Brittany Murlas says she learned a great deal at Alice’s last Circular Summit, but in particular, she now lives by one sentence she heard. “Someone said, ‘There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone,’” she recalls. She realizes that it’s her job as an entrepreneur to be uncomfortable every day. And she can handle it. “I’m OK with discomfort,” she says.
Another of her favorite sayings is “If you’re not slightly embarrassed by your product, you’re not moving fast enough.” There’s no problem there for Murlas and her business, Little Feminist. In just two years, the company has gone from unveiling a small feminist book club for kids to publishing its own books.
In the wake of that steep growth curve, Murlas realizes that she’s not always going to be perfectly happy with, say, her website’s check-out page. “We want our business strong enough to withstand imperfection,” she says. And that’s something that she’s achieving, too.
The idea for Little Feminist started when Trump was elected. “I felt like if there was a time to do anything, it was at that moment,” Murlas recalls. Compelled to take action, she quit her job as CMO at BabyList. At that job, she had learned that while millennial parents are minimalists, they treasure physical, paper books as gifts. She wasn’t sure what her next step would be, but she knew that it would involve diversity and literature.
Her first attempt at what would eventually become Little Feminist was a service that she describes as “like Stitch Fix but for children’s books.” The pilot was successful, but Murlas realized she wouldn’t be able to compete with Amazon. The idea for Little Feminist came from group interviews. The Women’s March had just taken place and there was a strong desire for kids’ literature that would instill feminist values.
The data showed that it was the clear winner when it came to choosing a theme, but Murlas worried about whether she was a big enough feminist herself to become a figurehead for the cause. “I was putting myself out there as more of a lightning rod than I expected to,” she admits. She adds that it’s been a process to separate herself as a human from Little Feminist as a company and grow a thicker skin.
So how does Little Feminist work? Families sign up for the book club subscription. In doing so, they include the age of the child for whom they’re buying books. Each month, for up to 12 months, they receive not only a book or two but also discussion questions and instructions for a sustainable hands-on activity. For example, families who received My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero were encouraged to make a model motorcycle out of the box in which the book was shipped.
The most popular age group has proved to be the youngest, 0 to 3-year-olds. But Murlas says that they’re also the hardest for whom to find pertinent books. “Can we write the books we’ve been looking for?” she wondered. Indeed. And on March 8, 2020, Little Feminist will ship three board books created exclusively for the business.
The team efforts are photo books called Hair, On-the-Go, and Families. “What we crave is books that feature diversity without pointing out how diversity is different,” she explains. Here are some examples from Families and On-the-Go.
“I’m a white lady, but we’ve pulled together a team — people from all types of backgrounds — to create diverse, inclusive literature,” Murlas says. “There’s no way I could do it on my own. It would be inappropriate for me to do it on my own.”
And there are more to come, including books on holidays and bath time. A long-term goal for Murlas is to have a brick-and-mortar space for her company. She envisions a store up front where she’ll host readings with offices and space for writing workshops in the back .
But that won’t likely be tomorrow. “Somebody once said to me, ‘Things take three times as long and cost three times as much as we expect them to,’” Murlas says. If that’s true, then it’s even more impressive what she’s built in just two years. And we're willing to wait a little while to see where Little Feminist lands next.