Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “What is your north star?” Interview with Nerissa Holder Hall

Interview with Nerissa Holder Hall, founder of Mirror Mirror Books, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

My name is Nerissa Holder Hall and I am the founder of Mirror Mirror Books, a direct-to-consumer publishing company that creates picture books that help little kids handle life’s big moments. Mirror Mirror’s books come in 14 versions so the child in the book can look a bit like the child in your life. Our first book, The Day I Beat the Germs, tackles the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I am an award-winning producer of games, television, podcasts and social networks for kids. I have almost two decades of experience in children’s media including with Nickelodeon, PBS/WNET, Pinna and Callaway Digital Arts.

I have a degree in English from Wellesley College and a Masters degree in communication and education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. 

Building Mirror Mirror Books is my second entrepreneurial adventure. I started my first company right out of graduate school. It was an early social network called CleverHive based on my graduate thesis project called “Designing Online Environments for Teen Girls”. CleverHive was a social platform that helped thousands of teen girls around the world find solutions to life’s everyday problems by crowd sourcing the best answers from their peers.

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

As the mother to 5-year old twins, having enough time to focus and work on my business has been a challenge. I had the idea to start my business, I had done quite a bit of the market research to get started but everything was moving very slowly. Everything changed when I attended a conference for women entrepreneurs, many of whom were mothers and after hearing them describe their typical days, I realized I couldn’t wait until I was perfectly rested and composed to start. I needed to just jump in.

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

Growing our Instagram! We are just at the beginning of the process and it’s already been so useful – but now that we have a beautiful, curated page, I just want people to know about it! (It’s here – check us out!) Right now, I am also focusing on direct bulk sales to nonprofits and government agencies interested in helping kids and families navigate the pandemic. 

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

After nearly 20 years working in children’s media, I know that being an entrepreneur will give me the best shot at fulfilling my creative and professional potential. I want to build a company that reflects my values. I want a career that allows me control over my schedule so my work and my life are not in conflict. I want to leave a cultural and financial legacy for my children – And as a first-generation American, proud daughter of Guyanese immigrants, I want to fully realize the promise of self-determination dreamed by those who came before me.

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

I have only one piece of advice. The most important thing every woman entrepreneur should do is figure out her WHY. What is your north star?  Why are you starting your business? For Mirror Mirror Books, our north star is that we believe every child deserves to see themselves reflected in the pages of the storybooks that shape their childhood. At its core, our company is about justice and joy.

Sprinting toward my north star has given me fuel on days I was just too tired to answer emails, too intimidated to talk to a reporter, or too confused to fix my sales funnel. Knowing why you are building your business gives you clarity and strength to be brave because even though it’s your company, the task ahead is in service to something greater than yourself.

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

The most critical steps I am taking to make my business successful are, doing my research, being consistent and staying flexible. Understanding your customer and the competitive landscape are foundational to starting a business. Building anything requires consistency and flexibility is necessary to take advantage of opportunities you haven’t anticipated. 

There has never been a better time, in the history of the planet to be a woman, or an entrepreneur. Hold tight to that incredible luck as you take the leap!

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