How to procure capital from large investors: Black women start businesses at a higher rate than any other demographic in the U.S. However, we are the least likely to receive funding from a bank or investor. I self-funded and did a crowdfunding campaign to get seed money for my board game production. Having a large cash infusion from investors would have added stability to my business operations and allowed me to focus on product development and content creation, not how to pay the bills. My entire mishap involving not having money for shipping costs would have been avoided if I had had investors.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing April Preyar.
April Preyar is a criminal defense attorney, who has been practicing law for 21 years. Preyar is a graduate of Duke University & George Washington University Law School. She is the creator of Trials & Triumph Board Game, which teaches teens and adults how to interact with police safely and to avoid the criminal justice system. Preyar has appeared on ABC News Chicago, NBC News Chicago, CBS News (multiple markets), DailyMail TV, Oxygen Channel, The Willie Moore, Jr. Radio Show (syndicated in 29 markets), Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Afro-Tech, ABA Journal and Essence Magazine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
A young friend of my family was arrested. I have known this young man since he was an infant. I watched him excel in sports, advance in school and grow into a thoughtful human. His entire family has my phone number on speed-dial, yet no one called me until days after he was arrested to represent him in court.
The young man came to my office a few days after his arrest and told me the details which landed him in police custody. I was livid — at myself! Everyone in his family, from his parents to his extended family, had given him bad advice about interacting with police. Their bad counsel led directly to his arrest.
In all the time I had known this kid, I had never sat down and talked to him about police, arrests, and the criminal justice system. If I hadn’t educated those close to me about how to stay safe, how in the world would others who don’t have criminal defense lawyers as family members or friends ever know what to do?
At 3:00 the next morning, I posted my first Facebook video, educating parents on how to impart life-saving information to their kids. My third video garnered 1.2 million views overnight! Since that time, I have recorded 200 videos, conducted dozens of know-your-rights workshops and developed a board game based on the video content.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The day I received the prototype for my board game, Trials & Triumph, I was excited but exhausted from a long week in court. I dragged myself out of my house and I raced over to my parents’ house. Upon seeing the prototype, my dad grunted his quick approval. My mother, on the other hand, a retired school teacher, cooed and poured over the game board for 40 minutes or more. She smiled, laughed and clapped as she read each space on the board, amazed how I had turned my professional experience into an educational tool that she could’ve used in her classroom years before.
Sadly, this joyous moment was the last conversation my mother and I ever had. The next day, she fell ill suddenly and could no longer walk or talk. Through grief and exhaustion, my dad and I spent the next 15 months providing round the clock care of her, while I built my business. Her resilience strengthened my resolve and determination until her death. Even now, my mom continues to inspire me every day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I ordered 500 board games, but had no money left to ship them to customers! Oops! I paid for the manufacturing, freight and overseas shipping costs of my game out of my own pocket. While I awaited their arrival, I ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The first 250 games arrived months before the Indiegogo funds were available, and I had no capital left to ship to my customers!
Refusing to have egg on my face, I hand-delivered 150 orders in 4 days! I recruited my friends’ kids to help package and label the boxes. Then we hit the streets! We drove up to 50 miles in each direction, running up driveways and stairs to deliver them! I documented our activity and posted everything to social media! It created a buzz around the game and people got excited to receive their hand-deliveries.
What I learned is that customers love to get a sneak peek behind the scenes. They enjoy being a part of your process, even if you make huge mistakes along the way.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
JUSTUS JUNKIE, LLC is saving lives. Through videos, media interviews, workshops, and Trials & Triumph Board Game, I am helping people stay alive and stay out of prison. This preventative education is creating unofficial ambassadors to spread the word about how to safely navigate a police encounter and never land in criminal court. I am activating the critical thinking and power of observation of teens and adolescents.
Before going to the market, I play-tested the prototype on 300 teenagers. To date, thousands have played.
Thousands of viewers watch my weekly informative Facebook videos. My most popular video, 4 Things NOT to Do If Stopped by Police,” garnered 1.2 million views in 24 hours! It is now up to 2.5 million.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I have a client whom I absolutely adore. I think of her as my little sister. She was charged with a very serious crime and the court-appointed me to represent her. Since then, we have become quite close. She has played my board game. She quickly learned what she could have done differently to avoid her felony conviction. She has volunteered as a know-your-rights educator, sharing her story and passing out literature. She has even helped me advertise and sell my games at an outdoor market. She is learning accountability through my cause.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes. One, politicians can demand that police officers who have committed misconduct or acts of unjustified violence be fired. Stop bleeding tax-payers dry by making us pay for their multiple lawsuits. Stop having review boards turn a blind eye to human rights violations.
Two, politicians can demand those police officers who have been fired because of misconduct are therefore ineligible to work in another law enforcement agency.
Three, most importantly, politicians can make know-your-rights education mandatory in every school district in the U.S. All residents and citizens should learn practical application of their constitutional rights when interacting with police officers.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership means not being afraid to get your hands dirty to bring about your own vision, while inspiring others to do the same. I have run many organizations, committees and businesses. Morale runs low if employees or participants see the so-called leader asking them to do tasks, without understanding why and without seeing that the leader is willing to work too. The leader’s tasks may differ from the others, but their commitment to the business or project must be unwavering.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Five things I wish someone had told me when I first started are:
1. How to procure capital from large investors: Black women start businesses at a higher rate than any other demographic in the U.S. However, we are the least likely to receive funding from a bank or investor. I self-funded and did a crowdfunding campaign to get seed money for my board game production. Having a large cash infusion from investors would have added stability to my business operations and allowed me to focus on product development and content creation, not how to pay the bills. My entire mishap involving not having money for shipping costs would have been avoided if I had had investors.
2. To charge for speaking engagements: I was tired from a long day in court and at the office, and now I was watching my life tick by, as I sat stuck in rush-hour traffic. The sky was quickly turning from dusk to night. I was not heading home to eat a hot dinner and zone out of TV. Rather, I was heading to a church, in a suburb that was over an hour away. I arrived in the small parking lot and unloaded bags of board games and marched to the front door, ready to introduce my board game to a new group of elementary and high school students.
One to three times each week, I appeared at schools, churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, wherever I was invited. Sometimes only 3 kids showed up. On at least two occasions I was met by 300 students! No matter the size of the group, one thing remained the same — I did it for free. I always hoped the organizer would buy board games. Most of the time they did. Other times, they did not.
By now, I’ve done 100 speaking engagements. I didn’t charge because I never wanted a kid to miss out on life-saving information, because the organization I was speaking to couldn’t afford my price tag. Each speaking engagement led to a new opportunity, but I should have put a higher value on my time, energy, and gas mileage!
3. To use upsells and downsells: I had never heard of either when I started JUSTUS JUNKIE, LLC. They were not concepts I could’ve used in my law practice, but they are essential for eCommerce. I could have increased my profits earlier if I had known. I’ve sold multiple products since the beginning. I had t-shirts that contained my most teachings. Later, I added wristbands, books and board games. I didn’t get creative about pairing them and offering an additional product at checkout until recently.
4. The power of Facebook ads: I’m an online course junkie, a full-blown addict! I’m currently enrolled in a class on Facebook and Instagram ads. Every week, I watch the live coaching session and learn of another student who is making 10,000 dollars a month in sales based on their ads, meanwhile, I’m still scratching my head about how to make them work for me. I wish I had learned this skill long ago.
5. All the tech stuff: Shopify, Teachable, Google Docs, Squarespace, SamCart, Canva, WonderShare, the list goes on and on of the technology I knew nothing about when I first had the idea for JUSTUS JUNKIE, LLC. For me, I like to have a basic understanding of each task before I delegate it to someone. Learning the technology has slowed my progress and made delegating more difficult.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
JustUs Junkie is a movement. It empowers people when interacting with police to assert their rights safely. It gives them courage and discernment. As a direct result, the number of arrests of youth, false confessions, felony convictions and police-involved killings of those who play the game, watch my videos, or attend my workshops will decrease. My desire is to expose more people to the movement.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You are either growing or dying” is my favorite quote. I am never satisfied with any aspect of my life. I am always pushing myself to be more creative, more innovative, more courageous every day. This quote is an uncomfortable reminder to keep moving forward.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Lisa Nichols would be the person I would want to sit down and talk to. She has married wealth creation and service to others and that fascinates me. Her passion for personal development is evident and unmatched. She has been very transparent about the impact her son’s father’s prison sentence has had on her family. Due to that experience, due to her commitment to making sure her son followed a different path, I believe she would have a special appreciation for the work I do around prevention.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @JustUsJunkie.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!