneurs and Artists and signed up for the coaching opportunities. Fortunately, she found a job in her desired career sector very early on in her job search, causing her interest in entrepreneurship to take a back seat.
Three years later, during the lockdowns of 2020, like many parents, Dorothée was juggling home-schooling and working remotely, and she had time to really examine her daughter’s reading and learning materials. Dorothée’s daughter was going through a phase of loving the film Frozen and was mesmerized by the characters and the Kingdom of Arendelle and it was at this point that it dawned on her that her daughter knew much more about this imaginary Kingdom than the real-life African Kingdoms of her cultural heritage. With a lack of culturally diverse coloring books celebrating African history on the market, Dorothée decided that she would create her own – which was the beginning of her journey to creating a line of coloring books that celebrate African History and culture. It was around this time that she re-engaged with the Artist coaching services offered by YES.
YES: What was the problem you were experiencing before you came to YES?
Dorothée: Coming from the UK, I had no clue about some of the basic things like how and where to register a business in Quebec for example, so as a relative newcomer to this province the training sessions offered by YES have been invaluable. Furthermore, before being matched with my YES Artist Coach Caroline, I had no one to bounce my ideas off or an accountability partner who could hold me to my word. Family and friends have been supportive, but to have someone who is consistently interested in how I am progressing and genuinely wants to see me succeed, makes a big difference. Some of my most productive periods are those days leading up to my meeting with my coach, where I force myself to carve out the time to make sure that I get things done. It can be stressful but so far it’s been working well for me.
YES: What stage are you at now? What have been your greatest achievements?
Dorothée: In February 2023, I was honored to be named a CBC Montreal Black Changemaker for my coloring books, which has been an amazing experience. I have received media coverage including a profile on the dedicated Changemakers webpage and also an interview on the ‘Let’s go’ radio show. The opportunity is also allowing me to network with fellow Black Changemakers, some of whom I would love to collaborate with, and may never have met if not for this opportunity. My first book, which celebrates the Bamoun royal dynasty of West Cameroon called ‘The Kings and One Queen of the Bamoun Kingdom’, is also on sale in Indigo Books in downtown Montreal and listed on their national database. My subsequent coloring books; Get to know the Benin Bronzes’ and A to Z of the NICU, have received excellent feedback following online sales.
Creating the coloring books has inspired me to look deeper into my family history and I am currently completing my first children’s book which is based on the life of my great-grandfather’s wife, who I found out by chance in 2021, is a religious icon.
Whilst my initial focus has been on coloring books and now stories that are very personal to me and my family, I would like to expand my range of coloring books to cover more African cultures and historical events and continue to fill a very noticeable gap in the market. One of my big aims for this year is to see how I can tap into the CPE network here in Quebec. It would be great to see younger children have access to my coloring books and broaden their cultural horizons at that early stage of their lives.
YES: What were/are your biggest struggles?
Dorothée: Having enough ‘time’ is often a struggle for me, it can be difficult to prioritize my entrepreneurial activities alongside my home and work life. I have lots of ideas for new coloring books but working with designers and the process of editing the books, even though they are coloring books, can be very time-consuming. As I was preparing for the launch of the Black Changemakers program, my YES coach suggested that I hire a virtual assistant and it really was a great idea, as making even the smallest changes to my books can take me hours compared to the time it would take a professional. Without Caroline’s suggestion, I don’t think that I would have had as much done in time for the launch of the Black Changemakers program as I did which continues to reinforce why YES services are so important to me.
I also struggle with marketing my books on social media via my Instagram channel @sahara_nile_books, even though I can see that when I do post, this positively impacts the sales of my books. I love conceiving ideas for coloring books and working with designers to bring my ideas to fruition but finding the right balance of doing what I love, and doing what is necessary, has been difficult! My coach regularly reminds me that if nobody can find my books online, then I am doing myself and all of my hard work a disservice, so I have been making much more of an effort in this area and hope to get my website up and running very soon.
YES: What did you find as a result of using our services? What was the best thing about it?
Dorothée: It’s been good to find a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and artists going through similar things as me, so I have really enjoyed the networking aspect of my participation. I’m always inspired to hear what other artists and entrepreneurs are doing and hear some of the innovative methods that they are using to overcome some of their challenges.
Having access to online training sessions at very affordable prices is also a big bonus for me, and since moving to more of an online format I have been able to access these sessions much more. I also really like that YES stays on trend, bringing training sessions and activities that are really relevant to the current marketplace such as NFTs and how to sell on Amazon.
YES: How do you feel about the service you have received from YES?
Dorothée: YES is a great community resource which I am really glad to be connected to. The variety of affordable activities and resources that can be accessed is very unique even compared to those offered in bigger cities like London (UK) where I’m from. Everyone that I have interacted with at YES, from the Administrators to my Coach, has been extremely helpful and kind. In particular, I can’t say enough good things about my coach Caroline, who has the perfect balance of encouraging me to stay on track with my business, but not accepting too many excuses either!
YES: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share?
Dorothée: You may be reading up to this point and think that my journey has been pretty smooth with lots of cool opportunities – all of which I am really grateful for, but I just want to share with you that I have made ALOT of mistakes and this journey has been a very steep learning curve for me. I have had multiple rejections and also wasted money, but I keep going because I truly believe in what I am doing and have seen first-hand the impact that my coloring books have had on my daughter’s appreciation and understanding of her cultural heritage. So my final words to anyone who may be struggling or losing motivation with their business and asking themselves ‘why am I even doing this?’ Is to think back to what ignited the spark in you in the first place and use these memories to drive you forward. On days when I have felt like this, I’ve found an abundance of energy in this quiet little corner of my mind which continues to provide me with the fuel to keep on reaching for my goals.
Finally, I would like to thank my coach Caroline Gauthier and all of the staff and supporters of YES for all that you do for this community.
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